POKER TIPS & STRATEGY

What Poker Cards You Should Immediately Fold

By David Huber
May 16, 2024

Knowing which starting hands to fold in poker is an important skill; one that can save you a lot of money in the long term. Hole cards in community card games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha can grant huge expectation before the flop, or necessitate a quick fold before becoming committed during later streets. In this article, we’ll look at which poker hands you should immediately fold in Texas Hold’em games, regardless of whether you’re playing a Fixed Limit, Pot Limit, or No Limit format.

folding cards

What Does Fold Mean in Poker?

A fold is a very simple action in poker that is synonymous to withdrawing from the competitive element of any poker hand.

When you fold, you relinquish any right to the pot that is in play; essentially giving up.

While the definition of folding may sound somewhat like an inferior poker play, it is an action that is frequently performed by poker players of all skill levels. In other words, a fold — in and of itself — is not indicative of one’s poker strategy prowess.

There are plenty of live streamed high stakes games that have been archived in which you will witness the most popular players in the world fold one or more hands.

Still, once a player folds, that player “loses” the hand if the action is heads-up.

If two or more players remain in the hand, then those players will continue competing for the pot while all individuals who have folded are no longer competing in that specific hand.

Choosing What Poker Cards You Fold

In general, your ability to extract a preflop advantage in community card games is highly dependent on what poker cards you fold.

If you’re routinely entering postflop pots with inferior hole cards, your bottom line is likely to suffer as a result of this.

The lowest ranking cards, according to poker hand rankings, should typically be avoided; meaning that you should fold bad hands in poker. These bad hands are often unsuited and disconnected cards.

In a multi-way pot, 7-2 offsuit (unsuited) is the worst possible hand while 3-2 unsuited is the worst possible heads-up starting hand.

Even if you happen to get lucky and flop a “monster” hand, the prospects of any player making a profit off of poor starting hands are dim.

A much more likely scenario is that one or more of your opponents will out-flop you if they are more discerning in the starting hands they choose to play.

Using Poker Card Calculators to Identify Bad Starting Hands

One very easy way to identify bad starting hands in Texas Hold’em is to make use of one or more poker hand calculators.

These resources are usually free to use, and can quickly display just how much of a preflop disadvantage exists when comparing two or more starting hands.

In some cases that involve one player having pocket aces or pocket kings, the disadvantage of playing an inferior starting hand heads-up can be greater than 10-to-1.

Try toggling some of the poker hand calculator features while introducing a variety of hands, and you’ll quickly see the odds-based discrepancies between great starting hands and woeful ones.

If you’re playing Omaha poker, you can use an Omaha Poker Hand Calculator to find out that the worst possible starting hand in that game is having all four of the twos dealt to you preflop.

This is because, in Omaha poker, each player is forced to use precisely two hole cards to make the best possible five card hand.

In fact, all four-of-a-kind starting hands in Omaha should be promptly folded when received.

Doing so will save you quite a bit of grief, especially in Fixed Limit games in which the winning hands at showdown are generally very close to (if not exactly) the best hand that is possible.

Wild Cards in Home Poker Games

Poker home games can turn traditional hand ranking rules upside-down. This is particularly true when wild cards are introduced in Dealer’s Choice formats.

If the dealer announces to all players that “Twos are Wild,” then any two is immediately more valuable than all other cards in a standard 52-card poker deck. In other words, you wouldn’t be folding a Two when playing a game with these specific rules.

One quick way to learn how to adapt to poker games with wild cards (while gaining experience) is to play low stakes games in a Fixed Limit format.

Since the introduction of wild cards can be somewhat of a novelty, especially in drinking games like Irish Poker, low stakes bets and buy-ins are optimal for maintaining a casual environment.

There are also a few casino-style poker games in which wild cards become instrumental, namely Double Draw Poker.

Knowing which Aces to fold in Double Draw Poker can minimize the edge that the house enjoys over players in this game.

Fold Bad Hands in Online Poker Games

You’ll also want to fold bad hands when playing in online poker games.

One tactic that many players use when playing at one or more online poker rooms is to multi-table. This way, the player may feel less anxious and manage to correctly fold hands that shouldn’t see a flop in community card games.

Just make sure you’re not playing so many online tables that you are forced to sit-out because you can’t keep up with all the action.

The more tables you are actively participating in online, the easier it may be for you to get distracted and not think through important hands during your session.

Can You Lose Money Playing Too Many Hands?

Much of the statistics-based information that has been published over the years highly suggests that certain low quality starting hands lose money in the long run. This long term loss seems to prevail even for the most skilled and experienced players.

There’s simply too much of a disadvantage that low ranking poker hands have against premium starting hands. This means that it is a good idea to usually fold hole cards that are on the lower range of quality scaling.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should only play premium starting hands, especially in Pot Limit and No Limit formats.

Restricting your preflop range to the Top 10% or so of starting hands will mean that you will be competing postflop in a relatively small amount of hands.

Not only can this restrict your opportunities for making money, it can also make it much easier for opponents to place you on a solid range of starting hands.

If opponents know that you’re only playing medium to high pocket pairs plus AK/AQ postflop, they can more accurately gauge how to extract maximum value against you as a competitor.

This in turn will result in you losing more money than is necessary at the poker tables.

Which Hands Should I Immediately Fold in Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em?

The multi-way reality of postflop pots in Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em means that there is a larger range of starting hands that you should immediately fold when forced to bet or call preflop.

Basically, all low cards that are unsuited and disconnected are best placed in the muck preflop if you’re playing Fixed Limit Hold’em.

The exception to this would be if you happen to be in one of the blinds preflop. In some scenarios, you may be able to limp from the Small Blind or simply check the action from the Big Blind without having to place any more chips into the pot.

Even if you’re holding 7-2 offsuit and the action is going to be six-handed postflop, you can still justify a check from the Big Blind. Giving up on such a hand entirely — when it costs you exactly zero to continue — is a provable, if not very minor, mistake.

After all, you could theoretically flop the best possible hand if the community cards happen to come out 7-7-7, 2-2-2, or 7-7-2.

Of course, that’s a highly unlikely scenario, but it will still happen on rare occasions. Note that a flop of 7-2-2 in the above scenario would still leave a player vulnerable to being out-flopped by a competitor who is holding pocket sevens face-down.

Is “Fold to Win” a Legitimate Strategy?

As with a lot of things in poker, the answer to this question depends on the situation.

Back in the early 2000s, when online poker was extremely new and novice players were signing-up and experimenting with real money only poker, “fold to win” was a very potent winning strategy.

This was because players’ starting hand ranges were wildly erratic. Players who focused on extracting maximum value by only entering pots with premium hands were often rewarded for their patience by showdown.

As player starting hand ranges tightened-up, the strategy of only playing “monster” hands became much less profitable. Today, the overall competence level of players — both live and online — has improved dramatically over the “poker boom” days of the early 2000s.

Still, there may be clear cut scenarios in which a player should fold even premium starting hands.

These situations include the tournament poker bubble in satellite events that award a main prize to the final remaining contestants, while awarding zero (or close to zero) to players who do not finish in the top payout tier.

If you’ve played down to the final table of 10 players in a large online MTT that is awarding a WSOP Main Event Seat to the final 9 qualifiers, then it’s quite common for some players to fold premium starting hands as they await for the 10th Place player to bust.

Online Satellite Qualifier Sample Hand (No Limit Texas Hold’em)

Player 1: FOLD (2.0 million chips)
Player 2: ALL-IN (450k chips)
Player 3: ALL-IN (450k chips)
Player 4: FOLD (2.5 million chips)
Player 5: ALL-IN (450k chips)
Player 6: ALL-IN (450k chips)
Player 7: FOLD (1.5 million chips)
Player 8: FOLD (2.5 million chips)
Player 9: ALL-IN (450k chips)
Player 10: ??? (375k chips)

If you’re Player 10, then you’re folding preflop in this scenario even if you look down at pocket aces.

This is because you have the smallest chip stack, but only need one of the five ALL-IN players to be eliminated in order to win the main prize (which would be a coveted WSOP Main Event Seat in this case).

Obviously, the possibility still exists that all five players will wind up chopping the pot, but this would only happen in extremely rare situations (like if the community board cards came out as Four-of-a-Kind, a Straight Flush, or a Royal Flush.

As long as one of the ALL-IN players is eliminated at showdown, you are guaranteed to claim the main prize. This is true even though you started the hand as the smallest stack at the 10-handed final table.

Is There More “Action” at Live Poker Tables?

Again, this might depend on the individual scenario, but one-tabling becomes massively monotonous for players who are only entering postflop pots with very strong starting hands.

If you’re only playing the Top 5% of starting hands at a live table (and if only 20 hands are being dealt per hour), then you’ll only be competing in ONE hand per hour postflop. Talk about boring!

If you’re in a private game, other players at the table may lose interest if it becomes clear that one or more players are playing extremely tight, which may result in the game breaking up altogether.

Not many casual poker players want to sit through hours upon hours of live poker when there is very little real money action occurring.

What’s more, the relatively high rake fees (compared to online) that live poker tables tend to charge players may make it extremely unprofitable to only enter postflop action when you have a very strong starting hand.

If you’re uncomfortable with adjusting your starting hand range in community card games, you might want to hone your skills in Fixed Limit, low stakes games that offer more versatility for experimentation.

Regardless of what you decide, play poker for fun and learn at a pace that you are comfortable with. This way, you’ll gain more familiarity with learning which bad starting hands to fold immediately.

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David Huber poker author
Written By.

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for close to two decades: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as “dhubermex” online, David’s poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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