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Fold - Passing

by Jesse Knight
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Pass in Poker
Pass - To refrain from calling or betting when it is your turn to act.


To “pass” generally means to refrain from putting money into the pot when the opportunity presents itself. Most commonly players will say “pass” to indicate that they are folding when they are facing a bet which they don’t intend to call. In this context, it is equivalent to saying “I fold.” Since verbal declarations are binding in most brick and mortar poker rooms, your hand is generally dead the moment you say “Pass,” if you use the term to indicate you are mucking your hand.

Occasionally, a player may use the term when they are not facing a bet. In this context, “pass” simply means “no bet” or “check.” When you use the term in this context, you are bound by your commitment to check, but your hand is not dead. This means that if you have a tendency to use the term “pass” to indicate a check, you need be careful and make sure that you are not facing a bet, or you may inadvertently kill your own hand.

This is one example of how using verbal declarations can be problematic, especially in poker rooms where they are very strict about enforcing them. In fact, declarations often cause problems for inexperienced or careless players. In addition to leading to mistakes, verbal declarations, and speech during play in general, is a prime source of tells for your opponent. Many good poker players are able to gain information about your hand’s strength or content based upon the inflection in your voice, or upon the number of words you choose to use. To protect yourself, it makes sense to let your actions do the talking, rather than making verbal declarations.

When your opponent bets, and you are deciding on whether to pass or not, you should take a logical approach. This means that you should consider the likely outcome of each of your options, which in this case are calling, raising or folding, and then chose the one which you believe will have the best outcome over the long run. The first step in this process is to figure out if your hand has any value.

When players think about the value of their hand, they often think in terms of pot equity. This is a straightforward concept; your equity is the amount of money you get when you multiply the size of the pot by the probability that you will win the hand. And your probability of winning any given hand is based upon how many specific cards you can hit (called “outs”) which cause you to win the hand. As long as you have a chance to win the pot, and you are not facing any bet, you have some pot equity.

When you are facing a bet, your equity can be positive, negative, or zero. For the most part, you want to continue on in the hand if you have positive equity, and release your hand if you have negative equity. If you have zero equity, it will not matter to your bottom line if you choose to continue on or pass, leaving you theoretically indifferent. To find out you equity situation, you have to make a risk and reward analysis to determine if a call is worth it. This requires you to compare the size of the bet you are facing with the amount of equity that you believe you hold. If your pot equity is less than the size of the bet you are facing, you have negative equity, and you should fold. If your pot equity is greater than the size bet you are facing, you have positive equity, and then either calling or raising will be your best option.

Calculating pot odds will help you to determine whether or not you have positive equity in the pot. To calculate pot odds, you simply divide the amount of money that is currently in the pot by the amount of the wager that you are facing. For example, if you were facing a $10 wager, with an additional $90 in the pot, you could win $100 by calling ten, yielding pot odds of ten to one. Next, you compare the odds that the pot is giving you, in this case 10 to 1, to your probability of winning the hand based upon your perceived number of outs. For example, if you held a flush draw on the turn, and so had nine outs out of the 46 unknown cards, you would have a probability of 46/9 of making your hand which translates into roughly 20% equity in the $100 pot, which means that you are only about 5 to 1 against to win the pot. Since in this situation you have roughly $20 in equity but are facing only a $10 bet, you have positive equity and pot odds to call. Consider instead if you had only two outs on the turn instead of nine. In this case you would have less than 4% equity in the pot but would be facing a wager representing 10% of the pot. In this case you have negative equity in the pot, and you should pass.

Usage: Pass The Bet, I Passed On Calling

Previous Poker Term: Overpair
Next Poker Term: Pay Off

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