Folding the winner

There's an old poker proverb saying you can't be a player unless you occasionally fold the winning hand. What it means is that only donks keep calling everyone down. Donks never fold the winning hand simply because donks never fold.

Another poker proverb says that you can't make money by folding. I like that saying more, even though I know I have folded the winning hand thousands of times in my life. It is part of poker that sometimes you get bluffed out of the pot.

Funny situations are those where you fold the winning hand by accident.

The 2004 PokerStars Caribbean adventure was one of my first major poker tournaments. Back then it was held on a cruise ship. During the cruise I was sitting in a no-limit cash game, and in the end of one hand the board read something like AKJK7. My opponent bet and I called him down with J9. He tabled J6.

Since it was a split pot and my kicker didn't play, I showed only my Jack and tossed the 9 into the muck. The dealer promptly pushed the whole pot to my opponent.

"Sir, you must table your whole hand. Otherwise, it is dead," she said to me.

I was furious, but I bit my tongue and stayed silent. Lesson learned, I thought. After that I have always tabled my whole hand, and I have always protected my cards.

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Does this look like a man who just folded the winner?

Online I have folded the winning hand way more often. The obvious reason has been the loss of Internet connection. If you lose connection in the middle of a pot -- and you don't manage to reconnect fast enough -- your hand is folded. It is brutal, but online poker can't really work any other way.

Some years ago, when Internet connections were not as reliable as today, some poker sites had a thing called "all-in protection." It meant that if you lost your connection in the middle of a hand then your hand was not folded but instead you were treated as an all-in player.

Nice idea, but it did not work. Loads of people abused it. Every time they had a good drawing hand but couldn't really call a big bet they just unplugged their ethernet cable and "lost connection." I hated playing against these guys, as did probably most of other players too. It didn't take long until poker sites stopped providing all-in protection.

When I started playing PokerStars you could not manage the table sizes, nor was there a button to "tile the tables." So, whenever I played two or three tables I just stacked the tables over each other. The active table then popped-up when it was my turn to act.

Obviously I didn't do this very long. In one session I was folding a bad hand at one table, and just when I was hitting the fold-button another table popped-up. As I pressed the fold-button, I just got a glimbse how I folded my nut full house. Lesson learned, again. There was not much room to maneuver the tables in my small 14-inch computer screen, but in the future I managed to move them so that at least the buttons were not right under each other.

One of the cruelest accidental folds must belong to my friend Sami "LarsLuzak" Kelopuro. He was playing online in a highstakes heads-up no-limit game. He had nuts on the river, and his opponent went all-in. If you need to know, the pot was about the same value as a small apartment in Finland.

So there was Sami, licking his lips in front of his desktop and about to click "call." Until he noticed his mouse was not moving. He was playing with a cordless mouse and it had just ran out of batteries.

Sami started running around the house to find new batteries while the time clock ticked away in the table and the warning sounds started to beep. In the end Sami could only watch helplessly how his winning hand was folded in front of his eyes.

Lesson learned, once again. After hearing Sami's story, I ditched my brand new cordless laser mouse and got reunited with my old black Logitech. It has a nice two meter long cable running from its nose.

Ville Wahlbeck
@PokerStars in PokerStars news