Let’s Talk About PokerStars’ Disappearing Fold Button

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There has been a lot of talk lately about a seemingly minor change PokerStars recently made to its poker client: players are no longer given the option to fold their hand when a check is available. I have avoided the topic for no other reason than I just didn’t feel like writing about it, but since so many readers have e-mailed me* asking me to weigh in, I figured I might as well start off the New Year making all of you happy.

My initial, gut reaction to the removal of the fold button was that it is a stupid idea. For the most part, I’m sticking to that, but I will try to be a tad more eloquent. Look, it’s just not necessary to get rid of the fold button. Give players every option they would have in a “regular” (read: “live”) poker game. If someone wants to fold when they could just check and see a free card, let them.

One might make the argument that junking the fold button helps novice players who might see Deuce-Seven off-suit, know it’s garbage, and instantly decide to scrap the hand. It is usually a good idea to see a free flop (or turn or river, as the case may be) on the chance that you hit a hand and can soak up some money from someone who let you stay in the hand. That 2-2-7 flop is a gold mine against someone who decided not to raise with Tens.

But it seems to me that getting rid of the fold button wasn’t really meant to help novices, but rather to keep more players in the hand and create bigger pots. Bigger pots equals more rake for PokerStars. Yes, typically casual players enjoy more action (don’t we all?), so creating more action by reducing the number of folders could result in more overall poker enjoyment.

At the same time, though, there will be inexperienced players getting in trouble in hands they should never have been in. If that person with Deuce-Seven isn’t allowed to fold and ends up flopping a Two, he could get carried away and lose a lot more money than he normally would have. Now, I fully understand that nearly everybody will check if given the option instead of folding, but there are times where it can be a wise play. For example, if a player has been bluffing on every street and knows they won’t win a showdown, they may want to just fold if their opponent checks on the river to avoid showing their hand (then again, if they do that, everyone will know it was a bluff). Additionally, there could be tournament situations where one might not even want to take a chance playing a hand if, perhaps if they are on the money bubble with a short stack, facing a huge money jump, or in on the bubble in a satellite that awards the same tournament seat to everyone in the money.

Really, though, it feels bad to not simply give players the choice on whether or not they want to check or fold. Poker is about decision making, so let people make their own decisions.

*Nobody e-mailed me. Nobody cares.

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