The fist-pump fold

Lee Jones
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Published: May 2, 2022 10:32 AM EDT

I don’t remember the first time I heard the expression, “fist-pump call,” probably because it seemed so natural. I’m sure it arose from 2+2 and similar hand discussions. The Original Poster (or “OP” as they were called) describes a scenario where they’re facing a big bet, often on the river. The response “fist-pump call” meant that not only should you call, but you should be doing it with a smile on your face, already picking up your toke chip for the dealer.

Which brings me to a hand I was recently discussing in the Hand History Lounge. The hero found themselves facing a big bet with an overpair to the board. Overpairs are good, but in this particular context, I felt that our hero was pretty much toast.

As I posted my response, the phrase “fist-pump fold” just popped into my head.

I get that this phrase sounds weird. Poker players like winning pots, so it’s natural that we would prepend a phrase such as “fist-pump” to an action associated with winning a pot. “Fist-pump shove,” “fist-pump raise.” They sound great, don’t they? Lots of chips coming our way. But the idea of a “fist-pump fold” sounds antithetical to our goals.

Well, what if our goal isn’t to win pots?

Our goal is, indeed, not to win pots, but to make good decisions.

Good decisions sometimes result in winning pots. But sometimes good decisions result in losing pots. The point of winning poker is that if you constantly make good decisions, the chips you win will exceed the chips you lose, and you will profit. Some people describe it as, “embracing the process.” Ed Miller called it, “Playing the course.” Whatever you call it, it means making the best decision you can, and letting the results follow in turn.

Folding is a part of poker. Unlike what some vloggers will tell you, it is not bad, boring, or weak. It is simply the yin to the yang of betting. Without one, there can not be the other.

The way I see it, “fist-pump” suggests a decision that is easy. We might call it a “no-brainer.” Poker routinely presents us with difficult decisions, so a “fist-pump” decision is not one of those. It’s one where you have absolute clarity that you’re doing the right thing, and won’t be losing sleep, or posting in a hand history forum, wondering if you’ve made a mistake.

Let me tell you about the hand that brought me here…

Our hero is playing a $2/5 game at a big Vegas property. He opens to $20 in middle position with two red kings. Just the big-blind (BB) calls. The villain is a passive recreational player who has done a lot of checking and calling during the session. The effective stacks started at $500. With $40 in the pot, the flop is T♣T7. The villain checks and our hero bets $20. Nothing controversial so far.

Now with $80 in the pot, the turn is the 6d, making the board T♣T76. The villain checks again, and our hero sizes up, as he should. He bets $60 into the $80 pot. Now the villain check-raises to $140. And our hero…

This is a passive player who has been checking and calling a lot. Out of nowhere, he decides that he’s ready to play a big pot. In fact, if our hero calls, there will be $360 in the pot, with $320 behind. He should expect the villain to shove most rivers.

Is it possible that the villain has picked up some kind of draw, such as J9, and is semi-bluff raising it? Sure, it’s possible. The J and 9 are unaccounted for, and the rules of the game permit the villain to make that raise with that hand.

But is the villain actually doing that? Rarely. Almost always, the villain has a ten. Or 98 for a straight. Or pocket 7’s for a full house. In short, whatever they have has confined our hero to two outs.

As I read this hand, I thought, “This is a fist-pump fold.” I will sleep well tonight if I fold here. I will not wonder if I’ve been bluffed off the best hand. If BB did indeed bluff me, congratulations to them, but the best decision I can make is folding, and it feels like a clear, easy decision. A fist-pump fold if ever there was one.

Tough decisions are part of poker. So when a decision comes along that seems clear and unquestionable, pump your fist and be grateful that you got one of the less difficult ones this time.

No matter which way the chips are going.