Pairs are the most common made hand in poker, and top pair is often good enough to win the pot. However, there are still plenty of hands that even beat a pair of aces, so we need to fold top pair sometimes if we want to play an optimal strategy.
It can be difficult to let go of these hands. We’re often afraid that our opponent is bluffing against us, and we don’t want to lay down a good hand against air.
Here are a few quick tips for when to fold top pair.
When Passivity Turns to Aggression
Let’s say that you raise pre-flop, make top pair on the flop, then fire a continuation bet. Your opponent calls. You bet again on the turn, and they call.
Then, out of nowhere, your opponent makes a big bet on the river. This almost always means they have it, and so you should fold.
First, they were probably trying to trap you by keeping you on the hook and hoping that you would keep betting into them. Then, once they reach the river, they may be worried that you you’ll check behind, and they realize it’s their last chance to put money into the pot. Either you’ll call their bet and they will win, or you’ll fold, and they’ll still win a smaller pot.
In this situation, it’s better not to pay them off. Just lay it down.
Against Maximum Pressure
The other time we often want to lay down top pair is when facing maximum aggression, especially from tight players and on draw-heavy boards. If they keep firing massive bets at us and the board has straight draws, flush draws, or is paired, then we usually don’t have a good enough hand to keep calling.
Basically, top pair isn’t a hand that we want to play for stacks. Though it can be right to shove your top pair sometimes, we usually want to wait for a better hand before going all-in. Top pair shouldn’t be a large part of your shoving range.
So, if your opponent is making huge bets and trying to play for stacks, make the smart decision and fold your top pair. You’ll get a better hand eventually.