Poker is a game of choices. Some of these choices are fairly straightforward and simple while others take a lot of thought. The thing is that when all is said and done, there may not be just one correct path to winning a given hand; it’s all up to you to decide what road to travel.
With that in mind, we asked Team Full Tilt’s Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson to share their thoughts on one of poker’s trickiest decisions – the coin flip. Should players be willing to put everything on the line in a coin flip situation? Here are two different sides to the coin flip question:
For the most part, coin flips are something that I tend to avoid. You never want to take on a negative EV proposition, so you can pretty easily fold a hand like A-K when you’re certain your opponent is holding a high pocket pair like Jacks or Queens. Some players are willing to take a negative EV coin flip early on in a big tournament in order to accumulate chips, but this is an incorrect decision (unless you’re trying to catch an early flight or make like Ivey to the golf course).
Of course, there are a couple of situations where pressing a coin flip can be the right move. For example, if you think your opponents are better players than you, then it might be correct to take a coin flip. When you’re outclassed in a game and are certain that you’ll be outplayed after the flop, taking a coin flip can help even the playing field.
By that same token, you should be willing to press a coin flip situation every chance you get against a player who thinks he’s better than you. Make him avoid taking the coin flip by raising and putting a lot of pressure on him to make that decision. If he really thinks of himself as the superior player, he’ll want to avoid that situation and keep folding until he gets the chance to try and outplay you after the flop. He may think he’s the better player, but if you put a lot of pressure on him, you may end up outplaying him.
I think people try to avoid them too much, especially after they’ve already committed chips to the pot. If the pot has 1,000 in it and you have to put your last 500 chips in to make the call, you’re getting 2-1 on your money – yet people dodge this situation all the time. It’s just wrong; you should love to take 2-1 on a coin flip even if you only have a 48% chance of winning.
When you have a hand like A-K and you could be running into Aces or Kings, committing chips to a coin flip is obviously not something you should be looking to do. But at the same time, when you’re getting 2-1 on your money in a likely coin flip situation, I think its right to take the flip. It’s a pretty big disaster if you’re holding Jacks and don’t want to flip against something like A-K, but it turns out your opponent has pocket 9s.
The whole point of a coin flip is that yes, sometimes you have the classic A-K versus Queens race. But what about all the times you have A-K and the other player has A-Q. When you have a hand where you aren’t in a coin flip, you likely have your opponent dominated, and you should take that proposition every time.
With that said, there are obviously times when you should not be looking to take a coin flip. When you’re in a situation where you have a lot more chips than your opponent, this is a good time not to take that flip. The more of an advantage you have over the other player, the less willing you should be to take the coin flip. Avoid that situation by not committing too many chips to the pot and waiting until after the flop to outplay the competition.
As you can see, there’s no one right way to approach a coin flip situation. There are always two sides to every coin.