Unfold Hold’em review

PokerStars own logo. Used with permission

There are few worse feelings in poker than folding too soon, pre-flop, only to see the flop deliver exactly what you needed to make a great hand. Few players would join the fray with an off-suit seven and three, unless they really felt like it was their night. Yet the flop can easily deliver two more sevens and another three, giving you a full house, even before the turn or the river. But having flopped, all you are left with is regret and some very sore shins from kicking yourself so hard.

Until now, there has been no solution to this problem, other than buying yourself some cricket pads to protect yourself.
However, thanks to the innovative team at PokerStars, you can now get a second chance to take back those disastrous decisions and re-join the game to play for a separate pot. This exciting new variation is called Unfold Hold’em and it is taking their site by storm.

photo by Aravind Sivaraj CC BY-SA 3.0

(Caption: Shin protection is essential without the backup of Unfold Hold’em!)

How does it work?

In an Unfold Hold’em game, all players pay an extra ante into the unfold pot before any cards are dealt. This is usually a percentage of the main ante bet. The hole cards are then dealt as normal and the pre-flop betting begins, with players deciding whether to stay in the hand or fold before the flop is dealt.

There are plenty of systems to help you decide on the strength of your hole cards, including the hand group tables created by David Sklansky.
You can even apply complex mathematical formulas, such as the Chen Formula
. However, most of us can spot a weak hand on sight and know when folding is the sensible thing to do, even if we think we are on a roll.

Back in the game

If you have folded pre-flop, and like the look of the three flop cards, Unfold Hold’em allows you to unfold your cards and join a separate game while the main game continues as normal. To join the side game and play for the unfold pot, you simply have to match this pot with a single bet. As long as at least two players unfold, it is game on, if not, then the Unfold Hold’em ante is returned to all players.

Unlike the strict betting rotation of the main game, all unfold players decide simultaneously whether or not to play for the side pot. Once this has been established, there is no further betting in the unfold game after the flop. The players are just spectators as the turn and river cards are dealt and the main game takes place. After the main pot has been settled, it is a simple face-off between the best hands of the unfolded players to see who takes the pot.

Rules of the game

Unfold Hold’em is an exciting, yet easy to play variation to Texas Hold’em, with just a few simple rules:
For the Unfold Hold’em ante to be collected, there must be at least four players at the table
For the unfold game to take place, at least two players must opt to unfold, otherwise the stakes are returned
If the main game is decided pre-flop, then there is no unfold game and the stakes are returned
If the main game is decided before all the cards are dealt, then the full five community cards will be dealt in order to facilitate the unfold game
Only players who folded pre-flop are eligible for the Unfold Hold’em game, and if you fold after the flop, turn or river, you are out of the game altogether

The verdict

Many of the so-called innovations in the poker world mess about with the main game far too much and just get in the way for both pros and casual card players alike.

Unfold Hold’em, on the other hand, manages to add a new dimension to the game without changing the main hand at all. For any player who has kicked themselves once too often, it is a smart solution to one of poker’s oldest frustrations.  

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