'Chasing' player's costliest mistake playing poker

July 30, 2013 3:00 AM
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Texas Hold'em Poker Hand Poker betting tips and strategies We all make mistakes now and then. We are only human. Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes.

Possibly the most costly mistake a poker player can make is to chase. He continues to call on the flop and subsequent betting rounds even when he has little chance of being a winner.

Playing against a perpetual chaser gives you a huge edge over that opponent. What’s more, chasing is one of those mistakes a player is likely to continue to make. (I put it into the same category as a player who plays far too many inferior starting hands.)

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Unless someone points it out to him, and he fully understands the nature of his mistake, he will continue to chase until he finally goes home broke. Sure, he probably will win a few hands now and then when he gets real lucky; but, in the long run, he is a loser.

Chasing vs. drawing: There’s a big difference between chasing after the flop and drawing to a hand with lots of good outs that could well become the winner at the showdown.

Basically, there are two categories of hands viable for investing your poker chips. By definition, a “made hand” is one that could win without further improvement, whereas a “drawing hand” almost certainly must improve to become a winner.

Preflop, there are only three made hands: A-A, K-K, and Q-Q. Any other hand you might consider worthy of your preflop investment, is a drawing hand. That includes Premium Drawing Hands such as A-K, A-Q, and K-Q, and middle pairs – J-J down to 8-8. (Ref. Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.)

A drawing hand that connects on the flop often becomes a made hand. For example, a pair of 10s in the hole preflop, becomes a made hand if a third falls on the flop. It could easily win at the showdown without further improvement.

The difference between chasing and drawing comes brightly into our spotlight after the flop. In a sense, you are also chasing when you call or bet with a drawing hand. But there is one not so subtle – and very important difference: The number of outs you have!

With four or fewer outs on the flop, continuing to invest your chips in that hand is chasing. With six or more outs on the flop, you would be drawing to make the best hand. Thus, it’s prudent to draw to a big flush when you catch four-to-a-flush on the flop.

There are nine more cards of your suit, unseen, in the deck: nine outs! Holding four cards in sequence, you have eight outs. Calling with these hands on the turn and river is a viable option. The Pot Odds are bound to be greater than the Card Odds against making your hand. You are drawing.

On the other hand, what if you caught four-to-an-inside straight on the flop? You started with 10-9 offsuit and the flop came down: 7-6-2 rainbow. You need an 8 to make your straight. That’s just four outs.

The Pot Odds are likely to be much lower than the Card Odds. Thus, this would not be a viable hand to pursue. Most likely it will be a loser. It is strictly a Chasing hand. Advice: With so few outs, unless there is a special circumstance, stay in to see the turn only if everyone checks around – no betting. (Never refuse a free card!)

On the other hand, with six or more outs on the flop, it is often fruitful to stay to see the turn and possibly the river. (Note: Two overcards to the board would give you six outs.)

As long as the Pot Odds are higher than your Card Odds, you have a Positive Expectation. (Note: If the Card Odds and Pot Odds are close, consider the Implied Pot Odds in making your decision whether to fold or call, based on how many opponents are staying to see the next card.) That would be drawing – usually a viable decision on your part.

Never a Chaser be.

We invite your comments. Email to IreneEdith@GamingToday.com.

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