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Chasing may be most costly poker strategy

Feb 18, 2014 3:00 AM

Have you read the book, (published 2011; for more information, contact [email protected])?

It demonstrateswell the poker insight and acuity of some of the leading women in our poker world. And it presents the best definition of “chasing” I have seen anywhere.

Chasing is “attempting to beat a hand that is higher in value by continually trying to hit long shots.” Chasing is disastrous to your bankroll. Yet, so many poker players are prone to chase in search of the best hand.

Next to poor starting-hand selection, chasing may be the most costly strategy in poker. Players who chase are guilty of wishful thinking. They fail to consider the low probability of connecting when holding a long shot. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

The rare occasions when the chaser does connect will not make up for the many other times – most of the time – when he doesn’t get lucky. Example: You saw the flop from a middle position with 10-9 offsuit. That’s a viable starting hand (26 points, according to the Hold’em Algorithm).

The flop comes down: 7-6-2 rainbow. You now hold four-to-a-ten-high straight. Trouble is, it’s a draw to an inside straight. That gives you just four outs – the four 8s. The card odds are about 10-to-1 against connecting on the turn. Long shots rarely win! (That’s why we call them long shots.)

6-Outs Rule: What is a good rule of thumb we can use to distinguish between legitimate drawing to your hand vs. chasing? My co-columnist George “The Engineer” Epstein has his 6-Outs Rule, which he teaches to his students at the Claude Pepper Senior Center in Los Angeles.

It’s straight forward and easy to remember. “As a general rule, if you don’t have a made hand, you must have at least six outs to warrant staying in the hand after the flop.” I like that.

There’s a bet on the flop. Ask yourself: Should I call (or raise) or fold? What cards could I catch that could give me the winning hand? Count them (in your head). Then use the 6-Outs Rule.

Consider the above example: An inside straight draw yields just 4 outs – less than the 6 outs required by Epstein’s rule. On the other hand, flopping four-cards-to-a-straight, open at both ends (such as, 10-9-8-7), offers 8 outs – more than six outs, and worthy of your investment to see the turn and, most likely, the river, too.

With eight outs, the odds are just 4-to-1 against connecting on the turn. Contrast this with the 10-to-1 odds against making the straight on the turn with an inside-straight draw.

Exceptions: How about a hand where you catch a medium pair – say 9-9 – on the flop, and also hold a big Ace. Your outs: 2 nines and 3 Aces. That’s 5 outs. Much depends on the board. If your middle pair is top pair on the board, you may very well be sitting with the best hand. I would label that a “virtual made hand.”

We do not need to count outs when holding a made hand; just hope it holds up to the showdown. It would be much different if there were overcards to your pair on the board. Assume at least one opponent has a higher pair; then counting your outs is essential. And the 6-Outs Rule applies.

Cautions when counting your outs: Be careful not to count any of your outs more than once. This could occur if the same card would give you a flush or a straight. It’s still only one card – 1 out.

Likewise, don’t count a card that could give your opponent a better hand than you would make. For example, the card gives you a straight, but it pairs the board, giving your opponent a full-boat. Or the card that gives you a straight puts a fourth diamond on the board; you don’t have a diamond.

Chances are one of your opponents does. Not all outs are good, and should not be counted. Chasing can be disastrous! Avoid it.

We invite your comments. Email to [email protected].


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