Don't go chasing with bad hands

Don't go chasing with bad hands

December 27, 2016 3:00 AM


My friend Lucy had met Dani at the Hustler Casino a few days ago, and they soon struck up a friendship. Lucy invited her to join us for dinner at the El Coyote restaurant – our favorite Mexican restaurant in the L.A. area.

She arrived a few minutes after Lucy and I, and introduced herself. A retired school teacher, now widowed, she had found poker to be a great way to fill some of her leisure days. It didn’t bother her that she lost most of her sessions; “but I’m getting better at it,” she smiled.

She seemed to have a great attitude, and I was sure, with some help from Lucy and me, her fortunes would soon improve at the low-limit hold’em game she preferred.

After ordering our dinners, Dani brought up an interesting topic for discussion: “Irene, Lucy told me you could answer a question that has been really bugging me: What is chasing, and how can I avoid it?”

That’s a very good question. Perhaps it’s not surprising many poker players are not familiar with the term, and know little about its inherent dangers. “In a few words,” I said to her, “and, I am sure Lucy will agree, chasing is calling a bet when you have a poor chance of making the best hand. You are chasing when you have a hand that needs to improve but you have few outs.”

Then, I shared my rule: “After the flop, you must have at least five good, solid outs to warrant investing your chips any further. Otherwise, you are bound to be chasing.”

Lucy readily agreed and offered an example of a $4-$8 limit hold’em hand she had observed the night before: “The small blind (SB) called to see the flop with 7-8 offsuit.” Then, to elaborate, she paused and added, “I use the Hold’em Algorithm, so I would hesitate to call with that hand from an early position, even in a multi-way pot.” Dani nodded in agreement.

“Four players stayed to see the flop, with no raises: 9c-5d-2s. On the flop, the SB checked his draw to an inside straight. He needed a 6. (That’s just four outs.) The BB opened the betting. The SB and the cut-off called.

“The turn was the Jc. That didn’t help the SB. Again he checked, and the BB made the big bet. But then the cut-off raised, suggesting the Jc on the turn had helped her hand. She was a tight player. The BB was poised to muck his hand while waiting for the SB to act.

“Meanwhile, the SB still needed to make his inside straight. He called the two-bet, looking for a magic 6 on the river. And, as you probably guessed, he missed again on the river, mucking his ‘garbage’ hand when the BB bet and was called by the cut-off.”

Our hot dinners – with a great, mouth-watering aroma – had arrived, so we suspended the discussion for a few minutes.

“I think we ought to examine why that chase was a poor choice by the SB,” I reopened the conversation.

In response, as if on cue, Lucy piped in: “Irene, you have often told us how important it is to study your card odds when you have a drawing hand.” Taking a sip of coffee, she continued: “With only four outs, the odds of SB making his hand with only the river card to come, were over 10-to-1 against. He can expect to connect less than about one out of nine times.

“On the other hand, SB’s pot odds to see the river were only 4-to-1. That’s what you call a ‘Negative Expectation’ – a poor investment. The risk is higher than the potential reward. Chasing is for the birds!”

To close the discussion, I added, “I would never play an inside straight unless my hole cards were overcards to the board.” Seeing my point, both Dani and Lucy agreed.

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