Chasing hands can be misinterpreted

Chasing hands can be misinterpreted

March 21, 2017 3:00 AM


According to the PokerKing Blog, “chasing” hands is a common mistake made by new players (many others, too). It happens when a player stays in the hand while the odds indicate he should muck his hand. It applies throughout the hand, starting from the preflop round of betting as well as at every other round through the river.

Apparently, there are some who disagree, and like to chase. Perhaps they know not what they are doing, and how it will hurt their chip stacks.

In an interesting column published in the February issue of “Ante Up” magazine, columnist Mark Brement, a long-experienced pro who also teaches and coaches the game of poker, says: “When we play a speculative hand preflop, this is a form of chasing as we’ve decided to play because the price is right.”

Here’s my response: A “speculative hand” is based on conjecture – guesswork – rather than knowledge. Would you rely on pure conjecture when deciding to invest your money, even if you did not have to work hard to earn it? Further, if “the price is right,” then it is not chasing; on the contrary, it’s making a sound investment decision based on the knowledge the pot odds are higher than the card odds – the higher, the better. Then, the price is right! We call that a Positive Expectation (PE). In the long run, such decisions are bound to pay off.

But, there can be exceptions to every rule. Brement gives an example of a $4-$8 limit hold’em game in which the Big Blind (BB) is dealt A-3 suited. For convenience, let’s say it is clubs. He calls a preflop raise. Then a limper reraises; BB and several others also call. There is $112 in the pot preflop.

BB is hoping to catch three more clubs for the nut flush – at least two more on the flop, which would give him a reasonable shot at the flush on the turn or river. But, it is a dry flop with only one of BB’s suit. An opponent bets on the flop; and, holding just three clubs BB folds.

Brement thinks this was an “epic mistake.” Then, as luck would have it, the turn and river bring runner-runner clubs on the board. BB would have won a monster pot, but he folded to avoid investing more chips (bets are doubled on the turn and river) in his three-clubs hand. Brement suggests his readers do the math.

So, I did the math. On the flop, BB has three clubs. To catch the flush, both the turn and river must be clubs. To calculate his chance (probability) of catching runner-runner clubs, we multiply 10/47 by 9/46. That’s 4.16%. Next, we calculate the card odds against making the flush: 95.84-to-4.16, or 23-to-1. With such high card odds, are the pot odds high enough to justify BB calling this $4 bet?

Assuming he and another player called, the final pot would have to contain more than $184 ($8 x 23), a far cry from the present pot size of $120 ($112 + $8). Not counting BB’s call, there would have to be more than eight additional $8 bets to warrant a call by BB.

So, unless I miscalculated, BB did the right thing by folding. This would not seem to be an exception to our rule: Never Chase. On the other hand, with such a big pot ($112) preflop, it would be tempting to invest another $4 to see the turn. You never know.