In poker we use a different form of chopping

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When we speak of chopping, we would most likely think of cutting up something into smaller pieces, such as chopping down a tree or chopping up food. 

Years ago, as a youngster, the ice man often chopped a block of ice in the back of his ice wagon so the chunk of ice could fit into our icebox. 

But that’s far from how we use the term at the poker table. In playing poker, we may chop the blinds and/or chop the pot. It’s common in most casinos.

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In poker games with blinds, such as Texas hold’em cash games, chopping the blinds is a practice that may occur when the two blinds and possibly one other player are the only ones still in the pot after the preflop round of betting, all other players having mucked their cards. It’s generally not allowed in tournaments.   

One of the players still in the pot usually asks, “shall we chop?” If the other(s) still in the pot agree, each player takes back his chips. The only exception is that, in most casinos, the dealer will take one chip from the small-blind bet as the casino’s rake. And then the next hand is promptly dealt out — no time wasted.

In some games, chopping is rather rare — especially in loose games. Players are anxious to see the flop. In tight games, it happens quite often. 

Recently, I was playing at a $4-$8 limit game at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif., when we had 10 chops within one hour. Unbelievable! But that’s exactly what I saw. 

Considering that approximately 30 hands are dealt per hour, that amounts to 30 percent of the hands that were chopped during that time. Wow!

I have also observed that chopping is more common early in the day — morning and early afternoon. And it occurs more often with older (recreational) players in the game, and when the players have small stacks of chips in front of them. 

Some skilled players who are deceptive often use the situation as an opportunity to steal the blinds. If that player is in a late position, and all the other players before him have mucked their hole cards, his raise frequently will win the blind bets.

It is best to exercise that action with at least a mediocre hand in case one of the opposing players happens to have been dealt a reasonably strong hand — one that meets the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm. (See my book, Hold’em or Fold’em? — An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision). Don’t attempt that maneuver if an aggressive player is one of the blinds; you may get raised. That could be costly. 

Some players may refuse to chop; and would rather play the hand short-handed. The big problem in that case is that the casino rake and drop for the Bad-Beat Jackpot may result in the winning hand gaining very few chips. In fact, he may actually lose chips when the remaining player folds after he makes a continuation bet.

It’s hard to agree to chop when you are dealt a very strong hand. I have seen a player reluctantly agree to fold his pocket Aces. He showed his hand to all. And it was during the time when Aces Cracked on the River earned a big bonus.

I felt sorry for him. What a waste.

Chopping the pot is different. In that was, two or more plays have the same winning hand. Then, the dealer equally divides the pot among them. Any extra chip goes to the player closest to the Button’s left.

The same is true when the board displays the best hand, regardless of each player’s hand — so long as he cannot beat the board. It’s rare but it does happen.

So now that you know all about chopping, make good use of it to build your chip stacks.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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