Poker Tips by George: Tempted to Chase

By George Epstein
June 04, 2021

You are playing $4-8 limit hold’em and are dealt a reasonable starting hand – not the best by any means, but it offers good possibilities of connecting to a hand that could win the pot. In the cut-off position, you are dealt 10d-9d. You and two opponents call the Big Blind to see the flop: 8d-Qc-Ac.

You have a shot at catching one of the four Jacks remaining in the deck for a Queen-high inside straight – four outs. With a little luck, it could lead to a winner. First, let me warn you: Anytime you are depending on luck, you are very likely to lose that hand. You can pray and hope for good luck, but never depend on it. If you want to depend on luck, you might as well just play online blackjack, which you can learn more about in this guide here.

Worthy of note: If your hole cards were higher than any of the cards dealt out on the flop, you would also have two overcards, giving you an additional six outs – 10 in all. That would be a playable hand.

Deep down, after the flop, you know you should muck your hand. But you came to play poker, so you decide to take another shot at it and invest a bit further. Let’s see what falls on the turn. Is it curiosity or temptation? Either way, it is chasing – not playing smart poker. Skilled players know better…

resist temptation

Using the 4-2 Rule

Better yet, after seeing the flop, you could use the 4-2 Rule before investing more chips to see the turn. What are the odds against making your hand? With only four outs, using the 4-2 Rule, 4 x 4 = (approximately) 16; that is the percent of the time you will make it on the turn or on the river. From this you can easily estimate your card odds: 100-16 = 84 divided by 16 = 5.25-to-1 against. A quick glance at the pot shows that the pot odds are lower. In fact, you have a -EV (a negative expected value). The skilled player knows that the pot odds must be higher than your card odds against connecting to justify further investment in that hand. But, for whatever reason, you do not use the 4-2 Rule – and call the bet. That is chasing.

At that point, you realize there is still the river to come. Temptation? Maybe you will get lucky. So, you continue chasing – and lose even more chips. Think of all the money you just tossed away. Had you used the 4-2 Rule after the flop, you would have found that the pot odds were lower than your card odds. Your risk exceeded the possible reward.

MORE TIPS FROM GEORGE: The A/K/Q Rule, the Hold’em Caveat and Game Texture

Six Good Outs

Another way of handling such situations is to have a firm rule or pledge to never invest with fewer than six good outs after the flop. In this example, four outs was not near enough to justify chasing.

And if your hand does improve, is it enough to beat all of your opponents’ hands? They can improve, too.

Bottom line: Whether it is temptation or plain curiosity, chasing is not good for your poker health. As I always say, chasers are losers!

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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