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Chasing a Flush

You hear over and over that it is bad strategy to chase flush, that chasing a flush is a weak gamble, that two suited cards aren't really that much stronger than two unsuited cards. Then you watch the pros on TV and watch them play a suited 5-7, or chase the flush after the flop. What gives? The truth to the matter is that generally chasing a flush is not a good idea, but there are certain circumstances that make it an acceptable play. When you see true pros playing, many times they are counting four or five different sets of odds, figuring out the psychology of their opponents' plays and working off situational information from the last 100 hands the ESPN cameras did not show. There are rare times when chasing a flush is acceptable, but you have to know the odds, the rules, and the reasons before you can make an informed decision versus just another blind gamble.

The first piece of strategy involving whether or not to chase a flush begins with how you want to play your suited cards pre-flop. Your options depend on where you are in sitting in relation to the dealer. If you have to bet early to stay in, the best thing you can do is show a respectable raise. Why? Because this will help to chase out flush chasers and so-so hands, and if it turns out the table would have folded to the dealer, the dealer probably would raise to try and steal the blinds. Since you beat him/her to the raise, that player will most likely fold. This also will show you who on the table probably has relatively good hands. If you are later in the betting order, like on the dealer button or even one of the blinds, you have two options. One is to put in the small amount to try and see the flop cheap, which also lets you throw away with minimum loss if you get nothing. The other option is to raise here, as well. Although the passive approach is more popular, seeing the hand for cheap, I would suggest the best strategy is still the raise. Here's why:

First of all, if you are in that spot, you are in perfect position to attempt to steal the blinds, anyway. If the person in front of you raised, but weakly, a re-raise might cause everyone to fold, giving you the pot. It may cause all but one person to fold, in which case you can guess that person either has a pocket pair (probably mid-range, otherwise they would have raised higher) or two high cards like A-K or K-Q. The other thing this does is it gives the indication to other people at the table that you have the same type of hand: either a higher pocket pair, or A-K, or something similar, which makes them worried about you -- this gives you an automatic advantage over the table.

Your goal, at all times, should be to maximize the odds advantage at the table. If you can consistently do this, then you will find yourself getting "lucky" more than you're used to.