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Chasing a flush online

It's a popular play - but is it the right one statistically?

There's a debate that has been going around almost as long as poker has been played, is it worth chasing a flush?

In Texas Holdem poker, "chasing" is defined as betting to stay in a hand, hoping you'll managed to improve what you're holding into a winning position. You may or may not have any worthwhile cards to start with and could even have nothing of any value at all.

"Chasing a flush" is where the poker player carries on betting to try and get the card (or cards) that he needs to make the flush on the turn or river. You can only chase a flush after the flop, before that there is no flush on as you are only holding two cards.

Consider that you are on an online poker site and you get dealt A9, both hearts so you decide to call. When the flop comes it is 3 of hearts, 6 of hearts and King of clubs and one of the players at the table hits you with a fairly big raise. What should you do in reply?

You need to look at it in terms of what kind of hand your opponent might be holding, triples is on, pair of Kings is another possibility or they could also be looking at a flush draw in either hearts or spades. Also of course there is the possibility that they've got nothing and are bluffing.

As the cards stand right now, the only one of these you are beating with your Ace is the bluff but if there's a heart on the turn or river then you have the nut flush and only four of a kind or a full house will beat you.

You could assume statistically that you've got about a 50-50 chance of hitting a heart as there are two cards to come and there's only four suits so it should be roughly a half chance, right?

No, you would be wrong.

You are holding two of the hearts in your hand already and another two are face up on the table, so out of the five cards that you can see, four are spades. Therefore there are only nine hearts left in the 47 cards you haven't seen, that represents a 42% chance of you getting the flush.

Chasing a flush online

So what do you do if you bet and don't hit your flush? You are probably now pot-committed because you've invested so much that you can't walk zaway from the hand - only an all-in from an opponent could make you back down at this stage. Unfortunately now though your chances of hitting the flush have reduced to only 21%

There is a further consideration though and it is one which applies specifically to playing poker online. There seems to be some mysterious internet poker syndrome whereby although you have a 42% chance of making a flush statistically, it normally doesn't work out that way in reality. For example, say you played the same hand 100 times at the same online poker table, do you think you would make your flush 42 times out of the hundred? Based on what I have seen in my own time playing poker on the internet, I don't think you would. It seems to me that the internet odds of landing a flush in these circumstances would be a lot less than 42%.

As I say that is simply my opinion based on my own experiences - I’m sure the online poker sites would tell you different but the way I see it is 42% represents the maximum chance you have of the flush and there is a high possibility that your chances will be a lot less.

So to summarise chasing a flush online is a highly risky move, it can suck you in and leave you committed to seeing out a hand that statistically really isn't going to be in your favour.


Article by Ian McIntosh, get regular free poker articles to use for your site at Love-Texas-Holdem.com as well all the latest information on Texas Holdem tournaments and freerolls.