Donating chips is bad!

“I have nothing, but I will call anyway!” This is how my week started… As a poker player there is nothing that chaps my hide more than people putting chips where they don’t belong. First and foremost, when some one makes a statement like this, my thought process goes into overdrive. “What do you think I have? If you have nothing and you call, are you looking for information? Is there a lack of respect for my betting patterns? If you have nothing and can only beat a bluff it’s pretty obvious that you think I’m bluffing…” This only begins the long series of things that go through my head as I take down the pot, and stack my chips.

Paying off a player for information is a waste of chips… You should never put chips into a pot with out the expectation to win. This is one of many mistakes I watch players make both dealing and playing poker.

Last week I overheard a player complaining, “I just can’t win! My cards aren’t hitting. All my draws are coming up empty.” Wow, just wow. This same player I deal cards to on a regular basis, and I’ve noticed that they are almost always short stacked and forced to make 1 of 2 decisions: fold or go all in. Now let me start this by saying I understand the desire to get lucky and complete your drawing hands but the odd are stacked against you. Starting with a sub par hand that only marginally improves does nothing but cost you chips.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: at the start of the hand I have 2500 in chips. I’m dealt 7d-8c in middle position. This is not the worst starting hand and the blinds are decently low at 200-400, so I call the 400. So I’ve now invested 400 chips into this pot. 2 more people decide to call as well then the player on the button raises it to 800. The small blind folds. The big blind just calls. Now the action is back to me. Where I’ve already invested 400 into this pot with a sub par hand, I’m now faced with reinvesting an additional 400 just to see the flop. If I choose to fold here I can get out of this pot with a very minimal loss, but if I choose to call and get lucky I could be stacking a lot of chips. Doing the math there is already 3000 chip in the pot, adding my 400 puts it at 3400, and that’s not counting the other 2 players left to act. It’s still early in the game so I figure this is as good of a chance as any to test my luck so I call. The other 2 players in the hand fold. On to the flop the dealer reveals 7h-10c-Qc. I’ve flopped bottom pair and 2 possible back door draws. The big blind checks, I check because I have possibly the worst draws and the worst hand at the moment. Over to the player on the button who bets out 400. Big blind calls the 400. Now the pots up to 4200. I’m left with another decision to make. I can make this call with bottom pair and hope my hand improves on the turn, or I can fold and get out with a decent but not terrible chip loss. Ah what the heck, I call the 400. With 4600 chips in the pot the dealer reveals the turn card: 9d. Well, I lost the flush draw but I did improve on the straight draw! The big blind checks it to me. I still only have bottom pair so I check as well. Over to the button and he once again bets out 400. This time the big blind folds his hand. Once again I’m faced with a decision. In some respects the turn was a lucky card for me, it improved my outs in the hand, but this card could have also completed the better’s hand. Where it’s only 400, I can still see the river card decently cheep. So I call the 400. Now the pots up to 5400 in chips! If I get lucky on this card I could be stacking a lot of chips! The dealer reveals the Ac. Out of habit, I check to the better, and this time he bets out 800. Finally I realize that there is no possible way for me to win this hand unless he has been bluffing the whole way. I have bottom pair, a busted straight draw, and a terrible kicker. He has basically bet enough chips to force me all in. If I call this I’m most assuredly going home. So I finally make the right choice and fold.

After the hand is over I look down and see that my chip stack has gone from 2500 at the beginning of the hand down to just 900. If you replay the series of events in the hand there were 4 different times that I could have folded. Pre-flop with zero investment; after the raise with minimal investment; after the flop with a decent investment; and after the turn with a sizable investment. All of these spots would have been correct folds. Instead I chose to try my luck, and essentially donated most of my chip stack to the person doing the betting. In poker this is called being a call station. You never want to be known as the call station at the table. Yes, once in a while your luck will prevail, but the majority of the time you are the person going home early…

My suggestion here is get familiar with this:

As a rule of thumb, there are roughly 5 reasons you should ever put chips into a pot.

  • Being in the blinds.
  • Betting pre-flop to get inferior hands out.
  • Betting after the flop to get drawing hands out.
  • Being in last position with the nuts. (Not betting here can and will be considered collusion and may incur a penalty)
  • Bluffing to win a pot.

Chip management is a huge part of tournament poker. This rule of thumb will go along way to helping you keep chips in front of you longer and possibly pull more pots your way. Put yourself in position to win more hands by starting with better cards and in better position.

As always, I never claim to know what I’m talking about in my little world, but if I can get you thinking in a different was about poker then we’ve all won! Have a good week and may more pots come be pushed your way!

2 thoughts on “Donating chips is bad!

  1. About the collusion point. You wrote:

    “Being in last position with the nuts. (Not betting here can and will be considered collusion and may incur a penalty)”

    Is this always true? More often in cash games than tournaments? I can see a situation – say with quads after the turn, and the board shows a flush draw that you want players to hit that draw, can it not be fine to check here?

    Or … when you say “last position” do you mean the final spot after the river? I could see that.

    As usual – love the perspective. I just hope none of my missteps make your column.


    1. What I’m talking about here is when your are in last position after the river, and you have the absolute best hand available. Rules have been put in place to prevent collusion forcing a player to apply at least the minimum bet in this situation.


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