When you are playing any form of poker, and are dealt cards which might turn into a monster hand if the right cards appear on the board, this is known as chasing a hand. From the most obvious (AK suited) to the most ludicrous (72 offsuit, hoping for three 7s to appear on the flop), these hands are natural born losers against the smallest pair in another player´s hand. So, is it worth chasing a hand? A lot is going to depend on three factors, which combined are going to determine whether it is worth chasing after the elusive card (or cards) that will complete your winning hand.
The first is position. In certain circumstances, it is advisable to advertise the potential strength of your hand to narrow down your opponents, and stop them from aiming at draws and flushes which would beat your hand even if you made them. For example:-
You are in mid position holding T9 suited and the flop shows QJ9 rainbow. Although you are taking a risk that somebody has entered the pot with a queen or jack, it could be worth dissuading other players who may hold an ace, king or both (and only have the T as a straight out) by putting in a bet and testing the water. Players holding AK should fold by rights, and then you can gauge if there is a player with a pair higher than yours by the resistance you meet from your bet.
The betting tendencies of your opponents should also be a factor to consider. If you raise a pot to eliminate other players from the betting, how many will still go with you? If you were to get raised after you “tested the water” would this necessarily mean that the player who raised your bet actually had the queen or jack in their hand that would dominate your pair of 9s? There is a lot riding on how well you have judges the betting tendencies of those you are playing with.
Because the third factor to consider is your odds of winning. As anybody who has followed the horses or football is aware, odds-on favourites do not always oblige. However, whether you have top pair or not at this particular stage, you also have 8 unseen cards (48s and 4xKs) that would make up your straight, plus 2 unseen 9s that would give you trips and three unseen Ts that would give you two pairs – a total of 13 cards that could improve your hand from 47 unseen cards. Over the turn and river, this gives you a 55% chance of improving your hand and beating any top pair to which you are currently second best. If only one other player calls your bet, you are slight favourite to win, but if there is a third player in the hand, you are getting pot odds of 2/1 on a slightly less than evens chance. Even if chasing a hand does not work out for you on this particular occasion, knowing the factors which make it profitable in the long term should help you decide whether chasing a hand is a viable option subject to the table environment in which you find yourself.