Poker Coverage:

Everything You Need To Know About Poker Chops

Here's A Look At The Mathematics Behind Chopping


Thanks to the massive diversity of possible hands, it’s entirely possible that two players will have exactly the same winning hand when it comes to the showdown (when the cards are revealed at the end of the round). Also known as a tie, a chop results in the pot being split equally between the winners. The relevance of a chop and the likelihood of it happening however are frequently overlooked as coincidence, or an annoying turn of fate, rather than a good way of playing the odds and picking up some extra chips.

The math behind the chop

The probability of a chop in poker happening is actually higher than you think, and if cards aren’t shown then a chop situation may have occurred without any players knowing about it. But the most useful thing that a chop can do is tell players the poker equity increase they can gain. By figuring out what percentage particular hands have of chopping, players can simply divide this by two and figure out what the pot equity would be. For example, a hand which has a 10% chance of chopping will give us 5% of the pot equity. Most of the time.

The trouble with this formula is that it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll win 5% of the pot every time we have a hand that will chop 10% of the time, so that equity calculator that points to us having 50% equity if we had a straight that is shared by our opponent isn’t quite nailed on 100% of the time.

Chopping the blinds

Chopping can also happen when all players around the table who aren’t on the blinds decide to fold. The player with the small blind (who would be first to act based on player order) can ask the player with the big blind if they’d like to ‘chop’, and the blind bets are returned to the players without any wagering taking place. This is an easy get out of jail card for players on the small blind who have a weak hand, with the round ending before any calls or raises have taken place, and the forced blind bets returning to the bankroll.

This may make financial sense, especially if you’re clinging onto the game or waiting for a decent hand, but it can upset other players around the table. Chopping the blinds is just another aspect of poker etiquette that has unwritten rules, and using a chop to your advantage can really get other players’ backs up. Chops can create feeling that you’re in cahoots with the player you’re chopping with, and even ruin short-handed games. The best way to play a chop is to be consistent – chop in every situation where it’s possible, or don’t chop at all. If you change your behaviour, then it’ll become obvious you’re dumping useless cards, and either upset everyone, or reveal your tells to the group.

Bluff-catch playing

One situation where it’s totally possible to get at least a chop is by bluff-catch playing the board. A good example of this is a set of community cards that make up a straight or better, and a hand where we have absolutely nothing. Even if our opponent has a pair, we can still effectively hold a straight thanks to the cards on the table, and if our opponent does is chasing the same idea, then this makes for an easy chop where we can pick up as good as half the pot.

Chopping online

Chopping in a game where you aren’t able to have a quick conversation with your opponent(s) is sometimes not possible, unless there’s a built-in option when there’s a possible chop, or if you can get a response out of anyone in the chat box. Naturally, you might want to chop at every opportunity if you’re not feeling your cards, but sometimes you’ll need to just bite the bullet and play or fold.

With most online play, if a pot needs to be chopped thanks to two or more players holding the same hand, then this will happen automatically, and you won’t need to worry about chasing up the online casino or other player to get half your cash.

You can get the full poker experience online, where it’s entirely possible to chop the blinds, and even have a bit of banter with your opposition as you would in a real-world casino. There has been a lot of time spent getting the table dynamics and communication aspect of poker right for an online environment, and you can even communicate over headset if the game you’re in allows it, and you opponents can do the same. This makes for a game of poker that gets even closer to the real world, and breaks down those barriers where a big blind player might tell you to go packing if you offer the chop.

Knowing your hands

The quickest way to figure out if it’s even possible to get a chop situation is by knowing your hands inside out. Even if you and your opponent have a straight, there’s always the chance that their flush could outrank yours, i.e. their cards that make the flush are at the top end of the run, or they’ve got higher cards in a flush. There are plenty of maths and strategy behind chopping, it just takes time to learn the ins and out, when you do, you can start using what may be seen as a bit of an anti-climax as another tool in your poker arsenal.

Chopping may seem like a coward’s way out at the start of the game, and may feel like a bit of a swizz if you were certain your straight was enough to take the whole pot, but you’ll probably end up with more chips than you started with, even if you were on the blinds. So, the next time you’re offered the chop or think you don’t have good enough cards to compete, think twice about what your opponent might have, and take a risk – they might just be in the same situation as you.