If you’re a newbie to poker and you hear the word ‘chop,’ then you might not know what it means. Even if you figure out what it means, you’re likely going to be a little confused because you have only figured out what one version means. I know this sounds confusing, but I can simplify it for you with ease. Then we’ll get to whether you should chop or not.
The two different kinds of chops that exist are in traditional poker games (cash games) and poker tournaments. Let’s cover cash games first, then we’ll get to poker tournaments.
CASH GAME CHOPS
If you’re playing in cash games, then a chop means that you’re in the Small Blind or Big Blind, everyone folded to you, and that you now have the option of chopping. This means that you don’t play the hand and you both take your blind bets back. Usually, one person will ask the other, “Do you want to chop it?”
This question is often asked early in a cash game session. In most cases, if both parties agree to a chop on that hand, then one will say, “I always chop. Do you always chop?”
The other person will likely say, “Yes. I always chop.”
These are good poker people. In cash games, you always want to chop, but you must stick to your word. Don’t be one of those people who chops for hours and then wakes up with AA and suddenly raises. That’s a dick move. Don’t be a dick.
That’s actually one of the most overlooked poker tips out there. I wouldn’t say ‘Don’t Be A Dick’ is in the Top 10 for poker tips, but it’s on the list. I wouldn’t put it in the Top 10 because being a dick can be beneficial at times, if profit is more important than people for you.
There are a few reasons why you want to chop in a cash game. One, if you play the hand out, it’s going to be a small pot and not worth the time investment. Two, you’re slowing down the action for everyone else. Three, if it’s a small pot, you’re going to get hit harder by the rake. A bonus reason — depending on the reader — is that the dealer is less likely to receive a tip.
If you give your word that you would chop and stick with it, great. Everyone will smile in their minds whenever they think of your face (maybe). If you say that you will chop and then don’t chop in one situation or more, everyone will frown in their minds when they think of your face (maybe). And if you’re someone who states right out of the gate, “I don’t chop,” then you will be respected but not liked by the majority of the players at the table.
This is a tricky spot. If the players at the table like you, then there is likely to be at least one situation throughout a long session where an opponent goes easy on you. That is a wise disarming strategy. But you can also play it the other way.
If you feel like it’s a tough table, a drunk table, or a table where some players will tilt with ease, then you might want to consider being a Chop Dick.
I have never heard of the phrase Chop Dick before. It just came to me. And to tell you the truth, it’s scary as f*ck. It makes you think of that dude from Long Island who had his dick chopped off and then his wife threw it out the window and onto the road while driving. The police recovered the dick and medical professionals supposedly “sewed” it back on. Freaky shit!
Anyway, this is a different kind of Chop Dick. It means you’re being a dick if you don’t chop. Usually, you don’t want to be a Chop Dick. On the other hand, don’t get paranoid. If you’re in a poker room and you don’t chop, it’s not likely that people will be whispering about you: “That guy in Seat 7 at Table 12 is a Chop Dick. Pass it on.” Yeah … probably not going to happen. Just focus on your poker strategy and poker hands.
“HEY, CHOP DICK!”
My situation is a little different. I can’t be a Chop Dick because it will get all around the poker community. Not the entire poker community. I might have a decent following, but I wouldn’t consider myself a public figure or anything like that.
But let’s assume it was 37% of the poker community. If that happened, then instead of people coming up to me and saying, “Hey, Tyler! What’s going on? So great to meet you! I love your books!” They would say, “Hey, Chop Dick!”
I mean … I can roll with it because not much phases me, but I don’t think Chop Dick is a great nickname. Big Dick is better. A little off-topic. Let’s get back to focusing on you so I don’t come off as narcissistic. And I know I’m not narcissistic because I was told by others that narcissists don’t fear being narcissistic. So I’m good to go!
Back to you since I have a ginormous and giving heart that rivals Mama Teresa. Mama Teresa is a local pizza shop, but they are giving folks. If I walk in at 9:55 p.m. and they’re about to close, they might give me one dried up and nasty looking cheese slice for free.
As far as being a Chop Dick, go for it if you want! It’s a unique poker strategy. Live a little. If you think it will get at least one player on tilt, especially the person sitting next to you, then it’s worth the effort. If they go on tilt, they’re going to take the game personally and try to force the action against you by playing too many poker hands. This is what you want. Don’t try to go back at them. Sit back and wait for that one hand.
This is a great spot. If this person is taking the game personally against you, then they will likely pick up that you don’t like them. This might be true and it might not be true. Perhaps their read is on and perhaps it’s off, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the perception that matters.
If you pick up a hand and smash the board, I would recommend over-betting the pot on the river if you get that far. In fact, I recommend putting all your chips into the middle. Your opponent, who is now frustrated and taking the game personally, is going to think that you’re doing this because you don’t like them.
Then the following thought will enter his mind while he’s tanking: This Chop Dick son-of-a-bitch is going to show me a bluff. I have second pair. If I call and I’m right, it’s going to be legendary. I can’t let him get away with this shit. It would be too embarrassing if I fold and he shows a bluff. I need to call.
And just like that, he will call. Ego f*cked him up! When you table your winning hand, don’t be surprised if he says something like the following, “You bet that much with that hand? What are you, an idiot?”
Remain calm and reply, “You called.”
Message clear and delivered.
There is a second advantage to being a Chop Dick in traditional poker games. After seeing that hand, the other players in the game are now going to think: Dude just overbet the pot on the river and got a call. How did he know he was going to get a call? He would only bet that much if he knew he would get that call.
The next time you bet big on the river against someone else at that table, they’re going to have no idea what you’re holding. When you’re timing is on in these situations, you can literally toy with your opponents. They have no freaking clue what’s going on. This is way more common in cash games. Poker strategy for tournaments is more about chip preservation. In those situations, you don’t want to get involved too often. It’s more about picking your spots.
Speaking of poker strategy for tournaments, let’s get to Poker Tournament Chops. Those are different.
POKER TOURNAMENT CHOPS
You can still be a Chop Dick in a poker tournament, but for a very different reason. In a poker tournament, if you’re in a chop situation, then you’re in a good situation. It means you’re making money.
Let’s say you’re playing in a poker tournament with 103 players. And let’s say 11 people cash. You make the final table and you’re now down to the top three. All three of you are about even in chips. Someone says, “Do you guys want to chop?”
Since you’re all about even in chips, this would be an even chop. This means that the remaining prize money for the top three spots will be divided evenly between the three remaining players. You don’t have to agree to the chop, but if you’re even in chips, then you should agree. If you’re playing for a ring or something like that, then the usual course of action is to chop the money evenly and then continue playing for the ring.
If you decline the chop in this situation, it sends two message. One, you don’t give a shit about the dealer, staff, and other players. Two, you think you’re the best player of the three and want to keep playing because you want to make the most money.
If you’re down to three players and you’re not even in chips, then it’s a much different situation. If someone asks if you want to ICM chop, this stands for Independent Chip Model. That means that the money you make will be based on how many chips you have. To keep it simple, the chip leader will win the most.
You have the option to decline an ICM chop. If you decline as the chip leader, you’re a bit psycho. If you’re a lower stack but you think you can grind your way up, then don’t be afraid to decline the chop. It’s up to you. Nobody can tell you any different. Don’t let them pressure you.
There is also a heads-up chop. This is common. You just divide the remaining money evenly instead of wasting time. However, if you want to play it out because you think you’re a favorite, then play it out. There might be other reasons that come into play as well. For instance…
Last summer, I was playing in a small tourney in Cherokee. When it was brought up if we should pay the bubble, everyone agreed expect Big Dork. For some reason, Big Dork didn’t want to pay the bubble.
So, when it got down to me and him heads-up, I declined his chop offer. It would be a much better story if I told you I won, but I didn’t. When we were about even in chips and I had 44, I raised 3x his BB. He min-raised. I jammed. He called with AQo. He won. The poker table is not a place to seek justice. You won’t find much.
I’ll tell you another chop story. In the first poker tournament I ever played in a casino, I made the final table. It was at Tropicana in Atlantic City. I didn’t know much about poker strategy for tournaments at that time. I remember being deep in the tournament and being really nervous when calling an all-in with JJ.
I never get nervous now about any hand, but I was nervous then. I won that hand, which was a big pot. I was keeping the game very simple that night. Little did I know it would be the first of hundreds of live Texas hold’em poker tournaments, and I had no clue I would be writing books. Or these articles.
When I made the final table and it was down to nine players, I had an average stack, but I was crazy excited because 1st place was paying $10k and the final table was roped-off. Then the most anti-climactic thing happened.
One of the players — the short-stack — offered a chop. Everyone had to agree. Six players said yes prior to me (one very hesitantly). I didn’t want to chop, and today I would say no, but I felt pressure because everyone else had agreed. So, I got $2k and was content, but I wasn’t thrilled. I wanted the experience.
That’s a spot where you should decline a chop, especially when it’s an even chop like that one. Nobody used ICM chops at that time, but man, I would never let that fly today. The short-stack was ecstatic about getting away with that. I don’t blame him. Well played.
When it comes to Texas Hold’em poker tournaments, you can chop but you don’t have to chop. It’s not black and white. It depends on the situation. In most cases, it’s good to chop, but there are situations where you should play it out.
If you want the simplest version possible, if you’re concerned about appearances and reputation, always chop in cash and usually chop in tournaments. However, there are reasons not to chop in both arenas. Personally, I always chop in cash games, but I don’t always chop in tournaments. In regards to the latter, a lot depends on the circumstances. See you at the WSOP!
♠ pokerjournal.org | Tyler Nals