Rabbit Hunting

When I was much younger, I loved rabbit hunting.  There were a couple of ways to do it.  If we didn’t have dogs, which was most of the time, three or four of my friends and I would form a line about 10-20 yards apart, and walk through a field, usually consisting of tall weeds, briars, and other thorny bushes.  The goal was to cause a rabbit to jump, and then we would try to shoot it as it zigzagged and basically ran in an erratic fashion.  Rabbits will often “sit-tight”, and since they blend in with their cover, you will often walk right past them.  So, it’s a good practice to stop often while walking a field; and, something about that makes them nervous, and they will often take-off, sometimes right out from almost under your feet – which scares the bejesus out-of-you, making it even harder to shoot the little gray bullets.

Occasionally, we would be fortunate enough to hunt with someone who had rabbit dogs – usually beagles.  I love hearing beagles when they’re on the trail of a rabbit!  If you’ve never rabbit hunted, then you may not know that when they are “jumped”, they will run in a wide circle, eventually ending up back at the same location from where they began, unless your dogs are too fast, causing the rabbit to run in a hole.  So, hunting with dogs is a whole lot less exercise; since once the rabbit jumps, you just wait for it to circle back-around, and try to shoot the fury blur when it runs by.

At this point, you’re probably thinking: “Hey, I thought this was a blog about poker!” and, you would be correct.  Sorry!  I got side-tracked.  It’s just the topic caused me to reminisce about “the good ole’ days” and rabbit hunting. 

Now, as for rabbit hunting in poker – I HATE it.

If you’re not a regular poker player, then: 1) why are you reading this blog (just kidding), and 2) in case you don’t know what rabbit hunting in poker is, I’ll try to explain it, and why I hate it.

During a poker hand, if everyone, except one player, folds before the board has been completely dealt (the flop, turn, and river), then the hand is over, and the pot is awarded to the lone remaining player.  But sometimes, a player has faced a difficult decision about whether to fold or not.  For example, he (or she) might have an Ace and another card of the same suit (let’s say spades), in their hand, and there are two spades on the board.  And, they’re pretty sure they’re behind in the hand at this point.  Let’s say the flop and turn have been dealt, so there are four cards on the board with one remaining to be dealt.  The player’s opponent has raised, causing the player with the Ace-of-spades to be all-in if they call.  So, one of the remaining nine spades must come for the player to win the hand.  After much deliberation the player folds and the pot is awarded to the other player.

Here’s where “rabbit hunting” comes into play.  Curiosity “gets-the-best” of the player who has given-up and folded, and he/she/we want to see if a spade would have come on the river.  So, we ask the dealer to rabbit hunt, and deal the last card as-if the hand were still live.  Rabbit hunting is expressly prohibited in tournaments, since there is a clock, and it wastes time.  However, in cash games, players will often justify requesting it since there isn’t a clock.  I have even seen rabbit hunting on TV in high stakes games like Poker After Dark, which only serves to encourage it.

I “get” that people are curious, but personally, I really don’t understand why people request it.  If, in my example, you would have hit your flush (which is about a 20% chance), does that mean that next time in a similar situation, you should call?  If a spade isn’t dealt in the rabbit hunt, do you feel better that you made a good decision in the first place?  What if you had fewer outs, like two or four, and when rabbit hunting, one of those outs “comes”.  Does that mean the next time you have two or four outs that you should call because you “would have” hit last time?  Have you gained insight into the future by what “would have happened” in the past?

Aside from the time-wasting argument, I think the biggest reason to NOT rabbit hunt, is that it can damage the player who won the hand, possibly exposing a bluff.  I’ll try to explain.  First, everyone knows that bluffing is a big part of the game; as Dan Harrington says in his book Harrington on Cash Games:In poker, if you never bluff, you can’t win“.  In a different example than the previous one, let’s say there’s three-to-a-flush (spades again) on the board, and we have a King-high spade flush.  Our opponent has bet, portraying that they have the Ace high flush, putting us all-in if we call.  The stakes are too high, so we fold, but ask the dealer to rabbit hunt; the dealer obliges, and the Ace-of-Spades is dealt, exposing our opponent’s bluff.  We didn’t pay to see our opponent’s card, but we got free information. How is that good for the game?

Playing the “What-if” game is pretty much useless in life.  What-if I had asked the cute blond cheerleader to the prom in high school – well, maybe that’s not a good example; so, let’s forget that one.  How about – What if I was born rich, or I was born with the genetics to be 6′-11″, and 275 lbs., or I was 6′-5″ with a cannon for an arm?  Ridiculous?  Yes!  But, in my humble opinion, no more ridiculous that folding, and then seeing what card(s) would-have been dealt! 

I could go on-and-on, ranting endlessly about my dislike for rabbit hunting (in poker, that is), but I think I’ve made my point.  Let’s all lobby our congressmen to allow online poker and ban rabbit hunting in poker.

Now, does anyone own some beagles?

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