Why Bad Beats Are Good For You

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Submitted by Houston Slim, this article is a part of the Poker Strategy series.

Has this ever happened to you?
“I went all-in with pocket aces and he called with pocket kings.  Can you believe that lucky &^%$# caught a third king on the river?”
“I had the nut straight on the return and this *&^%$ idiot calls me down with a flush draw.  Of course, he rivers his fifth spade.  Why the &@^$ does this always happen to me?”
“Not only did that stupid @&%# call my obvious flush with only two pair on the turn, he sucks out and fills hit boat on the river!  What the @!$% was he thinking?”

In the immortal words of former US President Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.”  Anyone who has played poker for any length of time has taken a bad beat, cried about their bad luck to anyone who would listen and watched as their tale of woe fell on deaf ears.  The next time you lose a hand to an “idiot” who “doesn’t know how to spell poker”, here are some questions to remember that may help ease the sting.

Did you get your money in good?  In other words, did you put your chips in the pot when you knew you had the best hand?  Did your opponent have five outs or less to make his hand on the river?  If so, you’ll win (on average) in at least ninety percent of these situations.

Will this ‘lucky card’ encourage your opponent to continue chasing draws?  The great poker writer and theorist Mike Caro wrote that, “the object of poker is not to win the most pots or the most hands or the most money; the object of poker is to make the best decisions.”  If your lesser opponent hits a miracle card to fill his hand, he may interpret it as a sign from the ‘poker gods’ that this is his ‘lucky night’.  He’ll chase every gutshot straight and backdoor flush as if it’s his for the taking.  One of the major mistakes that players like this make is to play too many hands.  In this case, your best move would be to wait for another powerful hand, let his overwhelming greed and false hope drive his betting and do your work for you.  As long as you’re holding a powerhouse hand (ideally, the ‘nuts’), let him build your pot, then listen to him whine about how, “I never catch draws”.

Do you understand the math of the game?  By now, most players should understand the concepts of ‘odds and outs’.  As in one of the earlier examples, if you hold pocket aces and your opponent holds pocket kings pre-flop, you will win (on average) eighty percent of the time.  The flip side of this math means that you’ll lose twenty percent of the time.  This means that your higher pair will lose to a lower pair about one time in five; the lower hand has a slightly better chance of winning than the chances of rolling a seven in craps.  Once you take some time to learn the math, you may see that ‘bad beats’ aren’t as improbably or remarkable as they may first appear.

Does a bad beat put you on tilt?  Sure, a bad beat can be a cause for frustration, especially when a less-experienced opponent starts thinking he’s the next Doyle Brunson after catching a lucky card.  You may even be tempted to play ‘poker professor’ and teach the lucky so-and-so the error of his ways.  One old poker saying discourages this idea:  don’t tap on the aquarium.  Let the ‘fish’ swim around in their ignorant bliss.  You’ll catch them soon enough.  Also, make sure that you don’t fall into their bad habits.  “If he can chase cards and catch draws, then so can I!”  Remember, the cards and the luck eventually even out; it’s your patience, skill and emotional control that give you the advantage.  If you give those up, you should just quit playing, hand over your money and save everyone (especially yourself) a lot of time and aggravation.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about my strategy tips, you can also read about my views on the news, people and places in poker at my new poker blog, Poker Info Page.

If you’d like to play with me (Houston Slim) on Full Tilt Poker, you can join me here. Use the bonus code “Houston” and get a $600 sign up bonus.

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3 Comments to Why Bad Beats Are Good For You

Mark
October 31, 2008

Hi Houston

Do have any good tools on how to avoid swearing and trash talking your opponents when they bad beat you?
Counting to 10 just doesn’t do it for me:-)

Póker
November 2, 2008

Disable chat :)

Mark
November 2, 2008

Ha….good one!:-)

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