Poker – Dealing With Bad Beats

I was having a horrible month of bad beats at the sit-n-gos.  I play $2 and occasionally $5 SnGs (yes, I’m that good) but wasn’t even breaking even on them.  It was bad beat after bad beat.  Kings beat by sixes.  Kings beat by an A7 offsuit – not by the ace, but by their 7 filling an inside straight on the river.  Aces cracked by low one gap unsuited connectors.  My bankroll, never high to begin with, dwindled down to less than ten bucks.  I’ve been studying the game for years, with books and videos, but was still losing and losing and losing, mostly to people playing crappy hands they should have folded.  I was wondering if my opponents had a secret “suckout” button on their screens, and getting so frustrated I was planning on playing until I’d lost the last few bucks left in my accounts and give up on online poker.

I cashed in some bonus points for a SnG and won a $26 token, then used that for a 45 person SnG, which I had only played a few times before.  I placed fourth, giving me bankroll boost that will let me continue losing for much longer.  In that tournament I put at two bad beats on someone else.

We all hate bad beats, but some are worse than others.  If you’ve accurately put good player on a second-best hand and a miracle river card costs you your stack, it’s annoying but not infuriating.  Frustration and anger hits when you’re playing against a donk who has consistently played poorly, then gets that miracle two-outer that destroys your powerful hand.  And when it happens again and again and again it can make you consider just giving up the game.

Bad beats are part of poker, so learning to deal with them is essential.  Here are a few things I found helpful.

Classifying Them Correctly. Make sure it really was a bad beat, and not poor playing on your part.   Slow playing trips and giving your opponent the correct pot odds to keep calling their long shot is your mistake, not theirs.

I recently lost a SnG by going all-in pre-flop with AKc against a considerably larger stack who called me with A6s.  He hit his flush and eliminated me.   Although he didn’t have quite the correct pot odds to call, losing wouldn’t cripple him and winning would give him a substantial advantage, so it was at best a marginal call.  It wasn’t a bad beat.

Understand the Numbers. After the fact use an odds calculator to see if it really was a bad beat.  (I like this one.) You’ll often discover your opponent had a 30% or better chance to win, so it wasn’t as bad a beat as you thought.  When my pocket kings lost to pocket sixes I was surprised to discover that would happen 20% of the time.

No hand is invulnerable.  AA will lose to 72 off suit 12% of the time.  That’s a very bad beat, but if you play long enough it will happen to you.

Avoid multi-way pots. This is standard poker advice many people ignore.  Pre-flop AA is an 80% favorite against kings, but against kings and queens it will lose a third of the time.  Add a fourth hand of jacks and it’s only a 54% favorite – a virtual coin flip.  Add a fifth hand to the mix – and for fun let’s make it 72 off, and now your aces are an underdog, with a 45% chance of winning.  The miserable 72 off has an 8% chance of taking the pot.  If you’re holding a high pair try to bet enough pre-flop to chase out all but one other opponent.  And don’t fall in love with aces.  If there’s three cards to a flush and/or an open ended straight on the board and three other people are betting, it’s time to lay them down.

I don’t fold aces very often, but one such fold was memorable.  I was on the button, on the bubble, and had shortest stack and a pair of pocket rockets.  What more could I ask for?  Pre-flop I just flat called a raise, thinking I’d earn more chips going all in after the flop.  But after the flop everyone went all in.  I nearly pushed too, then realized that if I folded I’d was guaranteed to be in the money.  I reluctantly mucked the aces.  The largest stack took the pot with the full house he’d flopped – my aces would have lost.  I was left in second place with a tiny stack (which was quickly destroyed) instead of losing on the bubble.

Savor Your Bad Beat Victories. We all remember the times we were destroyed by a ridiculously lucky card, but we tend to forget the times we did it to someone else.  Like the time I was short stacked on the bubble, went all in with kings, got called by aces, and got a king on the turn.  Ah, that was fun.  Or when I went all in with 98s (My M was in the red “shove with any two cards” zone) against aces and saw a flop of 9-8-3.  My two pair held up. Recalling those victories can take some of the sting out getting stung.

One of the most painful bad beats I’ve ever put on someone actually left me feeling sorry for the guy.  I was the table leader with about 3500 chips.  He was in trouble with just 600.  I had kings.  When the flop came K-Q-10 I put him all in.  He called – with J-9.  I’m sure he was delighted, probably doing a little Snoopy dance.  I wasn’t worried, this would just be a minor dent in my stack.  It wasn’t going to hurt me, but it was going to give him a fighting chance.  The turn was a blank (a 7).  The river was. . .

A king!  The one card in the entire deck that could have helped me.  I’m sure he was cursing his miserable luck.

Post game, analyzing the hand, I realized I had better odds than I thought.  Post flop I was only a 32% underdog.  The turn card dropped it to 22%.  The king wasn’t the only card that would have won.  In the heat of the game it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d win if the board paired.

Take a Break. Accepting bad beats calmly takes practice, but sometimes it’s just impossible, and the only reasonable response is to get away from the game for a while.

Yesterday I was in a SnG with an All-In Asshole.  He called or raised 50% of the pots pre-flop, then went all in on the flop about half the time.  Players like that usually rack up quite a few chips early on but very seldom make it into the money.  In the meantime, they ruin the game for everyone else at the table.  All you can do is wait until you have the nuts (or at least the near nuts), shove back at him, and hope the Bad Beat Gods don’t reward him with a suckout.

I had a modest stack, about half of his, and flat called a K-10 in late position.  Not a great hand, but with an M of about 8 I had to be less selective and get more aggressive.  The flop came up A-J-Q rainbow, giving me the nut straight.  He checked, I bet a quarter of the pot, and as expected, he shoved.  I smiled and called him.  He showed a J-Q, a measly two pair.  Ah!  Beauty!  I was going to take half of his chips and teach him a lesson.

The turn came up a Q, giving him a full house.  I swore loudly at the computer and logged off the site.  I was done for the night.  Maybe for a couple of nights.  Sometimes you’ve just got to get away from it for a while.

2 Comment(s)

  1. I understood almost none of that.

    Johnny Virgil | Apr 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. I actually understand every bit of that, and i’ve heard it, read it, even passed along those same lines, hmmmm. Brother, I may go over to my little blog and write about the worst bad beat I have had (not online) and the most successful tournament I was blessed to be setting at, by jo, dave whatever, you’ve inspired me.

    LLoyd Miller | Jul 20, 2010 | Reply

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