December 27, 2022 by

Thoughts on the Inevitable Poker Bad Beat

The first question that jumps to mind is: Is a poker bad beat really inevitable? The answer is actually NO but you would never want to be the kind of player who never has to endure a bad beat!  That kind of player takes so few chances that they may never have to endure a bad beat but they also rarely enjoy a good win!

What, then, is a bad beat and what can we do to get over a bad beat and continue the game?

A Workable Definition of a Bad Beat

A bad beat takes place when a player thinks that he or she has the winning hand and bets accordingly but in the end, he or she had the losing hand because the winning hand was created by a very lucky last card.

As such, a bad beat can happen only in a game in which the players can see some of the cards. Thus, any game with community cards and any stud poke hand can qualify as a game with the potential for a bad beat.

Draw poker does not qualify!

A Bad Beat Usually Begins with the Hole Cards

Even in a game like Texas Hold’em, where there are five community cards and only two hole cards, the mystery of the hole cards makes bad beats pretty common in that poker variation. A bad beat also implies that the player with the losing hand might have analyzed the hand incorrectly.

This often occurs when the losing player fails to see all of the possibilities in a hand.

The Hole Cards are Invisible but a Good Player Can “See” Them

When a player sees every possibility on a hand as it progresses, he or she is also putting the other hand or hands on specific cards to determine if he or she can win the hand.

This scenario often plays out in a tournament where two players have solid hole cards and have enough potential to continue in the hand and then one player gets a great and lucky card in the end.

Let Us Look at One Example

Let us say that two players have a high pair in the hole. One has two aces and the other has two kings. Then the community cards come out with two kings and an ace.

Most players observing the hand would feel that either player could have quad kings but the more likely hand is a king with any other high card. Good players would put the others on an ace and a high card.

The hand continues and ultimately the community cards are two kings and two aces. The player with quad kings has to play out the hand thinking that the other player might have a full house.

Then the cards are revealed and there are both quad kings and quad aces. That is the quintessence of a bad beat!

Most Bad Beats are Seen in Average Hands

The example we gave was in a very unusual hand. The fact is that even when a player hits a winning pair or fills an inside straight, the outcome will be seen as a bad beat.

Overcoming a Bad Beat Takes Great Fortitude

Someone could be a truly great poker player but if he or she cannot quickly recover from a bad beat, they will suffer unnecessary losses and could miss a couple of winning hands before they regain their equilibrium.

A bad beat puts psychological pressure on the player with the losing hand since a poker room will catch wind of a really bad beat and will buzz about it for some time.

There is a great poker player who suffers every bad beat to his core.  He has been known to berate an amateur player who played a hand poorly, who should have folded early on, and then won the hand in miraculous fashion.

This player has also said that he would win every hand if it weren’t for the luck factor!

How Can a Player Stay Calm in the Face of a Bad Beat?

There is no doubt that a bad beat hurts. It does matter more if the bad beat was to a high hand such as a Royal Flush, a straight flush, or a full house. When a bad beat happens in these rarefied hands, there is often a lot of money in the pot.

Still, any bad beat hurts. Thus, players have to train for the sudden bad beat. All bad beats come suddenly!

Training to stay calm is the hallmark of a mature player. Such a player will be respected by his or her opponents.

Inner Calm Comes from Seeing Life as an Adult

There are many programs or exercises that can achieve inner calm. In the 1960s Transcendental Meditation was a popular practice. Any kind of meditation is helpful in achieving inner calm.

A player can benefit from going to the place where they feel most at ease and have a sense of repose.

Many people say that inner calm comes from slowing down. Especially after a bad beat, a player should slow down. This mental action produces a physical response as well.

You are Much More than a Poker Player

One essential element that gets a player through a devastating loss in a poker game is the notion that he or she is far more than a card player. It is not enough to cultivate a hobby. Players, and everyone really, should strive to be the most well-rounded person they can be.

A well-rounded person is not obsessed with winning all the money. Poker players are like musicians or athletes; they have to hone their skills every day but if all they are is a well-honed machine, they could lose it all on one unfortunate card.

What Jose Raul Capablanca Can Teach Poker Players

Poker players practice being able to instantly identify an opponent’s strong hand. It is easy to identify one’s own strong hand!

Jose Raul Capablanca was the World Champion of chess for about 20 years in the early 20th century. In the world of chess, he was as much a superstar as Daniel Negreanu is in poker. Capablanca never seemed to get ruffled over the chess table even when he was playing in a tournament.

A reporter went down to Cuba to see what made Capablanca tick. The champion welcomed the reporter and they sat down for a long interview. At some point, the reporter said that he would like to play a game of chess with the great Capablanca.

And the great champion Jose Raul Capablanca DID NOT HAVE A CHESS SET IN HIS HOUSE!

Capablanca knew at the most basic level that he was a lot more than just a chess player!

Stay Optimistic

A bad beat is only one hand. When you play poker well, you will have a lot more success than an occasional bad beat. Cultivate optimism for great poker over the long term.

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Jack Marsh enjoys examining the world around him from many different points of view: the mathematical, the psychological, the political, and the philosophical.

He will write from a mathematical perspective on why the cards fall the way they do, from a psychological perspective on why gamblers gamble the way they do, from a political perspective on why forms of entertainment that are encouraged in one place are prohibited in another, and from a philosophical perspective on the nature of happiness ... [Read Jack Marsh full bio]