Recently I have seen a number of posts by newer players complaining about bad beats and suckouts and perhaps even suggesting that certain sites deliver a greater proportion of bad beats than others. There is already a sticky in the bad beat forum about this but I thought I’d update it to add a few points from the recent discussions.

Part 1 – The Realities of Bad Beats

1. Bad beats are part of the game.

Unless your opponent is drawing completely dead (eg. opp flopped a straight with no straight flush draw but you turned a full house) then there is always the possibility that opp will hit their card on the river. Even if they have only one out on the river and you’re all-in on the turn, there is still a 1 in 45 chance that their miracle card will come. That 1 in 45 is NOT 0 in 45, it is still there and, however unlikely, can still happen.

2. Good players suffer more bad beats than bad players.

By definition, you suffer a bad beat when you get your chips in as a favourite but don’t win the hand because the cards did not fall your way. By definition, good players tend to get their chips in as a favourite more often than bad players so good players will suffer more bad beats than bad players! Bad players are getting their chips in as an underdog more often so therefore they are not going to get sucked out on as often as a good player.

The good player who raises AK to 4x BB from UTG then gets sucked out on by a bad player calling the raise from the blinds with K9 when the flop comes K9x wouldn’t ever be in a position to suck out because the good player would not have called the raise with K9 in the first place.

3. Bad beats reinforce bad players’ bad play.

Unlike other games such as, for example, tennis, poker is a game where looking at results and changing your decision often isn’t the right course of action. Say you keep on serving the ball into the net when playing tennis – the corrective action is to change your serve such that you (perhaps) toss the ball a bit higher before hitting it or change the angle at which your racquet makes contact. In poker, say you lose 3 times in a row with AA in an all-in preflop situation, the correct action is obviously not then to fold AA preflop!

In this way, bad beats can reinforce bad players’ play because the freak time they hit their runner runner backdoor flush, gutshot draw or second pair when their top pair is outkicked on the flop reinforces the fact that they should chase against the odds because they remember that time they got paid off – without realising that the result of a hand does NOT matter – the only thing that matters is whether the decisions that were made were correct.

4. Bad beats keep bad players playing!

If poker was completely skill-based without the random element then the number of bad players around would dramatically decrease. Whilst there would still be a number of players who keep on playing despite losing money, whether it’s because they are gambling addicts, prepared to pay the cost of their losses as a price for being entertained or whatever, a lot of players would either stop playing or get better. Say if you played chess for money and lost every game because all your opps were better than you. Wouldn’t you give up or try to improve eventually?

The fact that there is a random element to poker keeps the bad players around, and isn’t that what all good players want?

5. Humans have selective memory for bad events.

When you’ve got it all-in with your AA against opp’s underpair, you’ve mentally added his stack to yours since you’re a monster favourite. Therefore, the 4 out of 5 times you do in fact take his stack you think, "OK, thanks a lot, entirely expected, next hand". However, the 1 time out of 5 that you lose, because it is not the outcome that you’ve led yourself to expect, many players think, "WHAT THE F*CK, you DONKEY, this site is RIGGED!" despite the fact that the 1 time in 5 that you lose is as expected as the 4 times in 5 that you win.

The other thing that really gets burned into our memory is when the bad card comes on the river. When your AA is all-in preflop against 22, a lot of players shout, "RIVERSTARS" when the flop comes 345, turn A, river 6 than if the 2 just came on the flop. It doesn’t matter how opp sucks out, a loss is a loss is a loss! You were 80% to win preflop and it is totally irrelevant how you lost – but somehow opp hitting a miracle draw on the river seems so much worse.

Part 2 – How to Deal With Bad Beats.

In The Poker Mindset by Matthew Hilger and Ian Taylor, the chapter on bad beats sets out the four phases players go through in dealing with bad beats as they gain more experience. They are:

1. Anger

2. Frustration

3. Acceptance

4. Indifference

The problem with being at Phase 1 or 2 is that these emotions can lead a player to either go on tilt or otherwise play irrationally, leading to a loss of that player’s edge. Ultimately we should all aim to be at Phase 4; but as long as we achieve Phase 3 then that’s probably going to stop you tilting in response to a bad beat.

I’ll try to illustrate these four phases with an example. This is the first hand of, say, a $5.50 one table sit and go tourney:

No-Limit Hold’em Tourney, Big Blind is t20 (9 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: FlopTurnRiver)

Button (t1500)

SB (t1500)

BB (t1500)

UTG (t1500)

Hero (t1500)

MP1 (t1500)

MP2 (t1500)

MP3 (t1500)

CO (t1500)

Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with K , K .

1 fold, Hero raises to t80, 4 folds, Button calls t80, 1 fold, BB calls t60.

Flop: (t250) K , 9 , 8 (3 players)

BB bets t100, Hero raises to t350, Button calls t350, BB folds.

Turn: (t1050) 2 (2 players)

Hero bets t1070 (All-In), Button calls t1070 (All-In).

River: (t3190) 6 (2 players, 2 all-in)

Final Pot: t3190

Results below:

Hero has Kh Kd (three of a kind, kings).

Button has 7c 5d (straight, nine high).

Outcome: Button wins t3190.

Phase 1 – Anger

– What the F*CK? How can this donkey call my preflop raise with 75o, call a flop bet and a big re-raise not to mention my turn shove with just a gutshot draw? F*CKING DONKEYS is why my kings never EVER hold up EVER! Let’s look this guy up on Sharkscope. HA, I thought so – fishy icon, -60% ROI, down $4K. [Now on the table chat] "Hey Mr 75o, I can see why you’re down $4K when you play like a MORON you DIPS HIT". I’m gonna search for this guy next time and I’m gonna teach him a thing or two!

Phase 2 – Frustration

– GOD DAMN F*CKING [insert name of site], I can never win because this site is rigged. If you can’t win with KK that flops top set, how can you ever win on this site? No wonder I’m on such a horrible downswing when the poker gods hate me like this. I hate these donkeys who just call with any two cards preflop, chase the most remote draws then get paid off! Next time when I flop top set I’m just gonna open shove it to make these donkeys PAY, heck – maybe I’ll just shove my KK preflop!

Phase 3 – Acceptance

– Ouch! That’s poker I suppose. I can feel good that I got my chips in as a monster favourite, I ran this through Pokerstove and I was 91% to win on the turn when most of the chips went in, so 9 times out of 10 I take his stack here. Guess there’s not much I can really do about the 1 time in 10. Wonder if there is any way I could have played this differently though…

Phase 4 – Indifference

– OK, let’s make a note on these players. Button is a loose calling station who calls with any two cards and chases the most longshot draws down to the river against the odds. Next time I come across this guy I’m going to value bet my good hands to give him incorrect odds since I know he’ll chase – and I’m not going to try anything fancy like a check/raise or slowplay since I know he’ll pay off a bet. I see that BB led the flop for like 40% of the pot but folded to further action – I wonder what he had? I suspect it might have been a pocket pair like TT/JJ or 77 that didn’t think the K hit either my hand or Button’s, or maybe a weaker K and he didn’t like his kicker. Good to know that he will take a stab at the pot but give up to heat.

– I wonder whether I should have just bet 500 on the turn rather than shoving – without knowing that this guy was such a donkey he might have folded to my shove but might have called 500, which would have been enough to deny him odds to chase his draw, even if it was an OESD.

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Dealing With Bad Beats
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