Bad beats happen to the best poker players, the worst poker players, and everyone in between. There really isn’t a definition of what a bad beat is, but I would say it’s any time that you have your money in the pot and have at least a 75 percent chance of winning the hand. There are plenty of times where you have a 50/50, 55/45 or 60/40 chance of winning and you lose, but those aren’t really bad beats. They’re just part of the game. The times when you are in a “race” with someone, meaning one of you has a pocket pair and the other has two cards larger than your pair, are really not much more than a 50-55 percent chance for the person holding the pair to win. Also, a situation similar to this, where you have one overcard and your opponent has two cards higher than your kicker, you are only a 60 percent favorite to win.
The bad beats I’m talking about are the ones where you dominate your opponent, either with a higher pocket pair than his, a pair with a higher kicker or some other situation where he is a huge underdog once all the money goes in. Those are the ones that make you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut when you lose, and your reaction to these bad beats can make or break you as a poker player.
There is actually some good news in a continued string of bad beats. Bad beats happen to good players more often than they do to bad ones because the good players realize they have the best of it and get all their money in with the best hand more often. While a long run of beats will hurt your bottom line, you can take solace in the fact that you are playing solid poker. In the long run, getting your money in with the best hand a large percentage of the time is going to make you a ton of money. It’s hard to remember that sometimes when you’ve just been rivered, but if you can control your emotions and not go on tilt, you’ll be much better off. The key is just to tell yourself you made the right play and get on with it.
One way to lessen the effect of a bad beat in a tournament is to try to stay away from going all-in as much as possible. The saying “a chip and a chair” really does apply, so while you do want to maximize your profits when you have the best of it, you also want to try to insure that you don’t get yourself knocked out of a tournament if the fish catches what he’s looking for. You can be aggressive without over-betting.
As I said, bad beats happen to everyone who sits down at the table, but if you can remember that they are part of the game, don’t go on tilt when they do happen, leave yourself some wiggle room, and know that you are actually playing very well, you can live to fight another day.