How To Deal With a Bad Beat

Here are the best ways to deal with a bad beat at the poker table

Picture the scene. You are deep in an online poker tournament and commit your stack on the flop with a set of aces. Your opponent calls to put you at risk of elimination, but he has nothing but a pair. The turn brings another spade, putting two spades on the board. The river is another spade, gifting your opponent a runner-runner flush and the pot. It is game over for you, my friend. All you have to show for your efforts is a bad beat story.

What is a bad beat?

Bad beats happen all the time in poker, more than you would like to admit to yourself. A bad beat is when you get your chips in as a substantial favorite only to lose to a far inferior hand. Losing with ace-king versus pocket tens is not a bad beat. Seeing your opponent hit perfect cards on the turn and river, or hitting a two-outer is.

Some players can deal with a bad beat easier than others. This mental toughness is often the difference between being a winning and losing player. These players are not superhuman, rather they have ways of dealing with enduring a bad beat at the tables.

Tips For Dealing With a Bad Beat

The best way to deal with a bad beat is to simply accept they happen. Bad beats do not happen to you more than anyone else, everyone suffers the same number in the long run. Lady Luck has not suddenly decided she does not like you, it is just the math of the game running its course.

Keeping records of your play helps. Looking through your notes or database of hands often highlights the fact you dished out some bad beats yourself. There will be times where you got your stack into the middle of the table as a huge underdog and won. It is also likely you will have forgotten about these occasions, or put them down to your own skills.

Realize Bad Beats Are Needed

Weaker players will put bad beats on you more than skilful ones. That is not to say solid players do not get their chips in bad, but they do so less frequently. This is because lesser skilled players make more mistakes than good poker players.

What you need to realize is these bad beats are needed to keep the weak players in the game. Poker would become almost impossible to beat if nobody made mistakes; the casino or online poker site would win the rake and everyone else would just pass the blinds around.

When a player makes a mistake you benefit, a fact that does not become apparent immediately as you hand over your chips. If you could play against someone willing to move all-in or call all-in with only 10 percent equity you should play them as much as possible.

Poker is a game where the math evens out over a very long period of time. These bumps in the road keep weak players in the game and allow you to better enjoy the good times.

Be Bankrolled For the Stakes You Play

Bankroll management is vitally important for keeping your sanity intact at the poker table. Sitting at a cash game table with your entire bankroll at the table is a recipe for disaster. Losing your bankroll and going bust is likely to affect you far worse than losing a couple of percent of it.

Tournament players, sit & go players and cash game players alike all need to manage their bankroll properly. It is the number one reason, aside from a lack of skill, that sees them go broke. A lack of bankroll management also leads to players going on tilt far more frequently than someone with a large arsenal behind them.

Concentrate On What You Can Control

Concentrating on the aspects of poker you can control helps your emotions in check. Poker is a game where you actually have little control over what happens at the table. Focus on what you can control, such as playing a hand the most profitable way then let luck take care of the rest.

A Buddhist phrase goes along the lines of “If you can change a situation, don’t worry it. If you can’t change a situation, don’t worry about it.” Read it again until it makes sense. If you find yourself in a spot where you have no control over the outcome there is no need to spend energy worrying your mind about it. Should you discover you can make changes to prevent that happening again, do not worry because you can prevent that situation happening again.

Matthew Pitt

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.

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