Poker is a game that fascinates, because everything seems always possible. Even the best player in the world can be beaten by a novice player, on a stroke of luck. And sometimes, while everything seems to be on our side – the statistics, the odds, the hand in pre-flop, the flop, and even the turn – here the last card posed makes us lose.
It’s the bad beat, a reality that can be hard to accept.
What is a bad beat?
The “bad beat” generally refers to the case where a hand that has the best statistics loses, in favor of a hand that was not really attractive at first.
The player who had a very good hand was sure of his stroke, but the player who had a worse hand finally got the cards he wanted. This usually happens on the turn or the river, and therefore when the fourth and fifth cards come out.
So we are not talking about a simple failure or a bad bet. The initial game was good, but the situation is reversed along the way. The fault is no luck in some ways.
Let’s take a basic and very common case:
- You discover a pair of 10. You are more likely to win than your opponent, who has in hand a queen and a valet, mismatched.
- The flop and the turn come out, and you always have the highest pair in your hand.
- You raise and a lady goes out on the river, which makes you lose
This is a common situation that is not exactly defined as a bad beat, because in the end it depends on how you played your shot. Have you been aggressive enough? Did your opponent behave like a fish and follow all your bets?
A bad beat is often a little more impressive. For example, if your pair of 10 loses to a small pair of 2. Here you had a lot of luck winning the pot, but the chance was different.
The worst bad beat is the one where the player went all-in and loses on the last card, the river. Bad beat is common, and most importantly, frustrating.
Three famous bad beats
To give you a better idea of what bad beat is, here are three real cases that have been observed in major tournaments and have marked the history of poker.
WSOP 2003 Main Event – Chris Moneymaker VS Phil Ivey
We are in 2003, in full tournament of the WSOP Main Event. This is the final table of the tournament, with ten players. Chris Moneymaker, our first player, draws A-Q and raises to the pre-flop. In front of him, Phil Ivey, who has 9-9 in hand. The flop comes out: Q-Q-6. Moneymaker raises, Ivey follows.
Come the turn: a 9. Ivey now has a full house at 9 by the ladies. Moneymaker continues to raise, and Ivey put his stack. But come the river: an ace.
Moneymaker is now in possession of a full house for the ladies by the aces, and wins the pot.
1979 WSOP Main Event – Hal Fowler VS Bobby Hoff
Another historic bad beat, still at the WSOP Main Event: the duel of Hal Fowler against Bobby Hoff, in 1979. A bad beat which is almost 40 years old and which remained in the annals.
In hand, Hoff to A-A and speak to the button, so in last position: he raises. Fowler, who was in the big blind position with 7-6, follows. The flop comes out: J-5-3. Hoff bets big. Fowler follows.
And there, on the turn, the 4 spell, miraculously: Fowler, who seemed to have very little chance of winning, now has a sequel. Hoff puts everything he has left. The river is a 10, and he is eliminated from the tournament.
WPT 2006 – J.C Tran VS Alan Goerhing
A final example, this time at the 2006 WPT in Los Angeles, with two players: J.C Tran and Alan Goerhing.
With ace in hand, Tran raises to the pre-flop. Both players are all-in: Georhing has a pair of 5s.
The flop comes out: 8-7-2, matched with spades. Tran has ace of spades and another ace. His position seems unshakeable. The turn is a 2. Tran does not have its color.
And there, the river: a 5. Totally dominated until then, Georhing wins with a full 5 at the 2.
How to guard against bad beat
To accept defeat is to accept the mechanisms of poker
No player can claim that he has never experienced bad beat. There will always be, and that’s what gives poker its appeal.
Chance can not be fully calculated, and probabilities are not certainties.
Before you want to avoid the bad beat, you must already have a good state of mind, and always think about what the player in front of you could have in hand. Many players are too likely to think that because they have a good game in hand pre-flop, the pot belongs to them.
Failure is a reality, and you have to know how to accept it. Of course, you can steer the game when you feel that you are in a dominant position, to limit the number of hands involved, for example by restarting the pre-flop.
Do not focus on money or the result
What matters is the way you play. You can play perfectly, and suffer many failures and bad beat burst. It is also possible to play badly and to have a lot of luck. You must not think that losing means that you play badly. Before you focus on the outcome, focus on the way you play, keeping a positive and serious attitude at a time.
What would be poker without bad beat?
Without bad beat, there would be no game: the best players would always win.
Poker, as in life, is a fine mix of statistics and chance. The bad beat is also an opportunity for the player in front of you, who sometimes played badly but wins in river. A stroke of luck that makes you want to continue playing despite successive failures. And if you are a good player, a bad beat can also affect your opponent, and you’re supportive.
The bad beat is a reality to the poet, which can make you lose big, and can sometimes favor the worst players. With this reality in mind, it’s up to you to watch how you play and your mindset. Stay alert, and constantly watch your emotions. Knowing how to handle bad-beats is also one of the skills that a professional poker player must have.