Best Ways to Deal With a Bad Beat

4 years ago
How to Deal With a Bad Beat
24 Sep

In this article we are going to analyse the best ways to deal with a bad beat. Whilst poker is a game of skill, we know that luck plays a big part in it and if you react badly every time you are dealt a slice of bad luck, you will never be the poker player you aspire to be. We must successfully react in the best way possible when the poker gods test us. Here’s how to do it.

There are three main scenarios where you will face a bad beat, so let’s look at each one in turn. The goal we are aiming for is to avoid going on tilt and to maintain our composure. We know tilt causes errors, so first and foremost we must find balance and perspective each time we face a beat.

You are in a tournament but do not bust out

Your stack has taken a hit and if you are playing live you have had to endure the indignity of watching a portion of your stack being counted out and given to your opponent. It is natural to feel that they are undeserving and you have been wrongly separated from your chips. You’ve also missed out on your opponents chips that you should have won if they had not gotten lucky. Remember opponents are rarely card dead and that 15% chance will hit 15% of the time!

No-one expects you to smile and lecture everyone on how well you are accepting the natural math of poker, but as frustrating as it is to want to let off steam, the most important thing is to refocus and play the upcoming hands well. You’re only human and the higher the buy-in the more frustrating the natural swings of poker feel. It’s easy to laugh away bad luck in a freeroll.

Recall what led to the beat. You got your chips in with the best of it so that was a good thing. Did your opponent make a big mistake by calling? Try not to focus on the result only. Yes, they got lucky but there is information to note that you might well be able to use in the future to win back the chips you have just lost and many more with it.

In practical terms you should take a walk from the table if you need to and refresh yourself mentally as you have some catching up to do. Reacting well keeps your winning chances alive, reacting poorly and it’s just a matter of time before you compound the bad beat by beginning to make silly mistakes when emotion overrides reason.

The Bad Beat eliminates you from the tournament

When you go all-in and you sustain a bad beat the very best way to deal with this is to conclude that it was just not your day and live to fight another day. Providing you are not compounding this piece of bad luck by exercising poor bankroll management this will be an option for you. Shake everyone’s hand if it is a live tournament, wish them well and move on.

Get a drink and chill out, someone will be taking home that big prize and today that is not you. It’s best to get over it quickly and either enter a new tournament or do something else with your newly gained free time. It’s tough to suffer a beat at any time, but that’s why we play poker because without luck the fish would have no chance. Congratulate yourself on dealing with the bad beat well.

Taking a beat in Cash Games

The third main scenario you will need to deal with a bad beat is in cash games. This is potentially more dangerous to your bankroll as there is, in theory, no limit to the number of buy-ins you can lose if your game collapses due to tilt following a bad beat as cash games are never-ending providing there are players sitting at the table waiting for play to continue.

After enduring the bad beat stop for a moment before you replenish your stack and re-buy. Think about your emotional state. Are you in “chase mode” and thinking only about getting back the money you have just lost via the bad beat? If so you might be better off chalking off the session and returning at a later date. Walking away is always an option and often the best one when you are steaming, but if you can compose yourself the fact you got your money in good suggests there may be opportunities in the game. You were not outplayed.

If you do buy-in you make a conscious and even slightly over-the-top effort not to let the after-effects of the bad beat change your playing style. The beat should motivate but not anger you. Poker is tough enough without shedding buy-ins whilst on tilt, even if the tilt is temporary, which it always is.

General Suggestions

Here is a quick list of my favorite bad beat recovery methods.

  • Move away from your computer if playing online, or walk away from the table if playing live.
  • Take a short break, long enough that you can get the natural urge to feel the emotions you get from a beat, but without costing you money.
  • Have a drink and refresh yourself.
  • Think of the positive things that happened in the hand that led to you getting your money in good.
  • Remember that luck is a part of poker that keeps the fish coming back. See the losses in the hand as a loan. You will win it back, if you keep your head.
  • Stop playing if none of the above works.

Experience will lessen the effects of a bad beat, but you will always feel something when you lose in a spot you are mathematically likely to win and those emotions will need to be managed. The sooner you are back to your optimal mental state and playing your best poker the better and I hope these pointers help you get there as quickly as possible.

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Malcolm comes from Consett in the North East of England and is an avid poker player and writer.Read more


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