How to Overcome and Avoid Bad Beats

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Have you ever had a bad beat? If you are unsure, a bad beat is any unlucky loss where you are way ahead in a poker hand and end up getting outdrawn.

Sadly it’s an inevitable part of poker. Poker is gambling, and all gambling involves some sort of luck. Even professional poker players get bad beat. As Phil Hellmuth once said, “I guess if there weren’t luck involved, I’d win every time”.

Bad beats can knock you out of a tournament or cause you to lose your last dollar in a cash game. But they don’t have too.

Although it is impossible to avoid bad beats, especially online, there are strategies you can use to avoid them or reduce their impact on you.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you

Easier said then done, right? A bad beat can leave you extremely angry, mostly with the other player for catching lucky cards and winning the hand.

Right after the bad beat, your heart will beat faster and your adrenaline will start pumping. All you can think of is cursing, throwing a chair across the room, or insulting the other player.

Emotionally, you need to get back to the level you were at during the beginning of game. If you need to vent and you won’t be in the blinds soon, take a few hands off. Walk around, curse if you have to, or even get a beer.

Now that you have calmed down, when you sit back down it is natural that you’ll want to get into another big pot with that player, to teach him a lesson. This is a huge mistake! The biggest mistake you can make after getting bad beat is playing on tilt.

After the bad beat, compare your chip stack to the other players chip stack at the table. If you are playing in a tournament, take into account the number of players left and the current level of blinds. Don’t give into your bad beat and go all-in with the next OK hole cards you see. Unless you have a very small chip stack or will be forced all-in by the blinds soon, this is a mistake.

The all-in should be your last resort and not your next best option. It’s human nature for you to want to double up and get back to the level you were before the bad beat. If you start playing more hands, being super-aggressive and raising all-in pre-flop, the other players will realize this, making it easy for them to wait their time until they get a great hand to call your bluff or outrageous raise.

If you find yourself consistently having problems with relaxation, take a breathing or yoga class. Having Phil Hellmuth-like “blow ups” will only hurt your game in the long run.

Can you avoid bad beats?

A friend of mine, Mike Kam, was telling me about a bad beat he took after being dealt Aces in a nine-player cash game online. The table folded around to Mike in the big blind, and he made the mistake of limping in, when he should have raised. The small blind folded, and the big blind called.

The flop came out a rainbow, 3-9-7. Mike’s opponent was first to act, and bet the size of the pot. Mike, with a big overpair to the board, came out firing all-in. Both of the players had an even amount of money. His opponent waited over ten seconds before making the call.

Mike couldn’t have been happier as his opponent flipped over 9-4, making a pair of 9s to his Aces. The turn came: 10. The river: 4. His opponent won with two-pair: 9s and 4s against Aces. Mike’s heart pounded against his chest and he cursed and punched his pillow in rage. He lost a big pot.

There is no doubt about it, his opponent sucked out. As Mr. Hellmuth would say, “just sick.” Anyone would have taken those odds for that amount of money. And although you can’t turn back time, Mike might have been able to prevent this loss, although he wouldn’t win nearly as much money in the process.

If he would have raised pre-flop with his Aces, he probably would have won the pot right there. Instead, the big blind was able to check and see a free flop. Again, almost anyone would have taken Mike’s odds in the hand, but bad beats are more common online than they are in home-games.

Bet when you think you have the best hand

One of the most important rules to follow, especially online, is to get your money in the pot pre-flop when you think you have the best hand.

Just like Mike’s scenario, a similar rule applies when you have a good hand and there are flush or straight possibilities on the board. For example, say you have top pair with a good kicker after the flop. The board shows two hearts and you do not have a single heart. You want to get your money in the pot to avoid being outdrawn.

To do this, you should make a fairly large bet, somewhere around 2/3 of the pot. A player who simply checks/calls your bet is most likely on a draw. In this case, you should be aggressive and make big bets to force him into a difficult decision. Make them pay to play.


Bad beats are the most sickening part of poker; they can cause you to lose your cool and go on tilt. While not all bad beats are avoidable, some are. Put your money in the pot and force players who you think are on a draw into a difficult decision.

If you are a victim of a bad beat, the best thing you can do is relax, stay positive and not try to get your money back in one hand. The best players are the most patient.

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