What a Bad Beat is and How to Handle Them

What is a Bad Beat?

A bad beat is the term given for a situation in poker when a player with a much stronger hand and in a mathematically favourable position nevertheless loses. It typically occurs with an unlikely turn or river card. A bad beat is usually associated with the idea that the player who got lucky made a bad call or play that should have been avoided. This is not always the case as a bad beat is often incorrectly referred to, when in fact the situation is a “cooler”, two incredibly strong hands battling. For example, if player A has A-A and player B has K-K and they both move all in on a A-K-K board, that is not a bad beat as much as it is a cooler or cold deck. After all, player B is not playing poorly by playing the K-K is he?

How to Handle a Bad Beat

One of the differences between strong, winning players and weak, losing players is in their ability to handle bad luck and bad beats. A strong player will move on to the next hand and not let a bad beat effect their play, continuing to play their normal game. The opposite is true for a mentally weak poker player, they will often go on tilt and play poorly for a while, perhaps the entire session. They will fixate on the hand that they lost and even complain and moan to other poker players at the table.

Bad Beat
Photo by Tim Gouw @punttim

Don’t pull your hair out or let a bad beat effect your play. Try the tips below after you take a bad beat. You will have a better chance of continuing to play well.

Go For a 2-Minute Walk

Sometimes it’s better not being at the table then playing and playing badly. Getting up and going for a short walk can centre you. It will also help you regain your focus so you are ready to play your A game.

Playing for the Long Run

Remember, if you are losing to bad beats a lot this means you are getting your chips in favourably in the long run. It stands to reason, that the good players will receive more bad beats as they are more likely to be getting their chips in mathematically strong positions. Take comfort from the fact that you are in this group and are doing something right. If you focus on the long run, you are less likely to get angry and play worse today.

Next time you take a bad beat, smile at your opponent and remember these are the people that are helping you make money.