Poker Mistakes

The Bad Beat Road

Poker Bad Beats"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." -- Alfred Adler

Sometimes we do everything right but still lose to some miracle suckout. But that is poker. If it can happen, sometimes it will.

With the recent influx of players into the poker world comes a lot of newbie players who don't have the perspective to recognize non-usual exceptions -- for example, if you lose with AA the first two times you get it you might have a warped view on their value than if you won ten times then lost two in a row with the hand. Once you have played tens of thousands of poker hands, it is a lot easier to just know that, well, shit happens.

That is straightforward enough, but if you are a newbie player, it is actually more complex than that. While "bad beats" do occur in poker, they happen more often to new players (or weaker experienced players) because new players make mistakes that invite the bad beats.

A reader, Traves, sent me an email describing the situation well:

Dear Steve,
First I'd like to compliment you on your articles in general, they are truly some of the best I've ever read and do a fantastic job of taking the romanticism and glitter out of playing poker... I've been playing consistently for 14 years. Nowadays my online [play] is generally at PartyPoker in the NL Hold Em Tourneys.

I've noticed an overall theme in your writing that I think is very important in today's world of poker. You hit on it again directly in your basics article. It is your concerns -- if I can call them that, about the explosion of No Limit Tourneys on the Internet and high stakes play and the dangers thereof. Many people are diving into these games and have to be blowing their brains out. Televised big money tourneys are spiffy to watch but as I've played in a few real ones and watched a few more live I know how hard it is to win or even place in these mothers. I'm a fair player and the areas my Hold em game needs improving on are huge but I understand what you're writing. I see many that don't and hope you keep pounding out the message.

I'd like to give you two examples [the second example was of a hand he played right but still lost] you may find useful for future reference to further get it across to the hordes that seem to be playing online. Not everyone can be a winning player but if they aren't prepared to learn they can guarantee losing their ass. The first is a terrible play I made.

My stack is about average, I'm not short. Blinds are at 100-200. I'm in late position with JJ. One call in front, and when it comes to me, I just call. First mistake and it's the killer. [Players behind fold, and the blinds call.] Flop comes 662 offsuit.

Checked around to me, I bet 1000. SB tosses, the big blind calls and other player folds. Now goddamn it Steve, I know the BB has to have me beat but I lose the discipline and fall in love with my pocket pair. Turn is a 9. The big blind goes all in and I call. The river is a K and BB shows 63 offsuit and I'm out of the tournament.

Now, here's the ammunition for you maybe in a future article. In the chat box after the hand, three players say "Damn bad beat" and "Jacks just aren't holding up". This then was an example of a terrible play by an experienced player and more importantly a great example of players not understanding I made a bad play and created my own "bad beat".

After the first hand I went and kicked the cat. After the second hand [where he played correctly but busted out] I went to a movie with the wife. Please keep on pounding away at the masses, de-mystifying poker.

Hands like Traves' occur every minute online and in casinos -- much more often than genuine bad beats. People lose hands because they screw up. In this case, Traves invited the big blind to beat him, and he did! Not only that, Traves knew he was beat, and committed the much worse sin of losing the bulk of his chips even though he knew he was beat. There is no bad beat in that, only bad poker.

Recognition of the mistake though is good poker. The worst poker is being displayed by the three people who lamented about Traves' "bad beat" with the jacks. They don't recognize that poor play lead to poor results.

Before you can apply good poker play, you have to recognize it.

More on Poker Bad Beats, Suck Outs, Poker Dealing Stories, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet and Poker Role Models