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Life's Rich Pageant

These Things Happen - The Bad Beat

Bad BeatďYou must lose a fly to catch a trout.Ē -- George Herbert

According to Inspector Clouseau, even the most absurd setbacks and defeats are all a part of lifeís rich pageant. Sometimes when we play poker we really wish our lives didnít have so much rich pageantry. Years ago, playing Hold'em, I lost with JJ against T2 on a JT4 flop, when it came two running tens. The very next hand I again lost to T2, this time holding AT on a 44T flop, when it came two running deuces. It wasnít bad enough to lose the 1000 to 1 first hand, I had to follow that up by losing the 330 to 1 second hand, and add even more pageantry by losing both of these situations to the improbable hand of T2!

Iím about as likely to have lunch with a reincarnated Marilyn Monroe on Mars as I am to have this set of events happen again. But the point isn't to focus on the bad luck, the notorious bad beats, but merely to say: stuff happens. If you play enough poker, your life is an endless cabaret of spectacularly bizarre events.

This article isnít about bad or weird luck, though. If you are to succeed at playing poker, you have to handle the ups, downs and plateaus of the game. Sometimes in Hold'em you get AA two hands in a row; sometimes you go 25 hands without seeing one ace. Sometimes after struggling all day to win a few bets, as you rack your chips ready to leave, you are dealt AAA in stud and your aces full lose to a hidden four of a kind. Sometimes when you flop an underset in Hold'em you end up making quads. And sometimes, nothing remotely interesting happens to you for hours at a time.

Not all, but a lot of what happens to you at a poker table is merely the pageantry of the game, and you canít do anything about it. Sniveling about bad beats, gloating about sucking out, crying about accidental errors, all these things are like cursing the wind. Itís still going to blow.

A lot of poker players spend much of their time raging at the heavens. Calm down. Take a pill. Chill out. Sometimes it comes a spade on the river. Sure, there is nothing wrong with being disappointed when it comes a spade one hand, but if that ever affects the way you play the next hand, you are just cursing the wind. Poker is a brain game, and letís face it, as a species, we donít have a lot of brain cells to waste.

As players, there are things we can completely control at a poker table. Then there are things we can partially control. And finally there are things we have absolutely zero control over. Every second you spend obsessing over the third group, you are not spending your brain time on the first group -- or the critical second group.

Itís kind of mind-boggling to realize that at most every poker table in the world, some player is on tilt at this very moment, letting the events of hands completed two minutes or three hours or even ten years ago dictate actions now. It makes no sense to raise this pot just because it came a spade five minutes ago (unless you do it because you are consciously hoping people will think you are on tilt when you actually have a great hand). But players do precisely that, every day, in every game. Stop it. Losing pots is a part of pokerís rich pageant. Losing pots in bizarre, fluky, disappointing, and unlucky ways is the stuff of what makes poker worth playing. Poker is a fun, incredible, rich game because anything and everything does happen constantly. That means part of what makes poker so wonderful to play is the fact that it totally sucks sometimes!

Next time you find yourself obsessing over something that you had absolutely zero control over, ask yourself why. Next time you feel like tossing in a raise with J9 because your set of Kings just got beat by a lunatic who thought his idiot-end gutshot draw was worth calling three bets cold, just think about Inspector Clouseau getting his hand stuck in a spittoon. These things happen. Itís all just part of lifeís rich pageant.

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