Defining “bad beat”

May 08, 2013

I’m writing this post from the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific where Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu were among those winning bracelets. In the tournament Ivey won (the 8-game mixed event), he actually knocked me out in a no-limit hold’em hand with around 20 players left. In fact, that’s kind of what’s on my mind at the moment — various poker hands that haven’t quite turned out they way I’d have liked.

I don’t mean to list a bunch of bad beats — no one wants to read about that. But rather I thought this time I might talk about a few hands I played at the WSOP APAC that in a way kind of challenge the whole definition of what a “bad beat” really is.

Hand No. 1: A Simple Story

First I’ll describe a more traditional “bad beat” hand, just to establish a kind of baseline for comparison.

This was a hand in the six-max. event where I’d chipped up then got involved versus a short stack. He’d already shoved over my late position raises a couple of times and I’d folded, then came a spot where I picked up 88 in the cutoff and raised again. I looked at him and I could see instantly he was in a conundrum — that he had an “in-betweener” hand with which it was hard to know whether he should just call or reraise or shove.

Finally he shoved, and I actually said to him “I think you got two sevens,” and I called. And he said, “Wow… you’re right,” and flipped over his 77

So when a 7] came on the flop, that was definitely a bad beat. I was better than 4-to-1 when the chips went in, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way. I can be happy about my read and action there, but really it’s not too complicated — just one correct decision, with the result being unlucky. We’ll go ahead and call that a “bad beat.”


Hand No. 2: Multiple Missteps

Now back in the first event (the “accumulator”), I was already double the average by the second level. There was a player at the table who was very aggressive and not very good. He’d gotten his chips in a crazy multi-way hand in which he’d shoved with 44 against two obviously strong players who happened to have KK and AA and the flop came TT4 for him.

Later he raised and I just called from the button with 99, then the flop came 982 rainbow, giving me top set. He bet and again I just called. The turn was a T and he bet again, and I raised him. He then went all in for a ridiculous amount — we were the two big stacks at the table — and I snap-called. He had an open-ended straight draw with one card to go, and when he hit it on the river it was sayonara for me.

Now that was a little more involved than the first hand, with more than one decision being made and really a couple of missteps by my opponent who ended up drawing out on me. I was again a little better than 4-to-1 when the chips went in, but in this case I had manipulated my opponent into multiple actions for us to get to that point. It’s not simply a “bad beat” anymore, really, although again I experienced some misfortune after getting it in good.

Hand No. 3: Controlling a Creative Competitor; or, Miracle on 5th Street

But here’s another hand — also from the six-max. — that was even more involved. And even further removed from a simple “bad beat,” you might say.

A player raised on the button, and I called in the big blind with QJ. The flop came QQ2 with two diamonds. I knew he was going to continuation bet so I checked, and he bet 350, and I raised to 800. I also knew when I bet that amount that was going to make him think I didn’t have a queen. And I knew as well with this particular player that betting as I did was going to make him try to steal the pot from me on a later street.

So he called my check-raise, and when the turn came an offsuit 6 I checked. Sure enough he bet again. I just called, knowing he didn’t have anything and not wanting to scare him away. I also knew if a diamond didn’t come on the river, he’d be betting the river, too. An offsuit 3 came on fifth street and I checked once more. He bet 2,500, I raised to 5,500 just in case he’d made a pair, and he made a crying call… with 5-4.

That’s right. He made a runner-runner straight!

He was actually a signed pro with another site, and I knew him well enough to anticipate how my flop play would inspire him to get creative later in the hand. Later we reached the break and he actually apologized to me about the hand, but I told him there was no need. And in fact, to myself, I was thinking how everything in the hand had worked out as I wanted and had even planned for. After all, I’d gotten him to bet on a QQ2 board with 5-4 and no draw — when he’s only around 3% to win — then put in more chips on that same street, and then put in even more chips after that!

So really there are varieties of “bad beats” and/or hands in which you find yourself on the wrong side of luck after playing well. Sometimes it’s just a single action that got you there, and other times you’ve controlled a hand with a series of decisions to put your opponent in a very bad spot.

The bottom line, though, is to walk away from these kinds of hands — be they simple or complicated — knowing that you’ve played them well and not being discouraged by the unlucky consequences. In fact, such hands should be confidence builders in that they’re examples of you making good decisions and making your opponents make bad ones.

Chad Brown is a member of Team PokerStars Pro


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