Let me give you an interesting example:

You have AA, your opponent has 77.

The flop is:

A 2 7

You are happy and try to build the pot. Your opponent is happy too, but just calls.

The turn is another 7. You just did a FULL HOUSE. Awesome you think, if we both can go all-in now I am going to be very rich soon.

You bet, your opponent raises and you go all-in with a celebration smile in your face, just to find out that you lost all your money.

OBS: And no, another A did not come in the river.

  • 3
    Bad beats are a necessary and always-present part of the game. You need to find a way to be ok with that reality. I recommend a search for "poker variance", you'll find some interesting articles about it which will help you better understand all this. – Radu Murzea Jun 23 '15 at 7:59
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    This is not a bad beat. You called all-in when behind. This is a cooler - when you have an unusually huge hand and the opponent has an even bigger hand. – Yang Jun 24 '15 at 8:22
  • If you're at a casino, there are many things you can do to deal with a bad beat/cooler: swear loudly, yell at the dealer, throw your cards, bend your cards, rip up your cards, tell the other player how bad he is, and tell everyone about your bad beat/cooler. I've seen people do all of these many times (except rip up the cards- only saw that once). I can't really tell if it makes them feel better, but it might... – TTT Jul 20 '15 at 19:10
  1. Really understand the maths*

It's one thing to know that one out with two cards to come is around 4% to win, it's totally another to get your head around what that really means. Most people see that they're 96% to win and completely fail to consider that they can lose from this point. You need to be able to accept that losing is a perfectly valid outcome. 4% really isn't that small a chance of that one outer coming. In a day of poker on the larger online sites there will be thousands of one-out winners. It is normal.

You need to be able to accept that being drawn out on will happen, and not only that, it's supposed to happen.

  1. Play at stakes you're comfortable with.

I have to tell a bad beat story for emphasis on this one. I hadn't planned to do that but I can't think of a better way to get the point across. The biggest pot I've ever played was a bad beat. I spotted a really soft table at double my normal stakes, and slowly worked up my stack to around 125bb.

At this point I flopped top set against an underpair, villain shoved on the flop and promptly went runner runner to complete a flush with one of his cards. Unlikely, but still perfectly normal. These things happen.

I couldn't play for three days getting over it. At my normal stakes I probably wouldn't have even quit for the day. What this makes me realise is that I was playing at stakes where the money was no longer comfortable for me. I went back to my normal stakes and haven't looked higher since.

Summary: Bad beats will affect you more when you're not comfortable with the money in play.

  1. Remember that you win some too.

The hand you describe is a perfectly normal cooler. Villain doesn't play bad. Set over set always gets someone stacked. If you had 77 and he had AA then the hand would have played out identically and you would have spiked the 'miracle' card. And it would have been pretty normal.

Everybody sucks out sometimes. Good players do it less because they're less likely to get the money in behind, but even the best flop hands that are too good to get away from sometimes.

  1. Understand yourself.

'Bad beats' sometimes come in bunches. That's normal too, but even the most controlled of players can tilt if they take a few two-outers in a row or something. You need to understand when you're off your game.

You absolutely need to be able to deal with taking a bad beat and should be able to get on with the game, but you also need to understand how much you can take before you are no longer capable of playing your 'A' game. At that point you need to be ready to step away from the game for a time to get yourself back under control.

*Disclaimer - I'm way out of practice, forgive me if I don't remember my maths correctly.

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Here's some hands from my best of the worst bad beats, taken from my PT.

I post the hands, the action i took, my winning chance before the bad beat (including my opponent's hand as well), my opponent hand and finally my reaction after my bad beat.

  • my hand: K♥T⋄ on T♠7♣K♣

    opponent hand: A♣A♠

    chance to win on the flop: 69%

    I am short stacked, so i move in. He calls and the turn came A♥

    I lost the hand deep in the tournament (4000/8000 blinds), i didn't care. I got it in with the best hand. The rest is variance. I moved on.

  • my hand: A♣A♠ on 8♠9⋄9♥

    opponent hand: K♥K♠

    chance to win preflop: 82%, on the flop: 92%

    I am short stacked, so i moved in preflop. He calls and the turn came K⋄

    I lost the hand in a tournament, i didn't care. I got it in with the best hand. The rest is variance. I moved on.

  • my hand: T⋄A⋄ on T♠T♣Q♥

    opponent hand: 7♣Q♣

    chance to win on the flop: 88%

    I was medium/short stacked. I checked the flop, he bet and i raise him. he moves all-in and i call. Turn came Q♠

    I lost the hand in about half an hour tournament, i didn't care. I got it in with the best hand. The rest is variance. I moved on.

There's not a single hand where i sat down, whining for my bad luck, despite i've lost just in the nick of time, after hours of game, before entering in the money in MTT or before entering in the last 7 players in a 45-man SNG. It's hard but you just have to move on and play. You will lose many time, you're going to win many times and you're going to enjoy bad beats many times. If these bad beats never happened, you would playing only experts because all losing players would had lose their hope.

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  • Does what you said apply only to tournaments? Does it make any difference if you are playing cash games instead? Losing all your money on a bad beat like the ones you described makes you lose real money, not tournament chips. – LuckyGuy Jun 23 '15 at 15:54
  • @LuckyGuy, tournaments and cash games have certainly their differences, although you play a hand based on its EV which doesn't differ except in rare situations. I would have played in exact same way in cash games as well, since the situations above doesn't include difficult input (eg. deep stacks). Although, bad beats are mostly happening in tournaments rather cash games. Anyway, the winning chance / EV doesn't change no matter you're in cash game or tournament so i don't generally sort my play. – user1165 Jun 23 '15 at 16:09
  • Thanks for your smart input. That leads to another important question to wrap up: In a cash game, how many times you allow yourself to re-buy, in other words, how many bad beats you allow yourself before standing up and going home? Of course that depends on how rich you are, how much time you have to play, etc. but mathematically, when it is time to go home? That's were poker can easily turn into gambling, agree? – LuckyGuy Jun 23 '15 at 16:23
  • @LuckyGuy, when i played cash games (i mostly play SNGs nowadays), i tend to give up after 2,3 buyins because i felt very tilted to continue after that. If you feel ok, you can play of course, it's just me i didn't felt good to continue. This is a reason i switched to tournaments in the first place anyhow :) No, it doesn't depends on how rich you're, it depends on your bankroll. About time, you play as long as you feel not bored. Poker is demanding, not about skill but endurance, concentration, mood – user1165 Jun 23 '15 at 16:39

Variance happens. You need to have a proper bankroll to deal with it.

On that hand you are not going to get away from top boat. You got beat by the only hand that could beat you. That is a hand that is going to play itself and stack you.

What I would like to point out is the pair of 7's did not help your hand. Any set improved to a boat or quads. You went from holding the nuts to holding the second best hand. There was no straight draw on the board. You did not say anything about a flush draw. It was a cooler you could not get away from - I am just saying the 7 was not something to celebrate.

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As a standard I would recommend raising 3 big blinds + 1 big blind per limper when you are in position. When you are out of position you should raise 4 big blinds + 1 big blind per limper. So for example, you have 2 limpers and you are sitting in the small blind with Ace Jack, I would raise to 6 big blinds. If I was on the button with the same hand, I would raise to 5 big blinds. The reason you raise more out of position is two fold. First of all, because you are out of position, you want to encourage the pot to be headsup only, you will most likely be raising hands like AJ KQ AQ KJ type hands that play much better with one caller instead of multiple callers. The second reason is simple, because you are raising out of position, you are likely to have a strong hand range than if you are raising say on the button, for that reason, you want to get more money into the pot because you have a better hand.

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I simply consider to stop playing Poker and even taking it seriously anymore. I played 6 live tournaments last 3 days and all ending with bad beats... You do so well until almost coming closer to the final table and suddenly you end with a few or an arrears of bad beats and lose.

It seems to me you eventually are destined to lose with a bad beat even if you are doing well until a point.

A few examples:

  1. Tournament: Lost with K 10 vs. A 10; on 10 10 2 7 5 . I should have been a psychic to know I was losing with a set with K as kicker I guess!
  2. Tournament: Lost with JJ vs an amateur girl who had 4-5 and she managed to make flush on the flop!
  3. Tournament: Lost with a flush against slightly better flush!
  4. Tournament: Lost all in with AQ against JQ who made straight!

My conclusion in poker is that: Most of the players have a similar level and not many usually make a silly call or raise; so eventually, the ones who are slightly luckier than the others win! People mostly lose because they have a killer hand but their opponent has even better killer hand!

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