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Bad Beats Beget Bad Bets

The title of this post might qualify as a tongue twister. Try saying it three times really fast. Not easy, eh? Unfortunately, an even tougher task can be applying principles to your game that keep the title from occurring. Bad beats can change the outlook of a poker player's psyche and the outcome of their results. Controlling your actions after bad beats can be tricky. I believe with the right mindset you can learn from the experience and use that knowledge to take your game to another level. Let's take a look at what I'm talking about with an example.

The Bad Beat
Chip Lieder has been waiting all day to play the No Limit Hold'em, $30,000 Guarantee at Full Tilt Poker. Chip is feeling great about his tournament game of late and is ready to prove it on the virtual felt. He starts the tournament with 1500 in chips and blinds of 15/30. On the fifth hand of the tournament, after folding the previous four hands pre-flop, he wakes up with A A in the big blind. He's ecstatic to see a player (The Villain) in middle position, who has played every hand so far, raise it from 30 to 500.

Though only 5 hands in, Chip has already pegged The Villain as a maniac after watching a couple of his massive over-bets end up being shown down with weak hands. As it stands, the Villain's raise makes the pot 445 and only leaves him with 500 in chips. It folds to Chip who pushes his 1500 all-in. The Villain makes the call and flips over 7 7. The flop comes a harmless 2 8 K rainbow, but the turn brings the fateful 7. No help on the river and Chip's Aces go down in flames. To throw fuel on the fire, another player at the table chimes in via chat, "Ha ha, I folded the other 7."

On the very next hand, it is folded to the cut-off who raises the big blind from 30 to 100. Still steaming from the one outer on the previous hand, Chip looks down at A T off-suit in the small blind and pushes his remaining 585 in the pot. The cut-off calls showing A Q, and when no help comes on the board, Chip is sent to the virtual rail.

The Bad Bet
As you analyze Chip's situation above, it is probably easy to pinpoint the err of his ways. Chip has put his tournament life on the line with A T off-suit after only 6 hands of play. In addition, he has risked 585 chips to win a pot of 145 with a speculative hand. While it is easy to see this now, when you find yourself in a similar situation, your emotions can often get the best of you. Before you know it, what looked like a promising start to a tournament (getting A A early) has turned into a disappointing exit.

If a similar scenario to the one above has never happened to you, then you are one of the lucky ones. At some point in time most poker players experience a bad beat that ultimately results in a lapse in judgment and an ill-advised bet. I would venture to say the majority of people reading this post have either been in that situation, or at the very least, been at a table to witness a similar situation. Learning from your mistakes and using your newfound knowledge in the future is a key to continued success.

The Reality
Though the title of the tournament in our example above contains the word guarantee, the game of poker in general offers no guarantees. Pre-flop you may have a dominating hand, but this obviously does not mean you will win the hand once all the cards hit the felt. No two cards are impervious pre-flop and, by that same rationale, no two cards are drawing dead pre-flop. Just because you believe you should have won a hand does not mean the chips will be shoved your way when the dust settles.

In most tournaments, to reach pay dirt, you will usually have to win some coin flips, have most of your strong hands hold up, and be able to withstand a few tough beats. For all those things to occur, you will need some luck on your side. You can make the right decisions and put yourself in a situation to benefit from making correct plays, but you still need the right cards to hit the felt.

When Bad Cards Happen To Good People
When the wrong cards end up hitting the felt and you ultimately lose a key hand, having the wherewithal to maintain composure and focus becomes paramount. Analyze the situation and decide if things are truly as bad as they seem. What is the current blind level? How many blinds do you have remaining in your stack (ex: 600 chips divided by 15+30 blinds = 13+ BBs). When do the blinds go up next? What is your stack size compared to the average? How does your stack compare to the others at the table? Who do you stand the best chance of doubling up through? Most importantly, think before you act.

The Exceptions
On occasion, after taking a tough beat and losing a good portion of your stack, you will wake up with another great hand. This is often a perfect time to push your remaining chips in the middle and make it look as if you are giving up. Quite often you will receive a call from a player with more chips - and a mediocre hand, who thinks you are weak and just steaming. This is often a perfect time to capitalize on a seemingly desperate situation.

Also there are times when, based on the current landscape of the tournament, it might be best to put your chips in the middle on the next or subsequent hands. This may look like a move of desperation or emotional reaction, which is a plus for you. Let's say you are relatively deep in a tournament and take a tough beat on a key hand. Your table is 6-handed, and under the gun, you look down at A Q suited. You barely have enough to cover the big blind on the next hand. You have to push those chips in the middle and hope for a double or triple up. If you fold, on the next hand you will be in the big blind and will most likely be bound by the cards you receive.

The Triumph
Some of my most memorable tournament wins or cashes were when I was severely low on chips early in the tournament, but found a way to build my stack back and make a nice run for the money. While it is exhilarating to dominate a tournament from beginning to end, it is extremely rewarding to face near elimination in a tournament, but ultimately triumph.

We've probably all heard the chip and a chair stories, and though they are rare, stranger things have happened. I have personally come back to place 2nd in a tournament after being down to one chip, which was the smallest chip denomination on the table. If I can do it, anyone can.

The End
If I could summarize this post in one simple sentence, it would be as follows:

Don't let the results of any particular hand negatively impact or dictate your actions on subsequent hands.

Make correct decisions based on the landscape of the situation and accept the results whether they are in your favor or not. Poker is a game of skill, luck,
and risk. Poker is not a game of assurance. You will have highs and lows. You will sometimes make correct decisions with negative results. How you react to those results may very well be the difference in finishing last or first.

Until next time, may the felt be with you.

posted by TripJax @ 8:10 AM,


At 9:28 AM, Blogger slb159 said...

Very good post sir.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger FishyMcDonk said...

Wow, nice post. I've been exactly in that position a number of times. As recent as last week's Mookie I was down to ~600 chips and came back to win. But I've more often donked it all away when I couldn't get off tilt.

At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a player who is committed to becoming the best he can be, and in the midst of his first *ever* extended period of winning, this post couldn't come at a better time, as I sit and wait for variance to rear its ugly head.

Hopefully when that does happen I can think back to a post like this and have it help me keep my cool.

Thanks, TJ.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

Thanks guys...I enjoyed writing this one...haven't written a post like this in quite a while.

Windbreak, what is this variance thing you speak of?

At 3:41 AM, Blogger jjok said...

nice post man.....

I said "Bad Beats Beget Bad Beats" 5 times as fast as I could and my wife came in wondering why I was trying to rap......


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