Five Bad Beat Cures

It is one of the maxims of poker that the more you play the game, the more tales of woe you will hear from players who have suffered at the hands of a ‘bad beat’. As a novice player, it is worth taking time to consider a little about this facet of poker life as it will almost certainly affect you relatively quickly when you start playing the game.

In this article, we’ll examine what a bad beat actually is and then we’ll identify five key skills that can help you break the rhythm of a bad beat and get you back to playing poker more profitably once again.

What is a ‘bad beat’?

If you are a total novice to the game, then a bad beat is simply when a player endures a run of losing at poker. It can prove costly to them in terms of finance, confidence and self-belief.

Losing at poker will drain your bankroll, it will also eat away at your confidence and leave you with nagging doubts as to your own abilities as a poker player.

It is important to note here though that often players will claim that they are suffering a ‘bad beat’, when in actual fact, they are just poor poker players. A bad poker player may get lucky from time to time, but more often than not, will be losing money either at the cash tables or in the tournaments that they play.

As a novice player, it is important that you immerse yourself in the basics of poker strategy very early on, in order to ensure that any ‘bad beat’ you suffer is not solely down to your poor poker play.

A true ‘bad beat’ occurs when a player just has no luck with the cards and finds themselves playing from strong positions, yet still losing hands to opponents despite following the widely accepted strategies for successful playing.

Here’s an isolated example of what happened to me in a recent tournament:

Sat with pocket aces, and playing against a loose aggressive player, I was in position on the button when he made a large bet preflop, committing around ¼ of his stack to the pot.

Knowing I was, at worst, leading at this point, I called this big raise as I had more chips than he did and I didn’t want to commit more than ¼ of my chips into the pot this early in the tournament by re-raising him.

The flop came down as A, 6, J all of different suits, which put me with three Aces and therefore I was hugely surprised to see him go All In immediately. I knew at best he could have two pair, or perhaps three sixes, or three jacks, but I was confident my trio of aces were by far and away the stronger hand.

As the timer ran down, my gut reaction was that this was either an attempt to frighten me out of the hand by representing at least top pair, if not three aces or jacks. I knew that was impossible though as I had two of them in my hand. A flush draw required two suited cards and while I was aware there was a possible straight draw, I felt the odds were still heavily in my favour.

As such, I called, and he revealed his cards as two fives. He now only had two possible outs to beat me and any of the other remaining cards dealt in the turn and river, would see me win a hefty pot and eliminate him from a tournament.

The turn came with a five and then the river followed suit with another five.

As a single incident, this doesn’t represent a bad beat; that hand is just one of the vagaries of poker. Sometimes, the player with the weaker hand can seemingly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. A bad beat is when you play hands like this time after time, and still can’t manage to eke out a win.

And it does happen, lots, to even the best poker players.

Fortunately, there are some great tips you can follow to help you shake off the funk of a bad beat and outlined below are five strategies that offer you simple guidance on how to end your losing streak and get back to winning cash for your bankroll once again.

1. Are you really on a ‘bad beat’?

It may sound somewhat strange to say this, as losing in poker is losing no matter how you look at it, but it is worth taking time to consider if you really are on a bad beat, or just not playing the types of poker games that give you a realistic chance of winning.

As a newcomer to the game, it is naive, to say the least, to expect to satellite in to the biggest tournaments for just £1.30, yet end up at the final table in the Main Event and pocket yourself a four or five-figure prize.

Therefore, if you are playing lots and lots of big tournament games, with lots of players and not winning any money, then this is less a bad beat and more just a poor choice of game.

By all means, tournament play can be exciting, but your chances of winning a tournament, especially against hundreds, or even thousands, of players, most of whom will be far more experienced than you and who may include several top poker professionals, are slim. Even finishing in the cash positions is a very tall order.

If you are losing money playing games like this repeatedly, then this is less a bad beat and simply a lack of understanding on which games to target as a new player.

Instead, try the Sit & Go tournaments, (Double your Money games are great as they offer you a 50/50 chance of winning based on participants alone) or play on the lower stakes cash tables. You’ll find by targeting the right games for your ability as a player and with a realistic chance of reward, your ‘bad beat’ will duly end.

2. Take time to review and compare your recent play with when you were playing poker more profitably

If you genuinely are suffering from bad beat syndrome, then rather than simply throwing more money at the problem in the hope of turning your fortune around, a good idea is to indulge in a little analysis of your play.

Even good poker players can find that over time, their poker habits change as they play. Hands that they would have folded a few months ago, they may keep playing. They may be tempted into thinking that as their skills improve, so does their chance of executing a solid bluff.

Most top poker rooms, such as Sky Poker, Bet365 Poker, BetVictor Poker, 888Poker and similar allow players the chance to review their hands so take advantage of this and investigate how you have been playing recently, when you are losing money, to a period when you were winning.

What, if any, are the main differences in your style of play? Are you taking more risks? Are you folding too easily? Are you bets too aggressive or not aggressive enough?

A key skill to defeating a bad beat is understanding where your own game is at and what steps you need to take to improve it.

3. Don’t chase your losses

One of the biggest mistakes any player can make when on a losing run is to throw more and more money into games in the hope that one big win will recoup your losses.

This is a great way to eat a vast hole into your bankroll and leave you with a duck egg balance in a record space of time.

Losing affects your confidence and poker judgement at times and when you need to win because you are spending more than you are comfortable with, this is exacerbated further and leads you to make rash choices.

Remember, the one certainty in poker is that you will lose, often when you think you stand a great chance of winning. So if you are losing cash quickly, take a step back and consider your options carefully. Don’t keep increasing the stakes in an attempt to win back your losses.

4. Sit back and take a break from cash games – hit the free poker tables or use your reward points to play cash games for free

A good way to take a step back is to target the smaller cash games, games you can play for free using your loyalty points from a site or even the free poker tables. This will mean you are risking much less of your bankroll (if any of it) and will allow you to worry less about the haemorrhaging of cash from your account and allow you to focus back on your poker skills.

This is a useful diagnostic tool too. If you keep losing on these tables, then you may well have a basic defect in your game that you need to analyse and rectify. If you find that after time, you start winning again, you can take these good habits and positive mental attitude with you back onto the cash tables.

5. Change the types of games you play and play for different, smaller stakes to regain your confidence

In addition to playing the games you like for smaller stakes, or free, it is also a good idea to perhaps change the type of games you play.

It is fair to say that while Texas Hold’em is a universal game, a players skills may be suited to one type of game rather than another. Some players skills and abilities are far more suited to the cash tables than tournament play, while other players prefer to grind out results playing in tournaments and trying to earn cash by finishing in the cash prize places.

So if you are not having much luck playing your preferred type of game, switch it for a different game at a low stake initially. You may well find that your skills are more suited to specific types of games and you can be rewarded as such.

For example, if you like the thrill of eliminating opponents and are willing to take risks to do so, then Bounty Hunter games, where you receive a bounty for eliminating a player from the tournament, may well be better suited than the cash tables, where patience and a solid all round game is required to eke cash out from other players. 

It is worth remembering that every player will suffer from a bad beat from time to time, but with a positive mental attitude, key strategies like those outlined above, and by taking a long-term view of your poker playing, rather than a short term, you can weather the storm and emerge from the slump a wiser, more experienced and stronger poker player.