Taking a bad beat can actually be a good thing

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I heard somemake put forth an interesting theory once at a game.  Their premise was that poker would be a "better" game if as soon as the players where all in, that the dealer should split the pot according to their respective equity in the hand, as opposed to dealing the rest of the cards and determining a winner of the hand.

As an example, Player A has [Ah][Ac] and Player B has [Ks][Kd], and they get it all in preflop so there's $100 on the table.  Under this theory, Player A would get $82 and Player B would get $18 and just like that, we're off to the next hand.

Interesting.  So, you'd never take another bad beat.

So, what do you think?  Is that a good idea?

A) Yes, because it will reduce variance
B) Maybe, but it would be hard to do
C) Hell no!  Bad beats are part of the game!

OK, I kinda let you know what I think from the title of today's post....my bad.

Bad beats aren't all bad

Let's assume that Player A is the best player at the table.

As a result of that assumption, we can further assume that Player A is going to be taking more bad beats than other players, since Player A is going to be the favorite most of the time when the money gets in the middle.

When Player A loses an all in hand, it's going to be likely that they were unlucky and that their opponent caught up to them.  By definition, that's a bad beat - not to be confused with a bad beat jackpot hand.

In fact, bad beats are a hugely important part of the poker eco-system.  If they didn't happen, weaker players would probably be less willing to play against better players and that will kill the action in the game over time.  The fact that luck plays a role in every hand of poker is what makes a lot of people want to play in the first time.  Luck, is exciting.

In a game like poker, where luck plays a large (but not most important) role, a rank amateur could sit down with a world chamption and bust them on the first hand.  Sure, the longer that the amateur plays against the better player, their odds of winning go down significantly, but there's always a chance.

Unlike a game like chess, where the better player will almost always win due to less chance being involved in the game, poker gives everyone an opportunity to win.

Every hand you lose is a "bad beat"

The term bad beat is an intersting one.  When two people get their chips in preflop, no player is ever drawing dead before the flop.  Each player has SOME equity at least.  So theoretically, any hand that is played has the potential for a player with more equity to lose to a player with less equity.

Let's say that Player A has [2c][2s] on a flop of [Kd][Qh][2d] and get's all in against Player B holding [Ah][Kh] for a $1000 pot.

Player A is a 93% favorite to win the hand, and Player B has just 7% equity.  As a result Player A's hand is worth $930 and Player B's hand is worth $70.

The important thing to remember here, is that neither of the players "deserves" the full $1000 in the middle.  But, one of the players will get the full $1000.

Let's say in this example, the board bricks out and in fact Player A scoops the $1000 pot.  Despite being a substantial favorite, Player A has actually gotten lucky because he won more than his hand was worth.

The point I'm trying to get across here, is that in every hand one player is going to be "lucky" and another is going to be "unlucky".

Try thinking about your next bad beat not that you got unlucky, but rather that you simply paid back the extra money you won when you got "lucky", even as a large favorite.  This type of perspective can help you realize that your winning sessions involve being lucky, and your losing sessions are mathematically going to happen sometimes.


Bad beats are an important, and essential part of poker.  They're the reasons that winning players have a game to play in the first place.  Focus on your long term win rate, and recognize that you get lucky too, and you'll be able to handle the swings of individual hands more easily!