Good players get more bad beats at the poker table

As I’ve become better at playing Texas Hold ’em, I’ve become increasingly aware of bad beats as they happen to me in tournaments. Occasionally you get someone at a table complaining about a bad beat, and sometimes it isn’t even that bad they’ve just bet against the wrong hand. Just because you have a flush and someone else has a full-house that isn’t a bad beat. If they have a 1 in 10 chance of making their full house and still bet over the pot odds and make it then yes, but often it’s just a player overplaying a good hand against a monster.

Anyway, the characteristic replies from people at that time is to say something like ‘We all suffer bad beats, just get over it.’ but something that I’ve come to realise is that good players really do suffer more bad beats. It’s a bit like the ‘buses always come in threes’ thing – when you think about it, it actually makes sense. (There’s an explanation of the bus problem here.)

Why I think this occurs is that good players (or shall we say better players, because there’s a long way to being good) make fewer bad calls. If you have a read on what your opponent has in their hand and they’ve bet a fair strength then the only reason for making a bad call is if you think you’re being bluffed. Often, on weak tables, the bets are just so random that it’s hard to tell and you can only really go on whether you do have a good hand or not.

So from there, if you never make a bad call, then you’ll never inflict a bad beat on someone because you’ll only ever bet when the pot odds are in your favour. On the other hand, a bad player will call you when you’re in front and although you may be a 3-1 favourite, that still means you’ll lose a quarter of the time. The situation is multiplied if there are more callers.

As a recent example: I was in a late position on a 10-handed table with a pair of tens. The first hand round from the big blind flat called, the hand went round until two players to my right who did about a 5 times blinds raise (it was early in the competition so the stacks could take it). That said to me ‘please fold because I have some mid-level pockets’. I reraised about 2.5 times more, which probably said about the same thing, but i thought my pair of tens were better than what he had as I’d rather make people pay for a flop in that situation and then be prepared to fold and walk away than just be content with winning a small pot. The first raiser should know he’s beat and fold then. Also, I wasn’t going to do what a lot of players seem to do on those cheap tables and go all in just in case I was up against bigger pockets. Somewhere else.

And I was right because there was other danger on the table. The blinds folded and then the first caller raised all in. I smelt a rat: at least queens, possibly kings or aces. The raiser called (duh!) and I folded my tens. The flop came up, didn’t change anything, the first caller turned over his pocket kings up against the raiser’s poket 8’s and he was out and I was glad I’d made a good call.

Some time later, in the same tournament, I made a similar play with pocket aces. Except I don’t slow play them very often, so I did a small big-blind size raise. Most people folded except one raiser who went up another couple of times over. Again, that looked like mid-level pockets to me. No-one else was in the hand. I re-raised putting him all in. Now if that had been me in that position I would have thought something was up, but he called. It turned out he had a pair of nines, but another nine came up and he doubled up.

Now I don’t know what the definition of a bad beat is, but that makes it to me. A few hands later, despite increasing his chips at my expense, the caller went out of the tournament. Okay, we all know better players win out over time, but that’s no consolation when it’s your chips being shared amongst all the other players. I had to play a few loose hands and clawed my way back into the money, but the lesson is still there.

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