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What do you mean a bad beat is a good thing?

If you are here reading this you probably think of poker as a game of skill and strategy.  Poker is a game of skill, however, it is one that also has an element of chance involved. One of the most obvious examples of this chance factor at the tables comes in the big bad boogeyman known as the “bad beat”.

We all have the stories of the donkey who called off his stack with one out only to get there against you, and as much as that sucks when it happens I want to discuss why these longshots are a sign that the game you are in is one worth staying around for.

Bad beats inject an element of luck into poker, somewhat balancing the scale between skill and chance. This randomness ensures that even “bad” players can win from time to time even if the choices they are making are clearly -EV.

What was this guy thinking!!!

While bad beats inflict temporary pain to those on the wrong end of the long shot it is a clear indication that one or more players in the game are not thinking critically about the hand or their hand strength in relation to the board and the range of hands that are possible.

When we identify a player who is “getting money in bad” we can leverage this with our made hands to extract maximum value while also taking note that these tend to be difficult players to bluff as they are prone to making light calls.

Poor play being rewarded, and the big pot that comes with it, becomes ingrained in a bad player’s memory. This memory masks the fact that they went on to lose 10-20 smaller pots to your superior solid play. This gives poor players the hope that they are only one hand away from a big score if they just keep playing.

The journey to Value Town starts with a little TILT

Other ways bad beats help the game is when they happen to better-than-average players who tilt easily. Some solid players can not handle the wrong end of a bad beat and their once-solid play goes on tilt. A tilted payer is not going to have their ‘A’ game and will be more susceptible to making mistakes.

Players making mistakes is the way WE MAKE MONEY at the tables. 

Keep Calm and Carry On…

Keep your level head when we are the recipient of an unfortunate run out. By keeping your wits you are positioned to make your loss back and more by exploiting the flaws in our opponent’s game. Incorporating the information we get from what an opponent is willing to put money in the pot with, whether that be low flush draws, bottom end straight draws, or fourth pair, will allow us to attack those holes in their game to both extract maximum value when we have a made hand as well as minimize our losses when we do not make a hand by appropriately structuring our bluffs (or in some cases not bluffing).

Another way bad beats are good for the game, that many players overlook, is that each time we lose a big pot when we are well ahead we become a little more desensitized to the pain. This means we are mentally able to cope with the loss better and are less likely to be tilted by it. If we are playing within our bankroll, learning to take bad beats in stride will make you a stronger, more profitable player, in the long run.

We should give (bad beats)…As we would receive (bad beats)

So far, I have only covered how being on the receiving end of a bad beat is good for the game. However, as we all know, dishing out bad beats feels much better than receiving them. 

With our sound fundamental play, we will inevitably dole out our fair share of bad beats as well, usually in the form of coolers. For those unfamiliar with the term a cooler is when two players both make very strong hands, these situations often result in massive pots. Think, top set vs. middle set or nut flush vs. second nut flush. While not technically a bad beat, lesser players will consider them bad beats in their minds.

By playing sound ranges and having a sound understanding of how position affects what range we can profitably play we will dole out our fair share of coolers and, in time, we will also be able to sniff out when we are about to be cooler and sometimes make the big laydowns necessary to minimize the coolers effect on our stack.

Here Fishy, Fishy…

For example, if you have played with an opponent who you may consider to be a fish for several hours at the table and have never seen him or her raise a river with less than top set or better, you should be folding to their river raises with all but your most nutted hands. While this may be exploitable by better players it is the right move against weaker players who tend to be risk-averse when it comes to river raises and generally are content to just call with hands we would raise for value.

Always be wary of an OMC who is raising on a river, if you don’t have the nuts (or are very close to it), RUN FOR THE HILLS! This is never a bluff and the term value raise is not in their vocabulary. 

Hero calling an OMC or even a fish is a surefire way to get yourself on the next train to ValueTown.

By leveraging what you learn about your opponent’s tendencies through the hands that produce bad beats you will find the gold mine you need to crush low-stakes games.