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Dealing with bad beats

Once you understand basic ABC poker, it is time to move up to the next level if you want to make money playing online poker. One of the differences between winning and losing players is that the former are much better at self-control.

And there is hardly a better example at self-control than being able to take a bad beat or two, and continue playing like if nothing happened. Very few players can do that, but the ones who can make a lot of money. Just one example: Patrik Antonius from Full Tilt Poker.

How do you handle a bad beat when playing poker?

Most people don’t handle bad beats well at all. They complain. They call the opponent all kinds of names. They try to educate the opponent on why his play was a bad one. They even say things like “If it wasn’t for luck, I would never lose”.

Suffer enough bad beats in one session and most people will compound their losses by tilting away more money. If this sounds familiar, then you need to wise up. If you think you play well, but the outdraws are weighing on you mentally, it is time to sit back a little.

Did you ever think "Damn! If that guy did not get so lucky in that one hand, I would have won $400 instead of $170". You get the idea. Most people think this same way at one time or another.

There is one technique to try to overcome the devastation following bad beats. Calculate the expected value of all the hands that you get involved in with an all in (either you called allin or you shoved), when there are still cards to come. After all, you cannot get outdrawn if the cards are all out.

After doing this for a while, you will be able to see if the odds really do work out in the long run (and exactly how long is "long run"). If you get your money in as a big favorite the majority of the time, then you should win.

You should set a goal to be an 80% favorite when you run these tests. By big favorite, it does not mean JJ versus AKs and you get all in preflop. It is about hands like this: you have KQ and your opponent has 76s. By the turn the board is AJT6 with a flush draw for the other player. You are a 4-1 favorite there.

If you follow very closely such situations, after about 100 or so of these hands, your EV in these hands and your actual results of the hands should be very close.

How much are you expected to make?

Another example will add some light to this concept of bad beats and expected value.

When you get all in preflop for $100 with KK versus QQ and you win $100 you think "damn right, I deserve that $100". When you go all in preflop this the same hands and lose, you think "what a lucker, online poker is rigged".

But when you win the $100, you don’t actually deserve $100. You deserve about $62. Your EV is about $62 depending on the suits. So you actually won more than you should. You are a 4-1 favorite here, so you are "supposed" to lose 1 out of 5 of those. It really does work out in the end.

When you lose a monster pot like this you always hear people say "you want him to call in that spot because you were way ahead". But do not think to yourself "great, but he still took my money and will just lose it to someone else, not me".

The fact of the matter is when you get all in preflop with KK versus QQ for $100, you win $62 no matter what the outcome of the hand. It won't show up as $62 in your bankroll right now, but it is $62 nonetheless. If you play enough poker, you will play many of these types of hands and it will work out in the long run that you will win $62 on such hands.

Once you truly realize that each hand is just one sample but that what really matters is expected value, you have become a better poker player. A sense of confidence and calmness may come over you and you will play like never before.

Of course nobody likes seeing the chips slide the wrong way, but it should not bother you like before if you understand that what is important is to make the proper moves, not the outcome of each individual hand.

This tip applies particularly if you are a beginner. If you concentrate on hitting this 80% target figure, then the rest will sort itself out over the long run and your wallet will get fatter.

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