Aces Full Of It: Your Guide To Bad Beats

My name is Justin Buchanan, and I’m choosing to call this blog post Aces Full of It, because there are going to be a lot of opinions on a lot of things to do with poker presented here, and no doubt many of you reading them will think I’m full of it.

Let’s get one thing straight right now: I don’t care if you do.  I’ve been playing poker since virtually the moment I legally could, and that’s about five years at this writing.  Maybe I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen a whole lot of it.  If you see things differently than I do, that’s your business and you have every right to.  You can even state as much each time our opinions diverge.  But if you tell me “I’m right, you’re wrong” and don’t leave it at that, you had better be prepared to back up your assertions with actual, non-fallacious logic or I will not hesitate to rip you to shreds.  That said, if you believe you can back up your view with actual logic, please do not hesitate to do so as there are in fact many occasions when I am indeed full of it.  I don’t mind people pointing it out, I only ask that in pointing it out you do so properly.  All right, without further ado…when writing the first post for a blog, I believe it’s pretty obvious that a guy should choose the topic and how it’s covered in such a way that makes it abundantly clear to prospective readers what they will be in for.  With that in mind, I’d like to talk about “bad beats.”  More specifically, bad beat stories.

Is this you after your AA gets cracked by K7 offsuit?

Bad Beat Stories, And The Players Who Tell Them

Even people who don’t even play poker but know people who do have heard bad beat stories, and unless as a poker player you were literally born yesterday (or are not in fact a poker player) you’ve no doubt been on the telling end of one before.  What is it that compels us poker players to glamorize our misfortune?  I suspect for many, the usual reasons can be attempted generation of sympathy, implementation of the catharsis factor through storytelling, or just simply sharing.  Whenever I tell one, it’s firmly in this last group, the proverbial “fish story.”  Generation of sympathy?  Don’t make me laugh.  If I wanted sympathy ever, much less in poker, I wouldn’t have such a deep, irrational hatred of yes-men.  And when I need catharsis, I need first and foremost to be left the hell alone.  Trying to “lend an ear” on such an occasion will, 90% of the time, end in me biting that ear off.  (Metaphorically speaking, of course.  I’m not violent!)  On the other hand, the people in my life who can navigate me well enough to identify the other 10% I count among my greatest friends, but that’s not why I’m here.

The only bad beat stories I ever tell are those that are such obvious outliers of probability that the fact that “woah, that is bad” is impregnable, stories so notable that they–gasp!–could be considered legitimately interesting.  Like running into quads twice in the same online tournament.  Far from being mad about it, I wear my misfortune like a badge of honor.  That’s right, I think, it takes that much bad luck on my part for a chump like you to knock me out.

I’d rather make pain go away, thanks. (Image:

Why The Phrase “It Happens To Everyone” Is Stupid

I honestly don’t understand the concept that those who tell bad beat stories to generate sympathy rely on, the concept of “sharing pain”–the idea that many people share in a certain type of misfortune, and that this somehow eases one’s own.  In my mind, when I’m dealt a truly bad beat, bad enough so that I do need catharsis–and in the event this happens in a live tournament I generally would excuse myself to the restroom, missed hands be damned–it brings me no comfort at all to be reminded of the thought that “this sort of thing happens to everyone.”  In fact, that thought makes it worse for me.  When something bad that is also incredibly unlikely happens to me, my angst doesn’t follow the script of “Wtf, how could this happen to me?!”  It’s more like “How did that even happen?  How could something this stupid and unlikely happen to anybody, much less me?!”  Reminders that this stupid, bad, unlikely sort of thing happens on a regular basis not just to me but basically everyone who plays poker is the exact, polar opposite of help, it actively makes my mood worse.  My mind isn’t even equipped to comprehend how “sharing the pain” with so many people that in it, such pain shouldn’t exist whatsoever in the first place could possibly be a comfort.

Just What Is A Bad Beat Anyway?

Okay, slight tangent there.  The only thing left for me to really say about bad beats is to touch on just what is considered one.  For me, there are two criteria and the fulfillment of one of them qualifies the hand as a bad beat (though not necessarily one I’d tell a story about:)

  1. A flush loses to a hand that is not a higher flush except a queen high flush or better losing to K or A high flush (full house or above, especially straight flush) or a straight loses when there is no possibility of a flush on the board, higher straight or no, except in certain circumstances like 89 losing to KA with TJQ on the board.
  1. Anyone, including me, hits a 2-outer or worse to win the hand. Most times, winning through luck rather than skill only gets me annoyed at myself. Hitting a 2-outer to come from behind is the only time I feel anything resembling genuine guilt about winning, though you won’t catch me apologizing out loud.

On this point in particular, I’m interested in hearing what you guys have to say.  So, question for the post: What do you consider a “bad beat”?  Do you not even have clear criteria for what is and is not one, and if so how do you otherwise make a distinction?

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