This isn't the topic I thought I was originally going to spend my one-thousandth post on, but here goes:
We - you, me, Phil Hellmuth, everybody - lay bad beats on people all the time. ALL THE TIME. We just don't necessarily remember them or, when we realize that we outdrew some poor guy, we somehow figure that we played it well and he should have raised to protect his hand so he can damn well suit himself. Take, for instance, this hand I played earlier tonight:
$3/$6 limit shorthanded hold 'em. I'm in the big blind, with 9-5 of diamonds. Middle player calls, button calls and small blind completes. I check. The flop comes 7-7-6, one seven is a diamond. So I have an inside straight draw and a backdoor flushdraw. Against someone holding 8-8 or a six, I have quite a few outs. Anyway, the small blind checks and although it's possible to toss in a bet right now to try to steal the pot, people call with random overcards waaay too often for me to be able to pull that off, so I check too. Middle player checks, and the button bets.
The small blind folds.
Okay, so does he have a 6 or a 7 or a pocket pair? He could. Or he could just be taking a stab at the pot with some overcards, K-J or something. If that's the case, then I can probably move him off it by raising here (representing a 7, essentially) and then betting again on the turn - because he WILL call my checkraise - which he is likely to miss. If he has two overcards, he'll only hit about 12% of the time, so I have a decent overlay.
So I raise. Middle player folds, and button waits a second, and then calls.
The turn is a deuce. So, now I bet according to plan, and hope he will fold. He doesn't, he calls. Crap
. Fortunately, the river is an 8, for my wonderful inside straight. Wohoo!
I consider checkraising, but it's just too likely that he'll check behind so I just bet instead. He calls, and as I show my straight, he mucks his A-6.
He will likely not be too happy about me catching my card on the river. I got lucky. I also feel that I played the hand well, given the range of hands he could be holding. Trying to steal the pot by checkraising the flop and betting the turn is not a bad idea with a hand like mine (he will have and fold a whole bunch of hands that beat me), but ultimately I got lucky. He probably thinks I'm a complete donkey though. Not that I mind.
Or what about calling in the big blind with A-x something, flopping an ace and calling down because it's just too likely that your betting opponent has a hand that you can beat, or a hand that you will split the pot with, and then you hit your kicker pair on the turn or river? You got lucky, he got sucked out on, and you will still
mostly remember the times someone did that to you
No one likes losing a hand that they were the favorite to win at one point. And when things that we don't like happen, we look to assign blame. Usually, in poker, that blame finds its mark right on the forehead of the guy who outdrew us and we'll think he's a real donk, who wouldn't know what an "out" is if it came up and bit him in the ass. What many fail to ask themselves is how they would have played the hand differently in the other guy's shoes.
I called a preflop raise from UTG (again, shorthanded limit) with 5-3 offsuit in the big blind, when there were four other cold callers in the pot. I was getting 11:1 on seeing a flop, and I had a wonderful position relative to the preflop raiser. I got lucky and found myself with an inside straight draw (2-6-J) on the flop, and checked. UTG bet, everyone called, and I was getting something like 15:1 on my money. A clear call. The lovely 4 came on the turn, and I checked, UTG bet, two people call and I raise. All three call. I bet the river, and two people call. I drag a monster pot, and I'm called a complete moron by the UTG player who goes on tilt and loses the rest of his money very quickly.
Did I play it badly? Well, the preflop call is clearly not standard. The defining properties of the situation was specifically my position relative to the preflop raiser, the size of the pot and the odds I was getting, the looseness of the other players in it with me and the fact that I had low cards; if I hit something very strong (basically trips and up) I wasn't likely to have any shared outs with the others. My pot odds
and implied odds were huge, and if I ended up in the same situation again, I'd make the same call. My implied odds given my position was something like 25:1 or better, and I was pretty sure I had at least 4% equity in this five-handed pot.
But all the preflop raiser saw was someone calling a raise with 5-3 offsuit and hitting his inside straight on the turn. Because it's easier to be mad at another player than to be mad at something abstract, like the game itself.
When you go all-in with AA vs. KK and the kings spike a set on the flop, this is not something "impossible" or "miraculous" that just happened. It's a mathematical fact that, one time out of five, you will lose in these situations. But we don't remember the four times we won, we remember the one time we lost.
Or, and this is even more common, when we have pocket aces and someone else hits trips or two pair on the turn or the river. We think "JESUS! This always happens to me! I never win with aces!" because we forget all the other times when people just fold on the flop or the turn. When someone calls a turn bet, they have a draw of some kind (be it a two-pair/trip draw or a straight/flush draw) and when people have draws, sometimes they hit. Somewhere between 10% and 20% of the time usually. When they miss, they fold and we quickly forget about it. When they hit, we hurt.
We have to accept poker for what it is: A game where everyone gets the same share of good and bad cards, where being a "favorite" means only that I mostly will win, not that I'm entitled to the pot from the outset. Accepting this will make dealing with individual bad beats a lot easier, because it gives us the power to understand that, in the greater scheme of things, these events must occur.
Dealing with a prolonged downswing is difficult, but learning to handle a single bad beat rationally is not.