When I first started playing online poker I remember whenever I got it all-in ahead and someone would suck out on me, giving me a bad beat, I would always get upset, angry or frustrated. As time went on, this gradually went away, I think partly because I became a better poker player and learned to accept the realities of the game. However, if bad beats in poker are currently causing you trouble, take a look at my top 5 tips for dealing with them.
Some players seem to think they are entitled to a pot. This is an incorrect mind-set. If you get it all-in with a set vs a flush draw, you are going to be losing the pot approximately 27% of the time. That’s almost 1/3 of the time. Understanding that these things happen frequently in poker is critical to being able to not tilt when you get bad beat.
As a standard I would recommend raising 3 big blinds + 1 big blind per limper when you are in position. When you are out of position you should raise 4 big blinds + 1 big blind per limper. So for example, you have 2 limpers and you are sitting in the small blind with Ace Jack, I would raise to 6 big blinds. If I was on the button with the same hand, I would raise to 5 big blinds. The reason you raise more out of position is two fold. First of all, because you are out of position, you want to encourage the pot to be heads-up only. You will most likely be raising hands like AJ KQ AQ KJ type hands that play much better with one caller instead of multiple callers. The second reason is simple. Because you are raising out of position, you are likely to have a stronger hand range than if you are raising say on the button. For that reason, you want to get more money into the pot because you have a better hand.
Results orientated thinking is the downfall of many potentially talented poker players. Everything you do in poker should be based around how to maximise your expectation in every given hand. If you associate losing with playing bad you are making a mistake. It's perfectly normal to play “perfect” and lose due to running bad and bad beats. Likewise, its perfectly possible to play awful and win on any given day. Don’t be results orientated, be process orientated!
This is a critical realisation. You don’t get fish gambling on chess (a game where the most skilled player wins every game). The reason fish gamble playing poker is because they are convinced they can win on the days they get lucky. Consequently they keep playing despite being long-term losing players. Variance and bad beats are what keep the fish playing because it gives them hope. If the fish were to lose every single hand, how long do you think they would play? Not long, that’s right!
Just think of it like this, every time a fish bad beats you, you are giving them hope. They don’t understand odds, probability, ranges, value betting or any of the stuff that makes you a winning player. All they understand is winning and losing. When the fish wins, the fish keeps coming back. Its kinda cruel in a way - you give them hope when we both know they are going to lose a lot of money in the long run.
Bad beats happen to everyone and are a way in which you can gain reciprocal profits on your opponents. Look at it like this, every bad beat is a test of your resolve and an opportunity to not tilt. If you don’t tilt in a situation when another player would have tilted, you have made some reciprocal money. Just as you can make money from your opponents by making better betting decisions, you can also make money in regards to tilting. If you don’t tilt, and your opponents tilt, you win!
Every single player in the world has a breaking point. The breaking point is an imaginary amount of money you have to lose or situations that have to happen to cause someone to play irrationally. The key is to be aware of your emotions and be able to stop playing when you reach that point. Remember, poker is supposed to be a fun and profitable way to spend your time. If at any time you are not having fun and are not playing your best, it's best to quit, take a break, re-group and come back playing stronger, better and more profitably.
Good luck at the tables!