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Surely one of the most frustrating aspects of Texas Hold’em is the dreaded bad beat. So, exactly what is it? Well, to use an example, let’s assume you are dealt a nice pocket pair, say, J♠ J♦, and you decide to raise early in order to weed out the players whose hands are not very strong. The majority of them fold, but you can usually count on one player to be a bit of a loose cannon. As expected, he calls your raise but when the flop shows 4♠ 7♥ J ♥, you feel like you’ve got him on the ropes. After some slow playing on your part, the turn comes out as the 7♦ and you secretly start to count the chips that you’re about to collect. Even once the river shows the 8♥ you feel comfortable that there’s nothing out there that could hurt you. After all, why would he stay in the hand to this point with nothing but same suit connectors? You established right from the start that you had something in your hand, and you think that you have played this hand like a pro. That is, until your opponent flips over his cards to reveal the 9♥ 10♥ for the nut straight flush.
In the above scenario, you made the mistake of counting your eggs before they were hatched, as they say. And this is what makes bad beats so crushing – usually they come out of nowhere and smack you in the face! Although your opponent had no business staying in the hand the way he did, that doesn’t change the fact that he was the one who ended up collecting that pot, and you were left scratching your head and licking your wounds.
Often, there is very little you can change about being on the losing end of a bad beat. The game of poker is composed of equal parts luck and skill, so of course there will be instances where matters are completely out of your hands, just as you will occasionally be on the lucky end of things. One of the first steps in avoiding recurring bad beats, however, is to identify and then remove yourself from these potentially damaging situations. Naturally, this would call for some very conservative play at times, but if you’re playing with a known maniac, then why not let someone else face off against him?
So, identify which type of players you are up against. Remember that a loose cannon will not prevail over time. This, in fact, is the kind of opponent that you like to see at the table but they require a measure of caution too. Furthermore, it is necessary to work on your own table image. If you are known as the type of player who doesn’t make reckless decisions, you will certainly garner a lot more respect at any table and eliminate the majority of the callers when you do play aggressively - which also gives you the power to bluff effectively.
One more thing: Don’t tell bad beat stories. Nothing is more irritating than a losing player who tries to recreate past scenarios to explain why he lost. Bad beats are simply a part of the game and the best way to deal with them is to move on. Remember: You want to cultivate a winning image, not that of a whining loser. Good luck!