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Is There Ever a Good Time for a Bad Beat Story?

Phil Hellmuth

As a member of the poker media, I’ve heard more than my share of bad beat stories. You’d be surprised just how many players whom I’ve never spoken with before come up to me after a tournament and say something along the lines of “I just busted with two aces against two tens before the flop. You should put that online! Can you even believe that?”

While I know it stings to lose, yes, actually, I can believe that.

Poker is a game where luck can take over at any given moment to knock you from a good position in the game all of the way to the rail. With that in mind, bad beats are a part of the game and going to happen quite frequently. Consistently getting your money in as a favorite is clearly an ideal way to play the game, but it must be understood that sometimes the odds will tip the other way.

And I get it — bad beats hurt. I’ve found myself in dozens of situations throughout my poker playing days where I’ve been sucked out on with absolutely no remorse from the deck. But that is the nature of the beast.

Every hand in every poker game sees an exchange of chips take place, whether in large confrontations or smaller pots. Each hand has a winner and a loser, so over the course of a session or tournament it is likely that you’ll play the role of both several times. Knowing that each player is experiencing the same highs and lows, it’s clear that everybody knows the feeling of suffering bad beats.

That leads us back to the bad beat story. Nobody enjoys hearing a bad beat story. Sure, we may inquire about how our friends busted from a tournament, but the perpetual complaints of suck outs and lucky pulls by opponents can come off as downright annoying at times.

It comes down to the fact that nobody likes a complainer. As players, everyone is taking the same chances and hoping that his or her own personal skill will edge out over time. Looking for sympathy among this crowd will often yield eye rolls or unenthused, brief comments reflecting what is more often than not fake concern.

Avoiding complaining about bad beats may be difficult, especially for those just starting out at poker — a game that can consistently surprise you by sweeping your feet out from underneath you. Socially, however, you do not want to be known as the player who is looking for sympathy anywhere he or she can get it.

With all of this in mind, there is one situation where I firmly believe that telling stories of hands gone wrong can be beneficial. Any time you use your personal experiences at the table as a moment to reflect, analyze, and ultimately learn, you’re doing yourself a service.

Talking through and analyzing hands with your poker playing friends can be a good way for all parties to examine the game in a new light and search for different strategies to approach any given situation. Rather than complaining of a suckout, find ways to rewind the hand in question and consider whether playing it out differently would have yielded a different outcome.

Obviously this advice doesn’t apply so much to that all-too-familiar situation of getting your pocket aces cracked by pocket tens before the flop. But for those less obvious situations in which you could have played a hand a multitude of ways, consider being more reflective — and constructive — when reviewing your bad beat story.

Stepping back and examining for the purpose of learning will always be much more respected and welcomed when compared to cursing your foul luck. Poker is a game that is constantly evolving, so making the most of certain opportunities and granting yourself the power to adapt and analyze will go a long way toward your long term profitability. Not to mention spare others from another tedious tale of woe.

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