Good players get more bad beats at the poker table

As I’ve become better at playing Texas Hold ’em, I’ve become increasingly aware of bad beats as they happen to me in tournaments. Occasionally you get someone at a table complaining about a bad beat, and sometimes it isn’t even that bad they’ve just bet against the wrong hand. Just because you have a flush and someone else has a full-house that isn’t a bad beat. If they have a 1 in 10 chance of making their full house and still bet over the pot odds and make it then yes, but often it’s just a player overplaying a good hand against a monster.

Anyway, the characteristic replies from people at that time is to say something like ‘We all suffer bad beats, just get over it.’ but something that I’ve come to realise is that good players really do suffer more bad beats. It’s a bit like the ‘buses always come in threes’ thing – when you think about it, it actually makes sense. (There’s an explanation of the bus problem here.)

Why I think this occurs is that good players (or shall we say better players, because there’s a long way to being good) make fewer bad calls. If you have a read on what your opponent has in their hand and they’ve bet a fair strength then the only reason for making a bad call is if you think you’re being bluffed. Often, on weak tables, the bets are just so random that it’s hard to tell and you can only really go on whether you do have a good hand or not.

So from there, if you never make a bad call, then you’ll never inflict a bad beat on someone because you’ll only ever bet when the pot odds are in your favour. On the other hand, a bad player will call you when you’re in front and although you may be a 3-1 favourite, that still means you’ll lose a quarter of the time. The situation is multiplied if there are more callers.

As a recent example: I was in a late position on a 10-handed table with a pair of tens. The first hand round from the big blind flat called, the hand went round until two players to my right who did about a 5 times blinds raise (it was early in the competition so the stacks could take it). That said to me ‘please fold because I have some mid-level pockets’. I reraised about 2.5 times more, which probably said about the same thing, but i thought my pair of tens were better than what he had as I’d rather make people pay for a flop in that situation and then be prepared to fold and walk away than just be content with winning a small pot. The first raiser should know he’s beat and fold then. Also, I wasn’t going to do what a lot of players seem to do on those cheap tables and go all in just in case I was up against bigger pockets. Somewhere else.

And I was right because there was other danger on the table. The blinds folded and then the first caller raised all in. I smelt a rat: at least queens, possibly kings or aces. The raiser called (duh!) and I folded my tens. The flop came up, didn’t change anything, the first caller turned over his pocket kings up against the raiser’s poket 8’s and he was out and I was glad I’d made a good call.

Some time later, in the same tournament, I made a similar play with pocket aces. Except I don’t slow play them very often, so I did a small big-blind size raise. Most people folded except one raiser who went up another couple of times over. Again, that looked like mid-level pockets to me. No-one else was in the hand. I re-raised putting him all in. Now if that had been me in that position I would have thought something was up, but he called. It turned out he had a pair of nines, but another nine came up and he doubled up.

Now I don’t know what the definition of a bad beat is, but that makes it to me. A few hands later, despite increasing his chips at my expense, the caller went out of the tournament. Okay, we all know better players win out over time, but that’s no consolation when it’s your chips being shared amongst all the other players. I had to play a few loose hands and clawed my way back into the money, but the lesson is still there.

Poker hand nicknames

I was given a book called Schott’s Sporting Gaming & Idling Miscellany for my birthday. In there is a list of popular nicknames for poker hands. I’m dubious about some of them myself, but they are:

  • Ace, King, 4, 7 – The AK47 Machine Gun
  • 4, 4 – Magnum (Colt 44)
  • Jack, Jack, 5, 5 – Motown (‘Jacks on fives’)
  • King, King, King, King – The Horseman (of the Apocalypse)
  • 3, 3, 3, 3 – Forest (‘four trees’)
  • Queen, Queen, Queen, Queen – Village People (‘four Queens’)
  • 10,4 – Over and out
  • 6, 6, 6 – The Devil/The Beast
  • Jack, Queen – Oedipus
  • Queen, Queen, Queen, 3, 3 – San Francisco Waiters (‘queens with treys’)
  • 9, 5 – Dolly Parton (‘working 9-5’)
  • Ace, Ace – Pocket Rockets/Bullets
  • Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Wheel (Steel Wheel if suited)
  • Jack, King – Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)
  • Ace, 3 – Ashtray
  • King, King, 9, 9 – Pair of Dogs (two K-9’s)

Whilst playing at Pacific Poker I’ve also come up with a few of my own:

  • Jack, 6 – Jack Shit
  • King, Ace – f**king ace!
  • 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 – not quite a run (doesn’t generally win you much)
  • 2, 2 – A Desmond (Tutu)
  • Ace, Ace, Ace, Ace, Ace – Cheating Bastard
  • Number 9, Number 9, Number 9, Number 9 – Annoying Beatles track

Playing real poker, for real money!

Pacific Poker was just the warmup act and last night I got to play poker for real, with real people and for real money, face-to-face around a table. We played what seemed to be a loose interpretation of Texas Hold ’em and all put some money in a pot and then took an equal number of chips. Whoever was left with all the chips at the end took all the money. It was so much better than online poker which was probably a lot down to the fact that we didn’t take it too seriously; if you start in the frame of mind that you’re going to lose your money then betting is much less of a worry.

Of course, I may not have enjoyed it quite so much if I hadn’t come out £90 richer than when I started…

Playing poker online

Somehow I’ve gotten caught up in playing “Texas Hold ’em” online at Pacific Poker. I’m completely
addicated already. (Admittedly playing for pretend money at the moment.) The
game’s quite simple to learn and the tutorials at the Pacific poker school are
excellent, not only at explaining the rules of “Texas Hold ’em up” but also
some of the strategies.

The software downloads and installs onto your harddrive and once you sign-up
you’re given some free “fake” money and are ready to go into the betting
rooms. The set-up looked slightly intimidating to start with, but as you’re
not forced to chat it’s a very private affair and really easy to get going.
The interface presents you with a lobby showing all the different tables and
how many people are at each. If you double-click on one then you’re taken
into that room but, the good thing is, you can watch for a while before you
play. This really takes away any doubts you might have about how easy it is,
and it’s easy to see why they’re so successful.

So far, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m going to be making my fortune at poker:
after an hour or so last night I came out with about $50 of fake money more
than I went in with. That may not sound too bad, but I’m pretty sure the
people playing in the real money poker rooms are going to be a lot harder to
beat. I know I wouldn’t be quite so free with my own cash!

All in all, I can’t recommend Pacific Poker enough.

Pacific Poker

Pacific poker school