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Poker Bad Beats & Coolers

a poker pro at pokerstars, rain khan Online poker & Texas Hold'em in particular have exploded in the past decade. A lot of people who do not play wonder why that is so. This is the topic of another article, but we can provide a short answer here.

Poker is a game that can stimulate a tremendous level of pain and pleasure. What psychologists believe is that human beings feel and remember extreme pain much more strongly than extreme pleasure. Here we are, the bad beat is the extreme pain in poker.

Poker is like boxing. A bad beat in poker is like a punch in the face in boxing. It is unavoidable and if you can take it stoically, you are one step closer to mastering poker. Otherwise you will never make it.

Anatomy of a Bad Beat

What is a bad beat?

You probably already have a good idea of what a bad beat is, but if you want to see the largest bad beats in online poker, you have to watch the largest high stakes ring games, and these take place at Full Tilt.

Anyway a technical distinction must first be made between a bad beat and a cooler. Both occur when a big or sometimes huge pot is unexpectedly lost to a stronger hand. Oftentimes in a heads up situation. And oftentimes both opponents are allin by the river, if not earlier.

A cooler is a situation where both players have very strong hands that they would never have folded. In such a situation, it is a near certainty that the opponents will be all-in by the river no matter what. Hence, your very strong hand will be beaten by an even stronger hand.

To take an extreme example, let us say that you have AA and the villain has KK. He raises preflop, you 3-bet and he calls. The flop is AK4 rainbow. With such strong hands on each side of the felt, it is inevitable that this ends up in an allin pot.

If a king shows up at the turn or river, this is a cooler for you. No one played badly and this was inescapable. Note that the villain had 4.34% chance to win this hand from the flop.

Another example is taken from a NL50 holdem game played at PokerStars. Hero is UTG+1 with 99♠ and ends up playing a multiway unraised pot with six other players. The flop is 983.

After a few raises and reraises, this hand only involves the hero and one villain who flopped bottom set with 33♠. Admittedly it is hard and usually bad to fold a set, especially with an unthreatening board like this one. The turn is 5 and the river is 3.

Villain only had 2% chance to win this hand by the turn, as the only way for him to prevail was to get the last 3 in the deck. He was trying to catch a one-outer and he got lucky. This is a cooler, not a bad beat, because no one will convince us that villain played this hand poorly.

A bad beat is different from a cooler as it implies that the villain is a player who "sucked out" on you. If the villain called your monster hand all the way as an underdog with very few outs and then miraculously hit the right card at the river, he gave you a bad beat.

One real bad beat hand went as follows. Hero who had rockets raised 4 bb preflop and got 3-bet by a villain who had a pair of eights. This is a 3-bet light with has a high component of bluff and normally cannot withstand a 4-bet, because a solid player will 4-bet with a range that dominates low or medium pairs.

Hero 4-bet but villain called, which is almost always a bad play in a full ring game, and quite bad in a 6-max game as well. As you have guessed there was a bad surprise in the following cards. The flop came 256, and hero increased his pot equity from 80% to 87% with his overpair. Then came the 9 and the 7&spades, giving villain a runner-runner straight.

Bad beat often induce tilt. It is very important that you control your reaction after a bad beat or cooler. Do not let the bad beat pain overwhelm you and do not seek immediate revenge. This is the recipe for additional losses.

The best way to understand how painful a bad beat can be is to watch one of Phil Hellmuth numerous online poker videos. The poker brat will get crazy if he gets a bad beat. You can check this nice bad beat video, but we spared you and Phil behaves very nicely in this one.

Bad Beats Jackpots

One interesting development in online poker is that a number of online poker rooms such as PartyPoker are trying to leverage on the notion of bad beat by offering Bad Beat Jackpots. The idea is that if one player takes what is considered an improbable enough poker bad beat, he will be rewarded with the jackpot.

All players at the table will also share some of that bad beat jackpot as well as all players who played at other tables of the same limit, but to a much smaller extent.

Note that these poker rooms do not make a distinction between cooler and bad beat. The minimum threshold for a hand to qualify as a bad beat is typically at least a Four of a Kind 8's defeated by an even stronger hand, such as a higher quad or a straight flush.

The largest ever bad beat jackpot as of 12/10/2008 (as this will certainly increase) was awarded at a 6-max $0.5/$1 Fixed-Limit Hold' em poker table for the astronomical amount of $821,670.


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