Losses in poker are inevitable no matter how good you are.
Whether you play cash games or tournaments, you will suffer some devastating losses in your poker career, which is why you need to train yourself to be ready to take a big loss at any time.
The worst thing is that many losses are the result of great plays. While this may sound illogical, it is absolutely true.
Since luck is a huge factor in any poker hand, from time to time you will lose hands that you play perfectly, whether you’re the victim of a bad beat or a cooler.
In order to prepare you optimally for such situations, we explain what bad beats are, how they differ from coolers and what strategies you can use to deal with them properly.
What is a bad beat in poker?
A bad beat is when you lose a hand despite being a big favorite to win.
In every poker hand there is a favorite and an underdog.
If you watch poker on TV, you’ll see that most shows show each player’s odds pre-flop, on the flop, and on the turn. The percentages are constantly changing.
An example of a bad beat would be losing a preflop all-in with pocket aces against T9 suited, although that’s certainly not the worst thing that can happen to you in poker.
Personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of a “one-outer” many times in my career, meaning my opponent could only put one card in the deck to win – and they did.
Any bad beat is painful to take, but you really should try not to be bothered by anything where the odds were less than 80 percent in your favour.
After all, a 30 percent hand will win quite often, and you need to understand this if you’re going to play poker at all.
If you’re easily tipped by losing a hand in which you’re a favorite, you’re not going to do very well at the tables because these types of “bad beats” happen every day.
How common are bad beats?
You may be wondering how often you will experience a bad beat. Unfortunately, I cannot give a single answer to this question.
For starters, you will definitely have nights where you inflict a lot of bad beats on others and run very well without even having to worry about bad beats.
But there will also be nights when your luck changes completely and you experience bad beat after bad beat, which can be extremely frustrating.
The likelihood of bad beats depends more than anything on the type of game you play.
Shallow stack games like SNG tournaments are a recipe for bad beats, while deeper games like live cash games tend to have less of them.
However, a bad beat in a very deep live cash game can hurt you a lot more than a simple loss with pocket aces to a 10 big blind shove in a tournament, so it’s all relative.
Whatever game type you prefer, you must be mentally very well prepared for Bad Beats before you start playing the game at a serious level.
What are coolers in poker?
Another type of situation that comes up in poker from time to time and can be extremely frustrating is what poker players like to call “a cooler” or “cold deck.”
Cooler are when you have a monster hand but your opponent ends up with an even better one and you lose a monster pot.
One of the most common examples of a cooler in poker is getting dealt pocket kings and getting everything preflop against pocket aces.
This is a scenario where there is almost no chance of getting off your hand and seeing the other person have AA is devastating.
Other examples can come after the flop, such as For example, making a nut flush only to lose to a straight flush, or making a full house and losing to a higher full house.
In essence, coolers are not very different from bad beats other than the fact that players usually need to get their money with cooler hands, while bad beats are often a product of one of the players grossly misplaying their hand.
Either way, both coolers and bad beats are incredibly difficult to deal with, so let’s talk about some tips on how to overcome them.
Tips for dealing with bad beats and coolers
As I explained earlier, there is no getting around bad beats and coolers in poker. No matter how well you play, they will come your way from time to time.
When you experience a bad beat or a cooler, it’s important to keep playing good poker, which isn’t always easy.
Some of the biggest losses I’ve seen at poker tables came from tilt, which resulted from a horrific bad beat that caused players to lose their heads and start playing like crazy.
If you want to have any chance of being a winner at poker, you must learn to deal with these inevitable situations.
1. Take a break
The easiest way to regain your composure and get back to playing your A-game after a bad beat is to take a short break from the game.
If you’re playing in a live setting, you can take that break by stepping away from the table, into the lounge area, and just taking some time to process the loss.
Bad beats really aren’t a problem in the long run, but they can cause you to play very poorly in the short term. Taking a short break from the game can help you forget about the losing hand and start playing well again.
Online tournament sessions can be harder to take a break as you can’t really sit out without being penalized, but even that can be worth it when you’re playing your best poker game.
If you’re hitting a string of bad beats that are mentally draining, you might want to take a longer break anyway. Taking a few days off the game and doing other activities can be very helpful.
Whatever you do, remember that bad beats are part of the game and guaranteed to happen, especially when your opponents are playing badly.
2. Do a study session
One of the things I like to do after I’ve had a bad beat or bad beats during a session is go to the lab and examine the hands that I lost.
During such a learning session, you may come across some mistakes in the way you played the hand that may have led to the bad beat, or you may come to the conclusion that you played the hand perfectly.
Either way, you will improve your game for the future or conclude that nothing could have been done to prevent the bad beat.
Once you know for sure how the hand went down and that you didn’t do anything wrong, you’ll feel better and be even better prepared to step back onto the battlefield.
3. Maintain a healthy bankroll
Bad beats definitely hurt, but they hurt a lot more when you’re not playing within your means.
Depending on the type of game you like to play, you have to expect different variances, which also determine how much bankroll you should have available.
If you’re playing a highly volatile game, you should have a large bankroll relative to the buy-in to avoid worrying too much about individual bad beats and coolers.
Whatever your game type, you should never play poker with just a few buy-ins as it is a recipe for disaster.
You need to make sure that bad beats don’t mean the end of your game or even your career, which means you want a lot of buy-ins behind what you put on the table.
The bigger your bankroll, the easier it will be to tolerate bad beats and the less tilt you will experience.
4. Concentrate on the essentials
Before you even step foot in the casino or start this poker app, you should mentally prepare yourself for bad beats and cooler.
You need to go into your poker sessions knowing that bad beats can and do happen and that they don’t really matter in the long run.
Your focus should be solely on playing well, getting into good positions where you’re the favorite to win chips, and avoiding big mistakes.
Even if you can’t play perfectly, playing better than your opponents leads to big wins in the long run, and no bad luck can change that.
If you focus on your bad beat, you may be chasing losses or trying to inflict a similar bad beat on your opponents out of spite.
This is a terrible mistake and will cause your chips to bleed even more as there is absolutely no way to control luck or let bad beats come at your will.
5. Play the hand that is dealt to you
Poker is all about playing every single hand you’re dealt as well as you can. After a bad beat, you will be dealt a new poker hand and must play that hand.
Instead of thinking about the loss you just suffered, you need to reset your mind and start over.
Look at your cards, your stack size in relation to the blinds and the action in front of you. Think back to the preflop charts and position play and figure out how best to play this hand.
The previous hand is over and there is no way to recover the lost chips.
Instead, you can win some new chips and continue winning as usual.
6. Don’t slander the player
A very common thing at the poker tables is for a player to get frustrated with one of their opponents and think they’re the bad guy of the night.
When this is the case, you will see that the player often re-raises against the bad guy and generally plays very bad poker against him.
This is absolutely no way to win at poker!
No matter how an opponent beats you, you must play your best game against them and everyone else at the table.
If you only focus on one opponent, you will clash with others who will take great advantage of this personal vendetta you are in, and even the villain may end up possessing your soul with a real hand.
Always go back to the basics of poker and try to realistically determine the ranges of all players based on their actions, rather than just randomly trying to outplay a single player at the table.
7. Be ready to fold
There will be some bad beats on the flop or the turn and you will be a strong favorite when you get your money. In this case, there isn’t really anything you can do to save money.
On the other hand, there are bad beats where you don’t get all your money in before the beat happens and you are now asked to pay off a big bet on the river by an opponent who is unlikely to be bluffing.
For example, imagine a situation where you overbet big on the turn with pocket kings on a Q-high board with two clubs. Your opponent calls and the river comes ace of clubs. Your opponent is now going all-in!
You may want to make a defiant call knowing that your opponent most likely has the flush or some other hand that makes you beat.
That’s never a good idea, and you should be prepared to fold even in situations where someone made a frustrating call on the flop or turn and caught the miracle card.
Thinking strategically and saving money in spots like this can be a big deal in the long run because, despite your emotions, you’ll save tons of money if you make the right plays.