Poker losses are inevitable no matter how good you are.
Whether you play cash games or tournaments, you will suffer devastating losses in your poker career, which is why you need to train to be ready for a big loss at any time.
What’s worse is that many losses are the result of big plays. Although it may seem illogical, it is absolutely true.
Since luck has a major impact on every poker hand, you’re going to lose hands that you play perfectly from time to time, whether you’re the victim of a bad beat or a cooler.
To best prepare you for such situations, we’ll explain what bad beats are, how they differ from coolers, and what strategies you can implement to ensure you handle them properly.
What is a bad beat in poker?
A bad beat is when you lose a hand, despite being a heavy 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 display each player’s odds of winning the hand before the flop, on the flop, and on the turn. Percentages change all the time.
An example of a bad beat would be losing an all-in preflop with pocket aces against suited T9s, although that’s certainly not the worst thing that can happen to you in poker.
I’ve personally been the victim of a “one-outer” several times in my career, meaning my opponent could only swipe one card from the deck to win – and he did.
Any bad beat is painful to endure, but you should really try not to let anything where the odds were less than 80% in your favor bother you at all.
After all, a 30% hand will win quite often, and you need to understand that if you want to play poker.
If you’re easily tipped by losing any hand you’re a favorite in, you won’t do very well at the tables, because these kinds of “bad beats” happen every day.
How common are bad beats?
You might be wondering how often you will encounter a bad beat. Unfortunately, there is no single answer I can give to this question.
For starters, you will definitely have nights where you inflict lots of bad beats on others and run very well, without having to worry about bad beats at all.
But there will also be nights when your luck completely flips, and you experience one bad beat after another, which can be extremely frustrating.
The likelihood of bad beats will depend on the type of game you play more than anything else.
Shallow games like SNG tournaments are a recipe for bad beats, while deeper games like live cash games tend to have fewer.
That said, a bad beat in a very deep live cash game can hurt you a lot more than just losing with pocket aces for a 10 big blind shove in a tournament, so it’s all relative.
Whichever type of game you prefer, you will need to be mentally prepared for bad beats in a very big way before you start playing the game on a serious level.
What are coolers in poker?
Another type of situation that happens from time to time in poker that can be extremely frustrating is something that poker players like to call “cooler play” or “cold deck”.
Chillers are when you have a monster hand but your opponent ends up having an even better one and you lose a monster pot.
One of the most common examples of a cooler in poker is being dealt a pair of kings and going all in preflop against a pair of aces.
It’s a scenario in which there’s almost no chance of walking away from your hand, and seeing the other person have AA is devastating.
Other examples can occur after the flop, such as making a nut flush and then losing to a straight flush or making a full house and losing to a higher full house.
In essence, coolers are not much different from bad beats, except that players usually have to put their money in with cooler hands, while bad beats are often the product of one of the players playing grossly hurt his hand.
Either way, coolers and bad beats are incredibly difficult to deal with, so let’s talk about some tips for overcoming them.
Tips for Dealing with Bad Rhythms and Coolers
As I’ve explained before, there’s no getting around bad beats and coolers in poker. No matter how hard you play, they will come to you from time to time.
When you hit a bad beat or a cooler, it’s important to keep playing good poker, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Some of the biggest losses I’ve seen at the poker tables have been due to tilt resulting from a terrible bad beat, with players losing their minds and starting to play like maniacs.
If you want to have a chance of winning at poker, you have to learn how to deal with these unavoidable situations.
1. Take a break
The easiest way to regain your composure and resume your A-game after a bad beat is to take a short break from the game.
If you’re playing live, you can take that break by stepping away from the table, entering the living room, and simply taking the time to process the loss.
In the long term, bad beats really aren’t a problem, but they can make you play really badly in the short term. A brief break from play can help you forget about the hand you lost and allow you to play well again.
Taking a break can be more difficult in online tournament sessions because you can’t really sit down without being punished, but even that can be worth it if you come back to play your best poker.
If you come across a series of bad beats that are mentally draining you, you might still want to take a longer break. Getting away from gambling for a few days and engaging in other activities can be extremely helpful.
Whatever you do, you should always remember that bad beats are part of the game and are guaranteed to happen often, especially if your opponents are playing badly.
2. Do a study session
One of the things I like to do after I have had a bad beat or several bad beats in a session is go to the lab and study the hands I lost.
During such a study session, you may encounter errors in the way you played the hand that may have led to the bad beat, or you may conclude that you played the hand perfectly.
Either way, you will improve your game for the future or conclude that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the bad beat.
Once you know for sure how the hand went and you didn’t do anything wrong, you’ll feel better about yourself and even more ready to get back on the battlefield.
3. Maintain a healthy bankroll
Bad beats hurt no matter what, but they hurt even more if you don’t play within your means.
Depending on the type of game you like to play, you will have to deal with different degrees of variance, and these will also determine the size of the bankroll you should have at your disposal.
If you’re playing a highly volatile game, you should have a huge bankroll relative to the buy-in to avoid worrying too much about bad beats and individual coolers.
No matter what type of game you play, you should never play poker with just a few buy-ins because that’s a recipe for disaster.
You need to make sure bad beats won’t be the end of your game or even your career, which means you’ll want to have plenty of buys behind what you put on the table.
The bigger your bankroll, the easier it will be for you to tolerate bad beats and the less tilt you will have.
4. Focus on what’s important
Before you even set foot in the casino or launch that poker app, you need to mentally prepare yourself for bad beats and coolers.
You should go into your poker sessions knowing that bad beats can and will happen and don’t really matter in the long run.
Your goal should be entirely to play well, get in the right spots where you’re the favorite to win chips, and avoid making big mistakes.
While you can’t play perfectly, playing better than your opponents will lead to big wins in the long run, and no amount of bad luck can change that.
If you’re focused on your bad beat, you might find yourself chasing losses or trying to inflict a similar bad beat on your opponents out of spite.
This is a terrible mistake and it will make you bleed even more because there is absolutely no way to control luck or make the bad beats come your way.
5. Play the hand dealt to you
Poker is all about playing every hand dealt to you as well as you know it. After a bad beat, you will receive a new poker hand and you must play that hand.
Instead of thinking about the loss you just suffered, you need to reset your mind and start thinking from scratch.
Watch your cards, your stack size relative to the blinds, and the action ahead of you. Think back to pre-flop charts and positional play and find the best way to play this hand.
The previous hand is over and there is no way to recover any chips you lost.
Instead, you can earn new tokens and continue earning as you normally do.
6. Do not defame the player
A very common thing at the poker tables is for a player to get frustrated with one of their opponents, seeing them as the villain of the night.
When this is the case, you will often see the player re-raise against the bad guy and play very bad poker in general against him.
This is absolutely not the way to win at poker!
No matter how an opponent beats you, you need to play the best game possible against them and everyone else at the table.
Being laser-focused on a single opponent will bring you into conflict with others who will heavily exploit whatever personal vendetta you’re 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 everyone’s range based on their actions instead of trying to outplay a single player at the table randomly.
7. Be ready for bed
A few bad beats will occur on the flop or the turn, and you’ll be a big favorite when you get your money back. In this case, there is nothing you can really do to save money.
On the other hand, there are bad beats in which you don’t get all your money before the beat occurs, and you are now asked to call a big bet on the river by an opponent who has little chances of bluffing.
For example, consider a situation where you overbet on the turn with a pair of kings on a Q-high board with two clubs. Your opponent calls, and the river is the ace of clubs. Your opponent goes all-in!
You might want to make a call out of spite, even though you know your opponent most likely has the flush or other hand that beat you.
This is 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 places like these can be a great thing in the long run, as you’ll save tons of money by making the right plays despite your emotions.