What Is a Bad Beat in Poker?

min read
four friends, two couples, are sitting around a poker table in a casino playing poker, the one couple cheers and the other couple look disappointed as they have just lost the hand
BetMGM Jul 15, 2023, 4:03 AM

In poker, you beat opponents when you have a higher-ranking hand. A “bad beat” in poker refers to a situation in which a player who holds exceptionally strong cards is defeated by an opponent with low odds of winning and who miraculously hits a lucky card or two to claim the pot. The unfortunate player on the receiving end is said to have endured a painful “bad beat.”

A bad beat in poker can also involve the convergence of a cooler, which is when an exceptionally good hand collides with another equally strong hand, resulting in an unexpected and devastating loss for the unfortunate player. You don’t want to be an emotional wreck if this happens to you in online poker, so read on to find some effective strategies to cope with bad beats.

Wrecking Ball

Say you’re playing a Texas Hold’em game and you start the hand with pocket jacks. The flop comes jack of hearts, 10 of hearts, 10 of diamonds – full house! Confident in your hand’s strength, you bet accordingly, anticipating a substantial payout.

But then misfortune strikes unexpectedly as fourth street reveals 8 of diamonds, followed by 6 of diamonds on the river. With a full house in your grasp, you confidently head into the showdown, anticipating victory. Sadly for you, your opponent, who started off with a middling pair of suited connectors — 9 and 7 of diamonds – has hit their draw and now has a miraculous straight flush. This turn of events leaves you stunned and disappointed, experiencing a bad beat of monumental proportions. It’s the stuff of historical laydowns.

Similar scary scenarios include losing with four-of-a-kind kings against four-of-a-kind aces or falling victim to a higher-ranked full house on the river, shattering your hopes of victory. These instances exemplify the essence of bad beats – where improbable outcomes defy all logic and leave players astonished.

Random Bad Beats

The occurrence of bad beats in poker is inherently unpredictable. Some nights will see you dishing out the beats and running hot and free from worries. But then, there will also be nights when fortune turns against you and the bad beats stack up, leading to immense frustration.

The likelihood of experiencing bad beats depends largely on the game format you choose. Shallow stack games such as SNG tournaments are fertile ground for bad beats, while deeper games such as live cash games tend to see fewer occurrences. Nevertheless, it’s essential to note that a severe bad beat in a deep cash game can sting far more than a standard loss with pocket aces in a tournament. It could even make you tilt.

Whichever game type you embrace, mental fortitude is crucial in preparing yourself for the inevitable bad beats that come with serious poker play. So, what to do? 

A Silver Lining

In the world of poker, bad beats and coolers are inevitable occurrences that can leave players feeling frustrated and disappointed. While bad beats, by definition, can be disheartening, they’re an integral part of the game and add to its excitement. In some cases, bad beats even come with a silver lining in the form of bad beat jackpots. These jackpots offer consolation to players who suffer unfortunate losses by rewarding them with a significant cash prize. Bad beat poker typically involves a large pot and specific criteria for qualifying, such as losing with a minimum hand rank or a specific combination of cards. The losing player (who suffers the bad beat,) is often awarded a portion of the jackpot, providing some consolation for their unfortunate loss. So, even when luck seems to be against you, there may still be a glimmer of hope and a consolation prize to soften the blow.

Tips for Coping With Bad Beats and Coolers

Bad beats and coolers are an inevitable part of poker and how you handle them can greatly impact your game. If you tilt as a result, you could end up making terrible mistakes, like other casino winners who lost it all. Here are some valuable tips to help you navigate through these challenging moments.

Take a Break

After experiencing a bad beat it’s crucial to step away momentarily. Whether it’s leaving the table in a live game or taking a breather in online play, a short break will allow you to regroup and regain your focus.

Book a Study Session

Use the opportunity to review the hands that led to the bad beats. Identify any mistakes you may have made or validate that you played them perfectly. This study session helps you learn and improve for future games.

Manage Your Bankroll

Having a robust bankroll ensures you can handle the variance of the game and avoid being crippled by bad beats. Play within your means to reduce the financial impact of unfortunate hands.

Maintain Focus

Keep your mind focused on playing good poker. Accept that bad beats happen and concentrate on making correct decisions rather than dwelling on past losses. Your long-term success in poker depends on playing well, not luck.

Embrace the Hand You Were Dealt

Each hand is a new opportunity. Reset your mindset and analyze the current situation objectively. Don’t let previous bad beats affect your decision-making in the present.

Always Play Fair

Avoid vilifying other players and waging personal vendettas against opponents. Playing emotionally against a specific player can lead to poor decision-making and being exploited by other players. Assess the game objectively and make decisions based on logical analysis.

Be Willing To Fold

Sometimes, it’s better to fold and save your chips than to pay off a large bet from an opponent who’s likely to beat you. Don’t make spite calls or let emotions dictate your actions. Learn to fold when it’s the right strategic move.

The Beat Goes on at BetMGM

Ready for first-rate online poker? Register with BetMGM, one of the best online poker sites for US players looking to get their hand in. Find cash games with stakes to suit your bankroll, or join in a poker tournament with an appropriate buy-in. You’ll find everything from free-rolls to serious events such as the $535 buy-in Mega Tuesday Six-Max No Limit Hold’em tournament. Get the real deal at BetMGM! 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.