Secrets of poker Poker

Stop your crying

Written by James Potter

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Poker is a game that involves both luck and skill. In reality the superior poker players tend to win more, whilst the less-skilled players tend to lose more. The key word here is ‘tend’. Essentially, the best you can hope for is to be a strong mathematical favorite when you push your chips in. If you manage to do this consistently, you will win in the long run. There will be some testing times, though, when your seemingly unbeatable hand is run down…

If 500 players sit down to battle out a tournament, then how many people can win the title at the end of the day? It sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Obviously the answer is there can be only one winner, with the other 499 players having to bust in order for the event to end. That unavoidably boils down to the plain fact that you have to get used to “not winning” when you play a poker tournament. Learning to deal with being knocked out is one of the secrets to becoming a better tournament player.

It is a sad and frustrating quirk of the game that the better you play, the more likely you will suffer what is known as a “bad beat”. A bad beat is when you lose a hand in which you were a strong mathematical favorite. Better players regularly deposit their chips into the middle in better positions than worse players, and as a consequence have a higher chance of winning the hand. At the crux of coping with bad beats is accepting the fact that even if you are an 80 percent favorite in a hand, you will only win 80 percent of the time. If you are a 95 percent favorite, you will only win 95 percent of the time. And so it goes on. This again sounds like a stupid proclamation, but you would be amazed at the amount of poker players that lose sight of this basic premise.

When the Poker Gods frown upon you and deem your pocket aces “worthy” of being cracked by 75 off suit, don’t start telling other players how unlucky you are. Every other player at your table will have tasted the misery of bad beats before, and they don’t want to hear your sob story. Think about how much you hate hearing other people’s stories of the time they got rivered by some fish that hit his gut shot straight.

You must come to terms with bad beats when you play poker. Take comfort in the fact that a bad beat means you got your money in when you were well in front. That is the aim of the game and will serve you well in the long run. If asked how you went, perhaps try saying, “I played well and got unlucky in the end, but hey, that’s poker”. You might want to scream and throw an ashtray through the nearest window, but complaining to your fellow poker players will only make you disliked: they are not a sympathetic audience.

Take your losses with good grace, show some decorum and live to fight another day. No one likes a bad loser and no one wants to hear about your bad beat. What goes around comes around after all, and you will have days when luck is on your side and people wonder why you are so blessed.