Who Is Joe Tall?

Enjoy A Bad Beat

I have never suffered a bad beat in poker. How can that be? It's quite simple; I don't recognize beats as 'bad'. Bad beats are a good thing and I encourage the mathematical underdog who brings me one.

Bad beats are defined as: "To have a hand that is the clear mathematical favorite lose to a heavy underdog (especially if that hand should not have been involved in the pot)". Although the first part of this statement is true, the second certainly is not. Hold'em is a seven card game, period. It is also a game of decisions. If a player opts to call four cold with a pair of deuces and the river card is a deuce to bust your pocket aces, so be it. They have every right to do so. They can call as many bets as they want and see the river card every hand, simply because those are the rules to the game.

A winning player depends on bad beats and learns to value the bad players who deliver them. Without these bad players games would not be profitable. I welcome all bad beats and bad players. Even the strongest soldier (AA) would have to suffer in order for us to win the war in the long run. You want to be cold called when you are jamming your premium hands. You want the bad players at your table and you want them to remain at your table.

The following is a technical example that was provided by Homer J. Simpson of the 2+2 Forums of how, theoretically, good players make money from 'bad beats':

Let's say you have 88 and are heads-up on the turn with an opponent who has 76o. The board is 428J and there are 5 big bets in the pot. You bet. Would you prefer that your opponent fold or call? Of course you would prefer that they call since they are drawing to 4 outs with odds against catching a 5 of 10:1, but getting pot odds of only 6:1. Even if you assume that when they catch a 5 they will collect two bets on the river, it is still negative expected value (EV) for them (and thus positive EV for you) to call.

To be exact, your opponent's expected value is -.182 big bets if they call, since 1/11 of the time they will collect 8 big bets and 10/11 of the time they will lose 1 big bet. In the long run, this IS how much this player will lose per hand by calling your turn bet.

In the short run, however, this player may get lucky and win the hand, in which case you may think that you have just lost 7 big bets that should have been yours. What most players fail to remember at such a moment is that for every 1 time that they lose, they will win 10 other times in this situation. It can be difficult to do after just having suffered a Bad beat, but we must remember to "think of all the theoretical money we have just won"1, lest we go on tilt and enter negative EV situations ourselves. This natural variance is good for the game. If an opponent drawing with incorrect odds never made his hand, they wouldn't try for such draws in the future. In this case, the opponent will lose -.182 big bets per hand in the long run. However, for him to continue to take such negative bets, they must win once in a while so they can be reminded of the prospects of taking down the pot. If they were to consistently lose -.182 big bets every time they called in this situation, they would never call again. They would be playing closer to optimally, which we certainly don't want.

Many weak players become irate when they suffer a bad beat. This is what I call The Tilt Factor. Any player who berates another when a bad beat occurs is also a bad player due to the fact that they cannot recognize what was just revealed. The bad player just announced to the table that they are here to pay you off next time. Granted it cost you a few bets to find this out but that player will be folding on the river or calling with worse hands more often than they'll be dragging the pot. The Tilt Factor is my primary reason for denying that improbable mathematical beats are bad. Poker is an emotional game, and those who control such emotions as steam and tilt are the ones who will be standing taller in the long run.

I've never suffered a bad beat. I'm thrilled to see a player chasing long odds at my table. I try to do everything to let that player feel welcome and remain seated. If you can't seem to grasp this theory I suggest telling them what your cards are or even showing them, maybe then they will fold.

Bad players call with garbage no matter what and I'm thrilled about it. So next time you suffer a bad beat I hope you can think of it a little differently as it will separate you from all bad players.

1 ibid: Theory of Poker by David Sklansky 2003

2004 Written by Joe Tall, technical example provided by Homer J. Simpson.