These are just a few of the battlecries that you regularly hear from people who don't quite get how this game works yet.
Poker is a game that regularly turns what appear to be rational human beings into complete lunatics. Go to Google right now and type in "river suckouts" or "jokerstars" and see for yourself.
This really isn't a bad thing overall though. It is in fact direct evidence, exhibit A, as to why poker will always be so profitable. There is a certain segment of the population that just can't handle this game. Yet they keep playing anyways. The very definition is insanity.
This doesn't have to be you though! Even if all the river suckouts have you close to entering the loony bin, in this article I am going to explain why they happen and how to deal with them better.
Poker is a Cruel Hearted Bitch
The real core of the problem lies in expecting poker to be "fair" or that after a certain while it "owes" you something. Much like everything else in life, this clearly just isn't the case.
Poker is simply a game of mathematics and odds. It is a cold hard bitch who does not care about you or your feelings.
Anyone who has ever been through a lengthy downswing will know this. I have been through several that lasted over 100k hands myself. This is the equivalent of a month or two of regular play online or a year for somebody who plays live, where I literally could not win a hand to save my life.
I am not going to lie, I was close to losing my mind on all of those occasions. And the biggest reason why was because I could not accept the fact that the bad beats, suckouts and coolers really could keep continuing for weeks or even months on end.
I felt like after running bad for awhile that I had paid my dues. Haha, funny joke poker gods! Now give me what I am owed. Give me the higher set or the aces over kings for once. Let me hit a flush draw once in awhile instead of it always being them.
But of course this simply isn't the way that the game works. That fish who has been getting lucky against you all night will still hit his gutshot straight draw against you by the river exactly 16.4% of the time over the long run.
To put it another way, this is roughly 1 out of every 6 times. Let's be real, there is nothing really that amazing about an event happening 1 out of 6 times is there?
It is going to happen of course. And it can and will happen several times in a row on rare occasion. So why do so many people lose their minds when stuff like this occurs?
Our mistake is thinking about our recent history of bad luck against a particular player or even just our recent bad luck in general. And then thinking that somehow that history has some impact on the present hand.
Which of course it does not.
Poker does not owe you anything. Poker has no past and no future, only a present. Poker is cold hard statistics and odds and that is it.
Suckouts are Actually a Good Thing (Really)
Obviously nobody likes to lose a pot when they had the best hand or the best odds to win. But suckouts are an inevitable part of this game and they are actually a good sign as well.
I recently interviewed mental game expert Jared Tendler here on my blog and I think he put it best:
"They’re unavoidable [suckouts/bad beats] and frankly they’re evidence of quality play. If you’re not taking bad beats, it means you’re not playing well enough to be a favorite."
And I would actually take this one step further by pointing out that frequent suckouts are also evidence that you are playing in good games.
As I mention all the time on this blog, if you are not playing in soft games against bad players, there is simply no way that you are going to win big in this game.
When you are on the receiving end of lots of bad beats and suckouts, then this is the surest sign of all that you are playing against the right kind of opponents.
Change the Language of the Game
The very language that we use in this game is often at the heart of why we have so much trouble accepting losses when we had the best hand as well.
Just think about terms like:
- Bad Beat
All of these phrases are pejorative in meaning. They make it sound as if somebody has personally harmed us or if the game itself is conspiring against us to fail.
And so therefore these phrases tend to just reinforce the negative ways of thinking that we all have when things go bad for a really long time at the poker tables.
They also aren't an accurate depiction of reality. Nobody "sucked out" on you. They just hit their mathematical equity in the hand.
You were not "set up" to fail when you ran your trips into a full house. Actually this is just a common occurrence in poker. Situations like this are often the very reason why we play big pots and everyone will get their fair share of being on the winning and losing side in the long run.
And finally, nobody "bad beat" you. Seriously, who came up with these bizarre terms in the first place?
The other person simply had a certain amount of outs (cards that would allow them to win the hand) and this translates into a mathematical percentage. Their mathematical percentage to win happened to come through in this particular instance.
Keeping Your Sanity When You Seem to Run Bad Forever
Now of course no matter how many exercises in logic, mathematical analysis or semantics that I write about here will not change the fact that poker is an absolutely brutal game sometimes.
I was just reading the "rumours" that Tom "durrrr" Dwan may have lost a 20 million dollar pot earlier this year in Macau by running middle set into top set and is now teetering on the brink of busto.
This makes me sad if true although I am sure he will rebound. He is a great player and someone who inspired me a lot back in day.
Poker really has no heart and no soul. And what's even worse, nobody else cares about your results either. Nobody wants to hear your bad beat stories and nobody is going to hold your hand when you hit that soul crushing downswing.
This is a seriously cutthroat business and one of the most individual (selfish perhaps even) pursuits you can be involved in.
I personally see this as a positive though. I have never really been a fan of team sports or working for somebody else. I would much rather get all the glory for my wins and take all of the blame for my losses.
So I see poker more as a personal challenge than anything else. And since poker is a game played against other people I see it as an opportunity to make better decisions and react better to adversity than everybody else.
As the mental game expert Tommy Angelo famously stated, this "reciprocality" is indeed the cause of all profit in poker.
Poker is the Greatest Life Coach You Will Ever Have
After more than 10 years in this game I still have a deep passion and respect for it. And this is not because of all the money I have made playing poker or the writing career that has also flourished because of it.
No, it is because this game taught me many powerful life lessons at a relatively young age. Especially when I went pro for the first time fresh out of university at the age of 24. I had to learn things like work ethic, emotional control, self discipline and perseverance on the fly.
When you rely on this game to pay the bills you tend to learn stuff like this real fast or else you starve. You stop all the complaining and making excuses and you just grind hard every day. You hustle and you succeed.
And frankly if you can build the mental fortitude to handle this crazy game over the long run, then you will probably be successful in many other areas of life as well.
Embrace the madness and the adversity that poker will bring your way. You will get mad and you will get frustrated at times. Don't even bother trying to be perfect. Take time off if you need it. The game will always be there when you return.
However, see poker as more of a personal challenge to better yourself and react better than the next guy. Control the things that you can control and let other people lose their minds while you quietly rake in their chips.
Let me know in the comments below how you handle bad beats, river suckouts, coolers and the like in this game. Do you have any tips on how to keep your wits about you when things go bad?
Lastly, if you are new here make sure to check out my Start Here Page (and my free newsletter below) for all of my best strategy advice on how to start crushing the micros!