How to Prevent Bad Beats (Is It Even Possible?)

How to Prevent Bad Beats

Something that people ask me all the time is if you can prevent bad beats at the poker table. 

I am sure you are sick of getting so many bad beats in poker. So am I!

So, is there anyway to make them go away?

It is completely natural to ask this question because bad beats are actually one of the hardest parts of the game to deal with.

Sometimes they come in bunches and it can be very difficult to handle this from a mental perspective.

It causes people to go on tilt, play poorly, throw away all their winnings, and then go down the dark rabbit hole of thinking that every poker site is rigged against them.

So what can be done? Can we find a way to avoid bad beats once and for all?

This is what we will be investigating today here on the blog!

Can You Prevent Bad Beats in Poker?

Alright, so let's just get right into it.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but short of going all-in every time you hit top pair or better, there is really no way to avoid bad beats in poker.

This is something that I discuss in a recent video about why you get so many bad beats online:

Make sure you are subscribed to my poker YouTube channel by the way for high level poker strategy videos.

Because the thing with fish (recreational poker players), is that if they want to make the call with their bad hand, then they are going to make the call.

And no matter how far behind they are in the hand, it is very rare in No Limit Texas Hold'em for somebody to be drawing completely mathematically dead.

They almost always have at least some "outs." They might only have two cards remaining in the deck to save their life.

But the cold hard reality of poker is that those two cards will drop on the river once in awhile. Yes, even right before the final table of a big tournament.

No matter how far a bad player is behind, if they call with their 5% equity, it WILL hit sometimes. And it is also very mathematically possible for this to happen several times in a row.

Hence, all the "online poker is rigged" theories which are unsubstantiated by mathematically and statistically significant evidence.

So this is something that you need to be prepared for in poker. 

A seemingly endless series of seemingly impossible bad beats will happen to you sometimes in this game.

Trust me, I have played 10+ million hands of online poker. It won't even seem believable at times. There is no point in even trying to make sense of it!

The difference between the biggest winners and everybody else though is that the former are able to control their emotional reaction to these bad beats better.

They do not go on destructive tilt. They are learn to control their emotions in the moment or they quit for the day once the frustration and tilt starts building.

Example Bad Beat Poker Hand

Let's look at a poker hand that was recently sent to me to help us understand these bad beats better.

In this hand we are dealt A5 in the small blind.

Now, let's be real, this isn't exactly a great hand. 

Sure, it is always nice to have an Ace in our hand because it can make a very strong top pair. But ideally we would like to have a much stronger kicker than a 5, or to have suited cards.

But the situation is a bit different in this hand because we are playing 4 handed (only 4 players at the table) and there are several recreational players in the hand.

So when two players limp into the pot preflop in front of us like this, I do like the decision to raise it up.

Why Not Just Complete the Small Blind Preflop?

Now, some of you might be asking, why not just complete the small blind here?

It is a reasonable approach and I couldn't blame anybody for doing it. But as I proved in my first book Crushing the Microstakes, it is statistically much more profitable to raise rather than to limp preflop.

Of course, if you really just want to avoid variance altogether, folding preflop here isn't a terrible option either.

But I think when we are 4 handed versus multiple fish, we would be giving up value by folding a hand like this preflop.

The biggest thing I would like to see in this hand though is a larger raise preflop.

We need to remember that when we are out of position like this (small blind), we need to charge them more in order to see a flop against us.

This is because we will need to act first on every postflop street: flop, turn and river. And this is another huge, huge proven statistical disadvantage in poker.

So instead of 12 cents, I would like to see us raise it to something like 16 cents or 18 cents here. Give these recreational players a real decision on whether to continue on in the hand or not!

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Flopping a Monster Hand - Two Pair

Alright, so we have successfully flopped a monster hand, two pair. 

We have A5 and the flop comes: AK5

Now what?

Well, versus multiple players like this out of position, and first to act on the flop, I actually prefer a check raise here.

And the reason why is because we are likely to get a bet out of somebody after we check, which means that we can raise it up when the action gets back to us.

This traps the most money in the middle of the pot when it is very likely that we have the best hand.

Just betting out here (as hero decides to do) isn't the worst option in the world either though, and I do like the larger bet sizing used here.

But overall, when we are out of position versus multiple opponents and we flop a monster hand like two pair or better, I do prefer a check raise because it gets more money in the pot.

And of course, when we have a big hand in poker, we always want to get the highest amount of chips in the middle as possible.

I actually have an entire guide to check raising the flop here on my blog if you want to learn more about this slightly advanced strategy.

Raised All-In on the Turn - Bad Beat?

When we catch another safe looking card on the turn (8) I think it is definitely a wise decision to keep betting big here.

This is something I have discussed numerous times here on the blog and in my poker books as well.

It is really important to make big value bets like this against the weaker players at the lower stakes. Because they are likely to call with a really wide range.

Now, when the recreational player shoves the turn on us here, I am not going to lie, it sucks.

Recreational players do not make this play very often as a bluff. It is almost always something at least reasonably strong.

So I actually would be inclined to lay down a one pair hand here most of the time, especially with the deeper starting stack sizes.

With two pair though, there is no way I am ever folding. And that is because there are just too many value hands that we are ahead of.

Obviously that is not the case in this hand though.

Our opponent turns over 88 and laid a pretty sick bad beat on us. He/she only had two cards in the deck to win the hand when they called us on the flop.

This is definitely one of those frustrating bad beat hands that can set many people on tilt.

How to Avoid Bad Beats Like This

So was there any way that we could have avoided the bad beat in this hand?

Honestly, not really.

Short of just shoving all-in on the flop, there is nothing we can really do here, because as stated before, bad players are going to call, if they want to.

And if we shove the flop to protect our hand here, he just folds and we win a tiny pot. Not exactly the key to a winning poker strategy!

So this is why bad beats are just a part of the game that we unfortunately need to accept.

We need to remember though that the vast majority of the time this player will not hit his/her miracle 8 on the turn or the river and will therefore just be spewing their chips to us.

We always need to remember this.

We also need to remember that when the bad players get lucky like this, it is actually a good thing. 

Because if they could not get lucky sometimes, then they wouldn't keep coming back again and again to lose more.

In fact, I like to view bad beats like this as a sort of tax that we all need to pay as poker players.

We all have to pay the bad beat tax sometimes. It's for a good cause though!

These recreational players will always be the primary source of your profits at the poker table, and if they couldn't get lucky once in awhile, they would simply go away.

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What Should You Do When You Get a Bad Beat?

So let's talk instead about how you should react when you receive one of these inevitable bad beats at the poker table.

Well, most people get mad, they start "steaming," go on tilt and throw all their money away. Worse yet, they will often jump up stakes to chase their losses and lose their money even faster!

You need to react differently to bad beats than most people if you truly want to get ahead in this game and win big.

Most people do not win at poker because they react poorly to bad beats and tilt away all their profits.

You can study all of the most advanced poker strategies out there, but if you cannot learn how to control your mental and emotional reaction to bad beats, you will never win big in poker.

So what can you do?

1. Focus on the Math Behind the Hand

The first thing you need to do when you receive a bad beat is to focus on the math and the logic behind the hand.

Did you get all the money in good as the statistical favorite in the hand? By the way, you can just use a program like PokerTracker to check this for yourself.

If you can answer yes to this question, then there is absolutely nothing for you to worry about.

Because the one thing you can't do in poker is fight the math and expect to win. If you got your money in good, then it will pay off for you in the long term.

This is why the fish always lose big in the long run, because they are always climbing an uphill battle, fighting the math, getting their money in bad.

You on the other hand, as a winning poker player, get the money in good, which pays off over the long run with big profits.

And that is the only thing that actually matters in poker.

2. Take Some Deep Breaths or Leave the Table for Awhile When You Get a Bad Beat

So now that you understand the math behind the bad beat, and you rationally understand that you did everything you could in the hand (and they just got lucky), it is time to control your emotional reaction.

In order to do that, I recommend taking several deep breaths or even walking away from the poker tables for a few minutes if needed.

I actually use all sorts of mental game strategies away from the poker tables such as meditation, yoga, exercise and visualization both before and after my sessions.

The bottom line is that you need to learn to control your mental and emotional reaction to all the bad beats that you will take so that you can continue playing a solid winning poker strategy.

3. Learn to Laugh Off the Bad Beats

And now finally, you can learn to just start laughing off all the bad beats.

Because the truth of the matter is that so long as you play poker, you will take bad beats. In fact, you will take tons of them.

So there is no point in getting excessively emotional about any particular one.

You got the money in good, the fish got lucky. It's time to laugh it off and move on.

Honestly, this is what the pros like Daniel Negreanu do in order to consistently keep playing good poker even when they get multiple bad beats in a row.

You need to learn to have a light hearted approach to this game because bad beats will always be a part of poker as long as you play it.

There is no point in getting so emotionally invested in every single bad beat like most people do. Because that is precisely why most people lose at poker.

They can't see the forrest through the trees.

Final Thoughts

So is there any way to prevent bad beats in poker?

Honestly, not really. You can study all the most advanced poker strategy in the world.

But at the end of the day, if they want to call you down with their bad hand, then they will. And that means that they will also hit their miracle turn card or river card sometimes.

It is just a simple mathematical fact that we must all accept when playing poker. As long as they have a chance, then they have a chance.

But the vast majority of the time, they are just throwing their money away to us. Because you cannot continue to chase long odds in poker and expect to win over the long run.

This is why the fish lose big-time over the long term. 

And this is also why you should learn to celebrate your bad beats. Because it means that you are playing in some good poker games!

Lastly, if you want to learn the complete strategy that I used to crush the micro stakes online poker games for some of the highest winnings ever recorded, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Can You Prevent Bad Beats?