Bad Beat in Poker: 10 Tips to Deal With a Bad Beat Poker Hand

Taking a bad beat in poker is something you must learn to handle if you plan on becoming a serious player. Even when you play your strong cards very well, there’s always a slim chance that you could lose when the river is revealed.

But what does the term bad beat in poker refer to, and how rare is it? If you’d like to find the answers to these questions, look no further!

This article tells you all about bad beat poker and provides you with 10 tips to deal with it like a pro!

What Is a Bad Beat in Poker?

In layman’s terms, a bad beat in poker refers to a situation in which a player that seemingly holds the strongest hand loses during the river. In most such cases, the player loses a large amount of money, as they throw a lot of chips on the table, convinced they’re going to win.

Now, the severity of the situation depends on the cards the player who loses has in their hand. A bad beat in poker can occur even when a player has quads or the bottom end of a straight flush.

Finally, a bad beat in poker isn’t bound to live rooms, as it can also happen in online poker.

How Rare is a Bad Beat in Poker?

Many people think that a bad beat in poker happens more often than it actually does. The term is often misunderstood, and the majority of players think they’ve experienced a bad beat numerous times.

Taking a bad beat in poker is actually not common, and there’s an extremely small possibility of it happening to you. Most of the stories about this term are all about player-induced mistakes, overconfidence, or misunderstanding the odds.

In fact, a bad beat in poker is quite rare. Simply losing at the river to a stronger hand after thinking you’re going to win doesn’t mean you’ve taken a bad beat in poker.

What Is a Cooler or a True Bad Beat in Poker?

A true bad beat in poker is often referred to as a “cooler”. But, there is actually a difference between a cooler and a bad beat in poker. A true bad beat or a cooler refers to a situation when a player has such a strong hand that it seems unbeatable (e.g., straight flush). The chances of another player having a stronger hand than that one by the river are so slim that this example falls into the category of a true bad beat in poker.

One of the best examples of a true bad beat in poker is receiving a hand that consists of kings, overbetting in the pre-flop, and seeing your opponent with a couple of aces when the flop is revealed.

Meanwhile, a regular bad beat in poker is simply a situation when a player misplays their hand. The biggest difference between the two terms is that a bad beat is a mistake made while playing, while a true bad beat, or a cooler, is unavoidable.

Bad Beat Poker Jackpot

A bad beat poker jackpot is a prize that’s offered by a poker room when a sufficiently strong hand loses to an even stronger one held by another player. For example, some tables have a rule that if the losing hand is a four-of-a-kind or better, and the winning hand is a royal flush, the jackpot is split between the players.

Most of the time, a bad beat poker jackpot is split among all the players at the table who are playing at the time of the bad beat. The losing hand gets the largest share and is followed by the winning hand, while the rest of the jackpot is split among the remainder of the players.

Collections, payout percentages, and bad beat poker jackpot amounts vary and depend on the casino’s specific rules.

3 Poker Bad Beat Examples

To paint a clearer picture of what a bad beat in poker is, here are some examples:

  • Runner-runner bad beat. This example of a bad beat occurs when you get a full house when the flop is revealed, and your opponent gets an even stronger full house after the turn and the river. More often than not, a runner-runner bad beat also happens when someone gets running cards to make a flush or an odd straight on you after all the cards are revealed.
  • Pocket rockets. When we’re talking about pocket rockets, we’re actually talking about being dealt two aces at the beginning of the hand. Now, you know how this story goes. You think that your pocket rockets can secure you the hand, but your chances of winning are only 77% until all the cards on the table are revealed. That’s why a lot of people rush in and overbet, only to lose when their opponent gets a straight or quads after the turn or even the flop.
  • Cooler/runner-runner hand. This is one of the rarest and most hated bad beats in poker. It occurs when a player flops four-of-a-kind, only to lose when their opponent catches runner-runner cards to get a higher four-of-a-kind. Players hate this bad beat in poker because of the ridiculously low chances of it occurring, as it’s not often that you see two four-of-a-kind combinations in one poker hand.

10 Tips to Conquer Bad Beats in Poker

Now that you know everything there is to know about bad beats in poker, you should learn how to cope when facing one. Here are our 10 tips to help you conquer bad beats:

Bad Beat Poker Tip #1: Catch a Breath

One of the easiest ways to conquer even the worst poker beats is to take a quick break from the game and catch a breath or two. Bad beats aren’t a big deal, but they can tilt a person and make them play badly.

That’s why your best bet would be to walk away from the table for a moment, and step into a lounge area to relax. If you’re playing the ever-so-popular online poker, simply step away from your computer for a couple of minutes, take your mind off of poker, and come back refreshed.

In case you run into a series of bad beats and keep getting tilted, don’t hesitate to take a longer break. Not playing for a couple of hours or even days can help you in the long run.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #2: Recap Your Game

Oftentimes, bad beats happen because a player makes a mistake or two. That’s why recapping your game and evaluating how you played your hands can go a long way.

By doing this, you can improve your strategy and perhaps realize that there was nothing you could’ve done to prevent the bad beat from happening.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #3: Play With a Healthy Bankroll

Taking a bad beat is never good, especially not on your wallet. If you’re not playing within your means and you’re playing a volatile game, you’re preparing yourself for a disaster.

That’s why you should always make sure that you have a deep bankroll compared to the buy-in if you want to avoid stressing out over a bad beat. By having a huge bankroll, you won’t have to worry that a bad beat will be the end of your game, and you’ll be able to keep on playing as if nothing happened.

So, make sure you have a healthy bankroll that allows you to take multiple bad beats without having to tilt, and you’ll have a stress-free poker experience.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #4: Stay Focused

Overthinking about bad beats and stressing out in advance is never a good idea. This is why you should always try and stay focused on your game. Mentally prepare for the poker session ahead of you, and focus on playing well instead of worrying that you’ll take a bad beat.

If you put all of your focus on bad beats, you’ll find yourself taking loss after loss and trying to inflict bad beats on other players out of spite.

Instead, you should focus on the things that matter, such as avoiding making mistakes, playing your cards right, and placing the right bets. At the end of the day, you don’t have control over luck, so stressing over bad beats in advance can’t change a thing, but focusing on your gameplay can.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #5: Create a Ritual

Finding it hard to maintain focus after a bad beat? Don’t worry—we’ve got a solution!

If you observe elite athletes, you’ll realize that most of them have a ritual that allows them to get back into and stay in the zone. For example, have you noticed how tennis players always go through the same routine before they serve? Some of them check out the competition, while others slowly exhale and serve.

So, whenever you notice that you’re getting tilted and losing focus after a bad beat, you should concentrate on doing some form of physical activity that will keep you present and help your mind stay sharp.

For example, you can close your eyes and count for a couple of seconds, take deep breaths and exhale slowly, or even count your chips, as some poker players do.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #6: Play Your Hand To the Fullest

Poker isn’t a game that’s all about a single hand, it’s about how you play every single card you’re dealt. When you face a bad beat, you still have to play the next hand, which is why you shouldn’t stress over your loss.

Instead, try to get your focus back on track and think about the hand that you’ve been dealt. Take a look at your cards, calculate your odds, think about the possible bets that you can make, and figure out the best way to play the hands you’re dealt. This way, you’ll forget all about the bad beats you’ve experienced. There’s no way you can win back the chips you’ve lost to a bad beat, so give your best to win more money in the long run.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #7: Be Respectful

Most people get tilted when they take a bad beat and get frustrated with the opponent they lost to. In such cases, they re-raise against the opponent and make a villain out of them, which in turn leads them to play badly.

Not only is this the wrong way to conquer bad beats, it’s also not the way to win in poker at all!

What you should do instead is to keep your head up, be respectful to all the players at the table, and play to the best of your ability. Keep in mind that there’s always a luck factor in poker, which is not a reason for you to be disrespectful and belittle anyone after taking a bad beat.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #8: Don’t Be Afraid to Fold

poker bad beat

Not being afraid to fold is what makes the difference between a fish in poker and a seasoned veteran. Sometimes, your best bet to save your earnings is to fold on time and not call your opponent’s raises out of spite because of a bad beat.

For example, you might have a strong hand that makes you overbet on the turn. Then, your opponent calls, but the river gives them a stronger combination than yours, and they go all in. Instead of making a spite call, knowing your opponent has a flush, you should fold strategically and avoid losing money.

If you’re indecisive about folding, just keep in mind that it’s better to fold a hand and save some money in the long run than to go head against the wall because of your emotions.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #9: Change the Table

Getting tilted after a bad beat? Can’t seem to cool yourself down? Don’t be afraid to change the table. Whether you’re playing live or online poker, changing the poker table or the poker website can sometimes prove to be vital in allowing you to play better.

When you take a bad beat, the chances are that you will be somewhat uncomfortable playing with the player that beat your strong hand. In that case, it’s best to disconnect and change the table if you’re playing online. Or simply take your chips, walk away, and move on to another table if you’re playing live.

Bad Beat Poker Tip #10: Accept the Bad Beat

Lastly, sometimes you just have to accept a bad beat and move on. There’s nothing you can do about losing with a strong hand, and dwelling on the past is only counterproductive.

Although this is easier said than done, you need to keep in mind that overthinking about a bad beat will not do anything but make you lose more money. So, process the situation, take a couple of deep breaths, and accept what happened.

At the end of the day, being able to accept a bad beat in poker is a skill you have to learn over time, so take it one step at a time, and use all of the tips we gave you to make it work.

Key Takeaways

Knowing what a bad beat in poker is goes a long way in helping you stay calm in situations when you take one.

Here are the main points that we talked about:

  • A bad beat in poker is a term for a hand in which a player with strong cards loses when all the cards are revealed on the table.
  • There’s a difference between a bad beat in poker and a cooler (true bad beat) because the former usually happens because of a misplay.
  • A bad beat poker jackpot is a prize offered by a poker room in situations when a strong hand loses to an even stronger combination of cards.
  • To face even the worst poker beats like a pro, your best bet would be to remain focused, pay attention to your gameplay, and fold whenever the situation requires you to do so. Here is our list of 10 tips to help you conquer a bad beat in poker:
    • #1. Catch a breath
    • #2. Recap your game
    • #3. Play with a healthy bankroll
    • #4. Stay focused
    • #5. Create a ritual
    • #6. Play your hand to the fullest
    • #7. Be respectful
    • #8. Don’t be afraid to fold
    • #9. Change the table
    • #10. Accept the bad beat

Gordon Dyke

Poker Expert

Gordon Dyke has served as our poker expert since 2017. Gordon has been playing poker professionally and recreationally for nearly two decades.