Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Four Stages To Dealing With Bad Beats

On the recommendation from a few people, mostly from the KOD himself who I really haven't seen have such a positive reaction to a poker book as this one in quite a while, I bought and started reading The Poker Mindset by two donkeys named Ian Taylor and Matthew Hilger. I'm enjoying it, though perhaps not quite as much as KOD, because while some of its ideas, while not necessarily earth-shatteringly new, certainly are presented in a flat-out straightforward way that I think would be useful to many people who play the game of poker regularly. In particular, tiltmonkeys like myself, KOD and many of you out there could probably benefit from the authors' way of telling it like it is with respect to the required mindset to be a successful poker player, and that is something I wanted to focus on today.

In Chapter 4, the authors discuss bad beats and losing big pots, and go on to describe the four stages of dealing with such losses. These are presented in order from least useful (and perhaps most common) to the most useful approach and attitude one should have about losing a big pot and/or getting bad beat in poker, something every single one of us has to deal with all the time. Some of us (me) more than others (you) of course, as it is a simple fact that the better you play the game, the more often you will get in ahead and thus the more often you will get bad beat, while the worse you are, the more often you get in behind and thus the more often you will have the opportunity to lay a bad beat on someone. But the specter of getting bad beat is always present for all of us, and that's why I thought this approach in The Poker Mindset was worthy of mentioning here today.

So here are the four stages of dealing with bad beats and big losses, according to the book (I am paraphrasing here). Ideally, you want to progress up between the stages such that, while most people start at Stage 1, you really want to be st Stage 4, or for sure at least at Stage 3. I find these to be a helpful way of evaluating your own game and your own approach to the lows associated with any regular poker playing:

1. Stage 1 -- Anger: "What a fonkey! How could he call with that shitty draw? How can I consistently be the unluckiest person in the world? I'm going to play every pot he is in from now on to get my chips back!"

2. Stage 2 -- Frustration: "What a bad beat! How am I going to win at poker when there's always some fonkey willing to chase an inside straight or 2nd pair shizzy kicker? I know over the long run that guy will lose all his money, but I really needed that pot. That loss really hurts."

3. Stage 3 -- Acceptance: "Ouch! Well that's just the way poker works some times. I know I'll get his money in the long run if he keeps playing like that, so I just have to be patient with this guy. Now I know he is a calling station, so I will label or note him accordingly and play him with that in mind in the future. I wonder if I could have played that hand any differently to increase my chances of winning the pot."

4. Stage 4 -- Indifference: "OK so now I know that the big blind will call down with pretty much anything, so I will take that into account in future hands with him. I wonder what the button had to have bet on the flop before folding to the raise on the turn. I should note that he continuation-bet in that spot for future hands. Maybe I should have raised on the flop in the hopes of pushing the big blind out of the hand at that point? But then again do I really want to push the big blind out if he's willing to pay off all those bets with such a weak draw."

Now, most of you may think I am a real tiltmonkey, and lord knows I tend to write pissay blog posts when someone sucks out on me after a horrible play. That said, I actually think I score fairly well on this scale. Let's take a look.

Obviously, I have some qualities of a few of these different stages. Clearly I get angry when I get bad beat, and to be honest I'm not quite sure I understand why I should not get angry. I mean, no way am I indifferent to a bad beat loss. That is like a very zen view of poker that, in my opinion, very very few people ever reach. Certainly there isn't a blogger in our group that I can think of who never gives a cripe at all when they lose to a bad beat following a horrible play by their opponent. Like I said, I'm simply not at a place where I care not at all about losing in a big spot to the world's worst player making the world's worst play.

That said, I do accept completely that bad beats are a part of this game. I don't know how many of you out there railbird me with any regularity, but if you do, you will see that I literally probably get bad beat out of 1 in every 3 tournaments I play. It may be more than that. I am constantly getting in ahead and ending up behind. It's the story of my effing life guys. Last night was a perfect example, where I lost one sng with my buddy buckhoya when my allin with AK was called by QT on a KQx flop, and then a Queen hit the turn to send me home on the bubble. How ghey. That suckout right there, based on a horrible, reckless play by my opponent, cost me at least $60 and probably more like $100 on average. Just like that. It bothered me when it happened, but I didn't flip out at the guy. I'm not saying I never, ever do that, but as a general statement, the fact is that I get bad beat out of one or two tournaments every single night, or I get recockusetup like the hand against cmitch in the MATH the other night when I turned trips but he had flopped the redickulous nut straight with his J9o, and I normally don't flip out at all. I know I'm not just the "angry" or "frustrated" reacter (Stage 1 or Stage 2) because I used to be just that. I used to flip out every single time I lost like this, and it used to ruin my night, I would go on tilt, yadda yadda yadda you guys know the routine. Well, I'm not even close to that anymore. A bad beat might pizz me off on occasion, but in general I actually tend to take these things in stride nowadays, a whole heck of a lot more than I once did. I do understand that bad beats are a part of the game, and in a good 95% or more of the cases, I take them in stride.

More than that, I always note everybody when they make a shit play to bad beat me like this. I take very detailed notes, to the degree that I will make sure to remind myself for the next time of what they did by saying "will call with 2nd pair shitty kicker on flop on sng bubble". I want to know this in detail -- as opposed to just saying "UBER FONKEY" in my note or something like that -- because the next time I play with this dinkledonk, I want to be able to use their specific weakness against them. And I do it, too. There's nothing better than sitting down at the table with a guy who I've played with and noted with specificity in the past, and and being able to take direct advantage of exactly what that opponent does poorly at the game of poker. And it happens all the time.

So, despite the impression that some of you might get from reading here every day, the vast majority of the time I get bad beat, I take it in stride, I don't go nuts, and I make specific note of my opponent's bad play such that I can take advantage of the guy at a later date. That is my MO when I get bad beat, plain and simple. And I'm always thinking about what I could have done or can do differently the next time to win these pots. In all, this makes me think I am closer to Stage 3 than anything else. No way I am at Stage 4 -- like I said, not only am I not "indifferent" to taking bad beats, but I'm not even at the point where I think I should be indifferent to a bad beat. I don't even really understand that frame of mind, and I don't see true indifference as even a goal that I ought to be striving for, let alone something I actually attain. So I'm definitely not at Stage 4. But I would classify myself as Stage 3, with some angry/frustrated tendencies still from Stage 1 or 2. Not sure if I'll ever truly not be frustrated or angry at a given bad beat, though believe me when I say I have more than accepted that these are just a part of the game.

If only the poor players didn't get rewarded so often for their poor play against me, I could see true Stage 3 as a real possibility. It's still a constant struggle for me, that is for sure, but I think I am doing ok from this perspective overall after a few years of consistent, solid and regular online and live poker play.

Which stage of dealing with bad beats do you think your game is at?

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Blogger Julius_Goat said...

I am at stage 9, which involves making tiny rips in space/time in order to find the parents of the person who just bad beat me and keep them from ever meeting.

Sure, the butterfly effect is a bitch now that everybody's got tuna fish cans for hands and water is purple, but it +EV for my bankroll in the long run.

11:51 PM  
Blogger Littleacornman said...

Stage 2 and after a few minutes that evolves into stage 3.
Personally I've never raged or got angry at any villain, but I do curse my own bad luck and fight the "poor me,if only I ran as well as other people" type feelings.

1:55 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

I'm moving up the stages and find that when I'm rested and ready, the zen like calmness is amazing. But that can grow thin and soon...the donkey slappin begins...

BTW - Did you see that an article was written about you at

Warning...they actually didn't name you as anything more than "A blogger".

2:13 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

I know the book is not earth shattering, but the advice is good to hear I think. I think its good that we are all reminded that poker is just a game and we are not entitled to win every hand, even when we hold the best of it. There are no "laws" in poker saying, why can't some people run bad forever? If you flip a coin 100 times who's to say it can't hit tails 90 times? This book is well worth the money to me, just for putting poker into perspective.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Oh Captain, my Captain.

The blogger referenced in the pokerlistings article is actually Grubby.

2:29 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said... many blogs, so little time....I was still ticked that no blogger is actually named. Got links to every big named pro that's ever played the hand, but no actual blogger can be named.

2:33 AM  
Blogger WildDuces234 said...

numbers guy had a thought - how I reason with tilt - eventually those Great hands don't hold up. In confidence intervals for a given hand when you are 95 percent sure that you are way ahead, eventually you encounter a Beta error - the error that your data was not accurately reflecting what could happen in the probabilistic event (called a beta). I think this statistical knowledge and very attitude have gotten me through a lot of tough times in poker.

Ps i am blogging again.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Hoy, Happy Thanksgiving.

Ok, now that I got that out of the way... I'm pretty sure I'm at stage 4. Every time someone bad beats me, I usually take notes on them to make sure I know why they bad beated me (yes, I'm aware it's not really a word). In other words, is he a calling station or is he one of those guys that can't let go of a pocket pair (even though the board shows higher cards), etc? But aside from that, I don't really care. It is what it is and I move on fairly quickly. Maybe because in cash, you don't bust out. You just rebuy and now you have additional info (it's not the one and done concept as in tourneys). But again, it's rare that a bad beat tilts me. Now numerous beats in one session might affect me a little but I know that one of my strengths is that bad beats generally just doesn't affect me so I still know to keep playing the way I normally do (whether that's good or bad is a discussion for another day).

2:45 AM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

I first play the hand "inside out" from the villian's perspective.

If it made sense (according to the "books"), then I move on to the next tourney/buy in.

If it didn't then I calmly put some notes like you do and wait to have them dominated for another day.

Then I throw the cat in a Farve-like spiral towards a window.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Alan, would that I could share your approach to poker. Hopefully some day. I know I handle bad beats a whole lot better than I used to, but lord knows I am nowhere near "indifferent" when the shiat hits the fian.

4:44 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

I've been at stage 4 for a couple years now so it is possible for a blogger to be there. Have you ever, ever, seen me put anything close to a rant on my blog? There is a reason to be at stage 4. When you are indifferent to bad beats, they do not effect your game at all in a negative way. If you are not indifferent your game can only get worse and thats just a fact. You game struggles as a result of operating in the Stage 1-3 areas. I would say you are stage one or two at best (easially tiltable). Why focus mentally at all on a bad beat when you could focus on playing your best poker instead. I personally love taking a bad beat, beacuse it is just proof that I am a good player, and nothing else.

If I ever get down on myself at the tables it is becuase of a bad play that I made, and I will be down on myself even if I end up winning the hand I played poorly on. Decisions are all that matter and correct decisions can lead to bad beats a bunch, so don't let it bother you. Strive to be indifferent, and not only will you win more cash, but the game is much more enjoyable.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

Stage two, rising to stage four when I've been on the weed.

10:01 AM  
Blogger SubZero said...

Whether I'm at stage one or stage 4 is entirely dependent on my play for the session.
If I am playing well, I will be in control and a bad beat will cause me only to focus and keep playing well.
If I'm playing badly, it will cause me to get very angry or at least quite frustrated. In the latter situation, I will either tilt for a few hands or rally to play my A-game.

Bad beats are a state-of-mind....

10:04 PM  
Blogger Astin said...

3.5. They generally don't get to me, and notes are made regularly on whoever does it. I'm more annoyed by my own bad plays and calls than those of others.

Then again, I'm slow to anger in most situatations. Just get the fuck out of my way if the rage does hit.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

Hoy, if you have a chance, shoot me an email. Oh, and Happy Turkey Day!

11:49 PM  
Blogger BamBam said...

Happy Thanksgiving Hoy !

12:59 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

which phase leads to immediate need to document on blog?

3:53 AM  
Blogger BigPirate said...

"Certainly there isn't a blogger in our group that I can think of who never gives a cripe at all when they lose to a bad beat following a horrible play by their opponent."


There is no such thing as a bad beat. Whoever coined the term did us all a disservice. Cards are indifferent. They come out in a predictable manner (in an infinite # of hands, X will happen Y% of the time). You can choose to have a bad reaction to a completely rational event but it doesn't seem to help. Try to eliminate things that don't help.

I cry and chant in a dark closet when I lose a hand the odds dictate I win a certain high % of the time. It's no help but it does relieve stress. Maybe you could write about these "bad beats" on your blog. That might help. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving!

10:09 AM  
Blogger Rob1606 said...

Between stage 2 and 3, I guess. I am definitely always second-guessing myself and wondering what I could have done better, but it certainly is frustrating, I guess mostly if it happens a few games in a row.

4:00 PM  
Blogger The Poker Grind said...

hey , im hosting my Bounty tourney on full tilt tonight ( sunday ) at 10pm EST , its $20+2 and password is thepokergrind , i hope to see you there

8:42 AM  

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