Was this really a Bad Beat in the World Series of Poker?

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If you play much poker, you are bound to experience a Bad Beat – at least what you regard as one.

According to Michael Wiesenberg’s The Official Dictionary of Poker, a Bad Beat is “the situation in which a strong hand is beaten by a long shot or improbable hand, particularly when the holder of the eventual winning hand should never have been in the pot in the first place…”

Was this a bad beat?

In Thomas Green’s new book, Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook, he describes a hand played in the 2008 World Series of Poker that was labeled a Bad Beat. (The book is available through www.poker-textbook.com.)

In a middle position, Mabuchi had pocket Aces. On the Button, Phillips held K(diamond)-J (diamond) . The flop was A-9-Q rainbow, including the Q (diamond) giving Phillips three diamonds plus a draw to Ace-high straight. Meanwhile, Mabuchi had connected for a set of Aces! The turn brought the 10 (diamond) , giving Phillips an Ace-high straight against Mabuchi’s set of Aces. Phillips also had a draw to a Royal Straight Flush, needing the A (diamond) …

Also, the 9 (diamond) would give him King-high Straight Flush. When the A (diamond) fell on the river, Mabuchi must have been ecstatic with his Quad Aces. Little did he know that Phillips now had a Royal Straight Flush. Mabuchi bet; Phillips raised. Then Mabuchi went all-in. Phillips called, taking the huge pot and eliminating Mabuchi from the tournament – even while holding Quad Aces!

Was this really a Bad Beat?

I asked Green this question. His response (in part): “Mabuchi started with what is considered the best starting hand in poker and improved it to the max, but still lost. I call that a bad beat.” Makes sense, but…

On the turn, Mabuchi was behind. Remember, Phillips had just made a straight, which Mabuchi could only suspect. Mabuchi had eight outs to make a winning hand with a full-house against Phillips’ straight. He might have counted the remaining A (diamond) and the 9 (diamond) but they really weren’t true outs since either would give his opponent a Straight Flush.

With eight outs and the river card yet to come, the probability that Mabuchi would beat out Phillips’ straight was 17.4% – as shown in a chart in Green’s book. The odds were almost 5-1 against – a long shot! The A (diamond) on the river gave Mabuchi Quad Aces, but Phillips made a Royal Straight Flush – the best hand in poker!

Did Mabuchi really suffer a Bad Beat?

After all, Phillips was in the lead on the turn with his Ace-high straight against Mabuchi’s three Aces. Mabuchi was an underdog to win the pot on the river. While the A (diamond) improved both hands, Phillips kept the lead.

Here’s a Bad Beat I suffered about a year ago in a limit game. In late position, with hole cards of A (spade) -10 (spade) , the flop brought two more of my suit. Then, on the turn, the 8 (spade) gave me the Ace-high flush – the NUT flush! There were three opponents in the pot against me, including a very pleasant middle-aged woman across the table from me. The board showed:

5 (spade) – 7 (spade) – K (Heart) – 8 (spade).

With no pairs on the board, a full-house was not possible. I loved my hand and contemplated winning a healthy pot. Then the river brought the 4 (spade). I should have been more cautious. After the lady checked, confident in the strength of my nut flush, I bet out. Surprise! She raised… I quickly re-raised, she raised back!

Now I paused to study the board more carefully. If she held the 6 (spade), her straight flush would beat my nut flush. Hoping she had a lesser hand, I called. She turned up pocket 6s, one of which was the 6 (spade)!

Now that’s really a Bad Beat.

Only one card could beat my hand. The odds that she held it were over 40-1 in my favor. Actually, with the 6 (spade) in the hole, she had two outs – the 9 (spade) and the 4 (spade) – over a 20-1 long shot. No matter how you look at it, I had suffered a Bad Beat…

Comments? George “The Engineer” Epstein can be contacted at [email protected]


About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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