Bad beat: often a matter of degree in poker

May 5, 2009 5:08 PM
by George “The Engineer” Epstein |

No one wins all the time. And there are hands we should have won, but didn’t.

It was a loose $3-$6 limit hold’em game at the Hustler Casino. Over time, the texture of the table had changed from slightly aggressive – an occasional pre-flop raise – to very aggressive with lots of raising throughout the hand. That’s a game where you can make big money if and when you connect.

In the under-the-gun position, I looked down at Q-J of clubs; lots of possibilities. And it readily meets our Hold’em Algorithm criterion for early position. I called the blind bet which was then raised by two opponents. I called, only to have to put up yet another bet when the betting was capped – three raises maximum. The flop was super!

I had top pair plus a draw to the Queen-high flush. The big blind bet. I decided to just call so as not to force anyone out, hoping to make a big pot if I made the flush. I felt good about my prospects. Lots of outs … five opponents in the pot. There was a raise and re-raise. I called.

The turn was the deuce of clubs, giving me the flush. Wow! I bet out and was raised by two very loose opponents. I capped the betting with the third raise. Four opponents stayed to see the river. It was a monster pot.

I prayed to the poker gods not to pair the board – which could make a full-house possible – and not to put out another club, which would make an A or K of clubs the winner. My prayers were answered. The river was a small diamond.

Now I bet for value, quite certain I held the winning hand. I was raised by a player across the table. Thinking I had the best hand, I re-raised, going all-in. He called. I turned up my hand, expecting him to muck his cards. Instead he showed the A-K of clubs for the nut flush! I was devastated.

Was it a Bad Beat?

Should I have allowed for the possibility that an opponent might have a higher flush than my Q-high? What were the odds that he would hold two clubs including either the A or K of clubs?

The probability of his being dealt the A or K of clubs is about 4 out of 52; that’s 7.7%. The odds of his having a second club – considering I held two clubs, he held one, and the board had three more – is about 7 out of 44; that’s 16%. Therefore we can expect my opponent to have A (or K) plus another club just 1.2% (that’s 7.7% x 16%) of the time.

So 98.8% of the time he will not have it. The odds are 98.8/1.2 = 82-to-1 against it. A huge longshot! It is usually accepted that it’s a bad beat when the odds are 20-to-1 or more against. Yes, I guess you would have to call this a very bad beat!

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