Friday, March 21, 2008

Learning from a Bad Beat

Many poker players have complete disdain and contempt for the so called donkey or fish that we often come across during our games. My simple philosophy is let them play! Why? Let’s reflect for a moment.

Recall with me that last time someone sucked out on you with a hand they should have never been playing in your opinion. For me, it was a guy playing junk who called my respectable raise of 400 while the blinds were at 50/100 while I was holding A-K suited in hearts early in a tournament last week. He was on the button and one player entered the pot in mid-position pre-flop and the button called. I raised to 400 and got the big blind to fold and the player in middle position called along with the button.

The flop came and it was Kd-9c-Jd. I thought the two players in the pot might have hit, or even been looking at a diamond flush and with 1300 in the pot I decided a check raise would be appropriate to send my opponents scrambling. I checked and the player behind me checked to the button who bet 600 which I viewed as a feeler bet and cheap attempt at stealing the pot – so I answered with a raise to 2600. The middle position player folded leaving me and the button heads up. He thought about it long and hard, and then called.

I couldn’t figure out what he had, but thought he might have a pocket pair and clearly stated that I thought he should fold through my bet. He was the button and could have come into the hand with any number of cards, but I did not put him on much strength since he was only following in my opinion. I thought he might have just matched the board. The turn came and it was another Jack. I thought about 3 of a kind and a boat…he had to have a hand, right? I checked and he went all in for his remaining 1600 and I thought about it, and then called based on what was showing and the pot odds (1600 to win 9500 - almost 6 to 1) and knew I had top two pair on the board with an Ace kicker. I flip over my A-K and he flops over 9-6 off suit. His explanation – he simply didn’t believe me. He is way behind and is 4.5% to win. The river comes and it is the 9h vaulting his trailing hand to the winning hand. I am left with 1800 chips.

Now, reflect how you would react to this scenario? Would you yell, would you call him a donkey, declare him lucky, fume, or go on tilt? Let me tell you what I did. I congratulated my opponent on winning the hand and moved on.

Why would you do that one might ask? It is simple. I firmly believe that if you put your chips in the pot you have every right to win. Poker is a game of situations and even though you may call a situation right and get your chips in with the best hand things do happen – that is the gambling part. One of the things I do when I take a loss on a bad beat is I tell myself I doubled up and that I played that hand well to keep me from tilting. Was it a great play by him – no - but he was willing to risk his tournament life on a semi-bluff when I had clearly stated my position of strength. Post turn he had a 4.5% chance of hitting his boat. He was taking an extreme risk that his 9’s and J’s were good and at the same time putting his tournament life at stake. In hindsight I would make the same play again but with his odds of 4.5% do you think he would? Would you? I wouldn’t call the guy that beat me on that hand a donkey or a fish, but as usual he had a mass amount of chips and because his play was consistently like the one I lost to him on he didn’t make it past the break. I see that as the main difference in API between the players I consistently see at final tables and those that I just see at API.

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