How to Avoid Bad Beats

The art of laying down monster hands is one of the toughest skills to learn in poker.  It doesn’t tell you in your poker books how to avoid the bad beat.  Let’s face it, if there was a system for eliminating near-nuts beats from your game, the guy who creates it would be unstoppable.  I won’t claim to be that guy here, but I’ll discuss some theory around how you may be able to sniff out a monster or two.


If you’re a sound player, you limit most of your starting hands to premium hands.  Big pocket pairs and two cards over ten.  Maybe you play ace suited and suited connectors as well.  A common hand would consist of you playing your big cards aggressively and an opponent or two looking to hit a flop.  You pre-flop raise your premium hands to eliminate the jokers.  After a flop you would look to be sitting with top pair solid kicker, or an over pair.


Let’s say you have Ah,Kd and the flop comes Ac,10s,9s.  Once you bet out your lead and get callers, you need to figure out why those opponents called your large bet.  The board shows two spades and possible straight draw.  If the turn completes any of these possibilities – Q,K,J,8, or any spade – you could be in trouble.  It’s my opinion that many players are too attached to suited cards and I would be more afraid of the spade than the straight card. They must have had something in order to have called your pre-flop raise.


So the turn drops a spade. Let’s say Ks.  Now what do you do?  The only thing you can do in this situation is to bet.  Bet as much as you’re willing to lose in this hand.  The fact that you now have two pair is minimal, it would only help you if your opponent had two pair, say A,10 or A,9.  If your opponent calls your bet you’re on thin ice.  If they have the flush, most will slow play it in this situation.  If you get raised it is very possible to be a bluff, but I would still put it down.  Even if my opponent hasn’t hit the flush, all the other outs are still there.  Not to mention the possibility of trips, which they easily could have because they called your pre-flop raise.


So the river is a brick and you are forced to check.  Your opponent puts in a good size bet.  It’s unlikely that you have the best hand and you should not spend any more money on this hand.


Let’s say you have the same cards, Ah,Kd.  The flop comes Ac,9s,2d.  Now things are different.  No flush draw and any straight draw would mean a terrible pre-flop raise call.  3,4 or 5,3 are unlikely.  Any answered aggression would mean you have to be up against trips, or A,9 or A,2 suited. 

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The other side of the coin is your gut.  You made pre-flop raise, an ace hit the board and you bet it twice.  If you still have an opponent in there you should be getting that little feeling.  Spiderman was in tune with this feeling.  You know the one I mean, that feeling of when you know you’re beat.  That feeling that warns us of danger. Follow that feeling and don’t look back.  That feeling will save you more money than any poker book.


I play a counting system with myself.  Every time I fold a big hand because I smell doom, I count plus-one.  If I talk myself into a call and take the beat, it’s a minus-one.  I know I have to try and keep my number above zero, so it forces me to wait for very aggressive opponents where I will find a higher percentage of bluffs. 


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