General Gaming
By Charles Jay

Some years ago, there was a basketball bettor I knew who had made a wager on a Sunday televised game, taking the home team and giving up (laying) six points. The home club was ahead by five points when one of its players was fouled in the act of shooting, literally at the final buzzer. The road team was in the “penalty” situation, which meant that the opponent was going to have extra foul shots. Thus, and as it was in those days in the NBA, the player who was fouled had three chances to make two foul shots.

It was actually a pretty bizarre scene. Since time had run out, and the winner had been decided, the player was all alone on the court, with everyone else having departed for the locker room.

Nonetheless, my friend was feeling pretty good at that point, because the player going to the free throw line was shooting close to 90%. He needed to make one of the three shots to force a “push” (or tie) and if he hit two shots in his three chances, my friend would win the game. Well, by now, you must know what happened.

The guy missed all three free throws.

That is the perfect illustration of what we call a BAD BEAT.

I guess the most simple definition of a “bad beat” is one that happens to YOU. But the more clinical definition is that it is a situation where you have a very high expectation of winning, and something comes out of nowhere to take that win away from you. It sometimes happens in dramatic fashion. And you are left feeling helpless.

Maybe some of this has happened to you several times. If it has, I feel your pain. And how’s THIS for pain – you’re at the Hold’em table, with a pair of aces in the hole. You FLOP an ace, so you figure you’re in excellent shape. Somebody else at the table has drawn a two and a four. A five comes out on the flop alongside your ace, then it’s the three and the six on the river and Fifth Street respectively, and all of a sudden you’re losing to the straight.

There goes your money.

It can get worse after that.

Suffering a “bad beat” can have devastating residual effects. You know that there is no way in the world you should have lost, for one thing. So you are angry beyond measure. You feel as if you are at the mercy of the gambling gods, who are undoubtedly against you. To top it off, if it’s at a poker table, for example, the player who beat you is probably ecstatic, and showing it. That would piss anybody off.

It’s like having the air sucked out of you, and beyond that, it represents a significant swing in your bankroll. If you had $200 invested in a pot, for example, and there is five times that in the middle, you have a negative swing of $1200. There is no underestimating the potential psychological effects of something like this. Experiencing a bad beat can rattle you to an extent that you are still thinking about it many hands, or many hours, down the road. That invariably affects your play.

You’re not a freak. It’s human nature. So what can you do about it, to prevent the after-effects from happening in the future?

Well, one of the things you can do is to RATIONALIZE what has just happened to you. You know you didn’t get beat because you weren’t good enough, or because you did something wrong, but because you were beaten by horrible, awful luck. It is very important that you take the pressure off yourself this way.

INTELLECTUALIZE your situation. In games like blackjack, poker, even sports betting, where you have the chance to overcome house odds with skill, you must understand and believe that your skill can win out in the long run. An example – often the best player at the poker table can win out over the others over the course of time. Are you confident you’re the best? Then don’t worry about bad beats in the long run.

If you are a Basic Strategy blackjack player or a card counter – in other words, if you are very skilled – you know that things operate as a long-term proposition and that things work themselves out in the direction of the skill player over the long haul.

UNDERSTAND the pattern of events. You are going to win by way of someone else’s bad beat as much as you’ll lose by your own. No, the forces aren’t against you. Maybe it will even have the effect where in future pots, those other players will “give” you more money when they think they have a winning hand, but don’t.

If all else fails, maybe a good idea would be to TAKE A BREAK and get your head together while you take stock of the above methods for dealing with bad beats.

Then go back out there and go get ’em.

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