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Bad Beat Lesson: Don't Be Blinded by Good Hand

5 June 2006

There are bad beats, and there are bad beats. They happen, and everyone has a bad beat story to tell. And the ones that happen to you early on, when you're first starting to learn poker, are the ones you hopefully learn the most from. This is what happened to me when I first started playing Texas Hold'em.

I was dealt a pair of queens. I raised the big blind because I wanted to weed out players that had drawing hands and to get money into the pot from those players committed to seeing the flop (the first three community cards).

Only a couple of players folded, but when the dealer flopped a queen and a pair of 8s, I had a full house. An excellent hand, so I bet. The queen on the board and my bet were enough to cause everyone to fold except one player; he just called. The turn brought a card that I can't remember now. It was something that couldn't hurt me, so I bet again. And my opponent called again.

What was he thinking? He had to know that the least I had was top two pair and most likely the full house. I still can't remember what card showed up on the river, but that's when he bet. But why? My full house beat any possible straight or flush, and it was the highest full house possible. I raised his bet, and he re-raised. By now, I was sweating, so I just called and turned over my pocket queens.

Most of you have probably guessed why my opponent was so confident - he had not one 8 in the hole but two. His four-of-a-kind beat my full house. What hurt so much was that I never saw it coming. Every poker book in the world tries to hammer home the idea that you absolutely must learn to read the board and figure out which possible hands could beat your own.

And I had even read that chapter three times.

But I do have kind of a lame defense. The odds of being dealt a pair of anything are 220-to-1 against it. That's almost half a percent. That means that it's a relatively rare occurrence, and the odds against two players being dealt pocket pairs are even higher. True, I had considered the possibility but had also dismissed the idea almost immediately.

Okay, that was the first lesson I learned that day - read the board and don't be so focused on your own good hand that you're blind to other scenarios.

The second lesson was to beware of callers. Normally, you think of a player that simply calls all the time, never betting or raising, as a passive player. He's the kind that will stay until the end, hoping to just draw a straight or flush on the river. Sometimes it works, but more often a "calling station" will lose more than he wins. But the player I was up against was not that kind of player, and I should have known something was wrong.

According to Bill Burton in "Get the Edge at Low-Limit Texas Hold'em," (www.billburton.com), "You need a stronger hand to call a raise than you do to initiate one." That concept was difficult for me to comprehend until that fateful day. But now I know it means that someone with the strongest hand possible doesn't have to worry about scaring other players to fold. A strong player wants others to stay in and contribute to the pot.

My opponent already had four 8s with the flop and knew that I likely had pocket queens because I bet after seeing that third queen. The only thing that could beat him was the fourth queen showing up on the turn or river (which would have won the bad beat jackpot for him), and when it didn't, then he became the aggressor. And this little fly ventured into the spider's parlor.

But the third lesson I learned that day is probably the most important. And it has been the hardest one for me to incorporate into my play. I'll have to save that one for next week.

Until then, aces and faces to you.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com