Here’s a weird fact for you – Without bad beats, no tournament, free online poker or otherwise will finish. This might seem a rather nonsensical proposition about the nature of poker tournaments, after all, preflop, for example, isn’t it a prevalent belief that all-in players with A-K should win against callers with A-Q? And isn’t it that players who move all-in with 8-8 should win against callers with A-K? And isn’t it that players with A-A should win all the time?
Not at all. The 100% faith we have in these hands does not turn out to be 100% at all.
First, let us make a hypothetical poker tournament where players who move all-in preflop will decide their hands preflop.
Thus A-K is beat against 2-2, there and then preflop. A-K beats A-Q. And A-A beats everything.
Can you see how many callers there will be?
Callers will have to wait for premium hands before calling, and that will prolong the poker tournament.
Bad beats are some of the anomalies present in a poker tournament to shorten it.
Going back to out 100% faith in A-K against A-Q, our faith should not be 100% at all.
It should be 75% only, because A-K is beat by A-Q the remaining 25% of the time.
And with so many players who move all-in with A-K, a caller with A-x should win 25% of the time.
If 50 players in the tournament move all-in with A-K and 50 callers call with Ace-lower, isn’t it expected that 1/4 of 50, or about 13 players, should get eliminated?
On pocket pairs against A-K, it is almost a coin flip.
It could be decided approximately by just flipping an actual coin.
In the long run, pocket pairs win, however, because of a slight edge.
But this does not mean that 8-8 will always win against A-K.
If 8-8 winning against A-K is an approximately 55-to-45 (or 11-to-9) favorite, then there are almost as many players winning an all-in with a small pair against two overcards as players knocked out in the tournament in the same situation.
The knocked out players should not fret; it’s the laws of probability that are hanging.
When a player wants to avoid bad beats, of course that player will wait for premium hands. But waiting for premium hands will considerably diminish the player’s stack because of blinding out.
That player should move all-in, at some time, or else suffer the oblivion of blinding out. But moving all-in does not guarantee a double-up; it is just a way of trying to restore your stack to a comfortable level. Bad beats must abound.
Here is a last note: Bad beats exist not only preflop, but also postflop.
Say Player X has 8-8 and Player Y has 7-6 in a board of 5-8-4-A.
Player X flopped a Set but Player Y hits a Straight.
If Player Y moves all-in and X calls, then Y’s win is not assured yet.
X can still pair the Board for a Full House or Quads.
And if X does pair the board, we can call it a bad beat.
And it doesn’t matter what their stack sizes are. Both players may be above chip average, with Y having less chips than X. So bad beats are ways to ensure speedy tournaments by eliminating anybody, short-stack or players at the top of the pack.
I hope this was thought provoking. The underlying message being that you should not assume that certain cards will always win, that’s simply impossible. Plus bad beats really are not bad luck, it’s just that you’ve been picked out by the laws of probability to have a bad beat!
With that said, think about some of the examples above. You can’t avoid bad beats 100% but by understanding probability in poker you can reduce your risk and exposure to them by either folding certain types of hand more often, not going all-in or betting less so that if it does go bad you don’t get taken out.
But at the end of the day the only way to avoid bad beats 100% is not to play poker! So hopefully when they come your bad beat games are on free online poker tables rather than in mortgage sized WSOP games!