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Why Bad Beats Are Important in Poker

Recently poker social media exploded over a hand in the Big One for One Drop Tournament.  After the hand aired on ESPN’s coverage of the event, there was a round of comments on social media by the more recreational players. Comments and discussions of the hand were also heard at poker rooms and kitchen table games.

Connor Drinan $10 million Loss

Worst Bad Beat in the history of poker: Connor Drinan lost $10 million pot despite having pre-flop aces.

A short recap in case you were out of the country or forgot to check in with any of your poker news sources.  The Big One for One Drop is a $1 million buy-in event.  Two players, Connor Drinan and Cary Katz, woke up with Aces pre-flop and both got it all in.  This hand pairing will result in a tie 95% of the time. Two hearts on the flop gave one player a 3.9% shot. A heart on the turn gave him an 18% chance of winning. A heart on the river eliminated Drinan.

Even mainstream media picked up the story.  USA Today called Drinan’s elimination “horrific”.  ESPN’s Lon McEachern said it was “the worst beat in the history of tournament poker.”  To be accurate the Drinan won his seat in a $25K satellite.  Nonetheless he was denied a shot at a big payday by a bad beat.

Poker players know that bad beats will happen. They also have to realize that they are good for the game and necessary for the promotion of poker.  The winner of the hand, Cary Katz, is a recreational player (albeit one with very deep pockets.)  It is specifically outcomes like this and the subsequent publicity that help encourage players to enter the game.  “Bad beats” serve as reinforcement to the “anyone can win” concept of poker.

Bad beats should be even more welcome in cash games, since you can buy more chips as opposed to moving to the rail. Most of the time a bad beat comes about because the winning player played a hand badly and got lucky.  Instead of berating the player for playing badly or going on tilt, you should congratulate the player on the win and know that he will repeat his mistake again. He just received the best reinforcement around; cash.  You just have to be patient.

Bad beats also play a prominent role in promoting poker.  There is virtually no news value in Phil Ivey or Daniel Negreanu winning a tournament.  The poker boom would never have happened if Chris Moneymaker had not drawn out on Phil Ivey in the 2003 WSOP when Ivey turned a full house and was 83% to end Moneymaker’s dream run.

The only real solace Connor Drinan can take from his bad beat is that more people know the young poker pros name than they did previously, even with his more than $1 million in live tournament cashes.  The next time it is our turn for a bad beat the rest of us need to remember they are good for the game.

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