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Bad Beats Abound in Both Poker and Blackjack

16 May 2008

By Fred Renzey

It hadn't happened to me in quite a while. I was playing two hands of blackjack and was dealt 20 on my first hand and 7/4 on my second. The dealer had an 8 up. I doubled down on the 11 and bought a 9 to make another 20.

The dealer turned over 3 in the hole and the rest of the story goes into the "bad beat" column. I had pulled an 8-to-1 shot to lose with 20 to a dealer's 8 up. The fact that I had two 20s didn't change the odds any, but it hurt three times as much.

While we're on bad beat stories, here's a Limit Texas Hold'em hand I got lucky with and won a while back. I was dealt pocket Queens and raised coming in. An aggressive player re-raised in late position and I called.

The flop came Jack high with two small unsuited cards. I liked the flop, bet it and got called. The turn card (fourth card) was a deuce. I again bet and this time, got raised. I made a questionable call. The river card was an immaculate Queen, making me a set of Queens.

I checked, my opponent bet and I check-raised. He called. I showed my Queens and he disgustedly threw his loser face-up across the table. What did he show? He had pocket Jacks. He had flopped a set of Jacks and all I did was hit the 21-to-1 shot at the river to "bad-beat" him.

In poker, the longshots are more extreme than in blackjack. The worst beat you can ever take on a blackjack hand is losing with 20 against an 8 up, as I did in the opening tale of woe above. That's due to all the times the dealer will be pat with a 9, 10 or Ace in the hole, giving her relatively few opportunities to draw out to 21. Even when you have 20 against a 6, you're just a 5.5-to-1 favorite to win it.

Lots of other blackjack hands that players think they should almost always win are really far from a sure thing. When you have a powerful 11 against a wimpy 6, for example, you're merely a 2-to-1 favorite. That means you'll lose the hand one out of three times.

With 10 against a dealer's deuce, it may surprise you to learn that you're only a 3-to-2 favorite. And when you have 17 against a 5 – sorry – you're actually a small underdog in the hand.

The worst beat I ever saw in either poker or blackjack came when I was watching a Texas Hold'em tournament I'd just gotten knocked out of. Pocket 8s went all in against pocket Aces before the flop. An Ace came on the flop giving one player three Aces against the pocket 8s.

How could trip Aces possibly lose? There was only one way. An 8 came on both the turn and the river, and Aces full were beaten by four 8s. There's an unbelievable 990-to-1 shot for you.

Below are some poker bad beats of the more common variety that you're likely to sustain when you play:

2 pair beats 1 pair: In Hold'em, you flop the top pair with something like A/K when an Ace flops, but you end up losing to A/7 when a 7 comes on the turn or the river – a 7-to-1 shot.

Flush over Flush: You have two medium-size spades in the hole and the flop contains two spades, giving you a 4-flush. The turn brings a third spade to complete your flush and life is good. Then, a fourth spade comes at the river and somebody with an unsuited Ace of spades beats you with a higher flush – a 5-to-1 shot.

Getting Counterfeited: You have A/2/K/Q in Omaha Hi/Lo. On the turn, the board has three low cards such as 4-7-J-8, giving you the "nut low". Then the river brings an Ace or a deuce and you lose to an Ace/3 or a 2/3 – a 6-to-1 shot.

There are an endless number of bad beat stories – everybody's got one. It's all part of the game.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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