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Bad Beats in Online Draw

A hold'em player bemoans his fate when his A-K loses to A-Q, and calls it a bad beat. Depending on exact cards, the A-K was maybe a 3-to-1 favorite. I don’t think that qualifies. Now, ifMichael WiesenbergMichael Wiesenberg made his living playing poker for 10 years before turning to a career as a writer. His books include 'Free Money: How to Win in the Cardrooms of California'; 'The Dictonary of Poker', and 'The Ultimate Casino Guide.  Check out his writings on everything online draw poker!  your opponent needs runner-runner perfect-perfect to win, that qualifies. For example, you have Ts Th with a board of Ts Tc Ad and your opponent has Jd Jh. Or you have Ts Th with a board of Ts Tc Ad and your opponent has 2d 3d. The odds against losing either of those are 989-to-1. That’s the worst beat that can happen in hold’em, and you hardly ever see it. It actually happens less often than the figures would indicate because even when the potential for such an occurrence arises, many players would fold before ever seeing the turn card. So, with those two exceptions — and they’re basically the same — most hold’em “bad” beats are in the range of 2- or 3-to-1.

Draw poker, though, can have some truly unlikely events. These have all happened to me in online draw.

PlayEmAll, one of the biggest live ones in the draw games, opened. I had three aces, and naturally raised. The others folded to Me22 in the big blind, who came in for the extra bet.

Here’s what I had observed about these two. PlayEmAll literally did. That is, he came in with any pair, any come hand (including any inside straight), and often three cards to a straight or flush (and always with a cathop, that is, three to a straight flush). Sometimes he came in with a bare ace or A-K. He often would play these hands even if the pot were raised when it got to him. I never tried to bluff him, because he would sometimes call after the draw with as little as a small pair. PlayEmAll usually bet his hands after the draw. That is, he might check-raise after the draw, but that was a rare occurrence. Me22 was somewhat tighter. He played most pairs and most come hands (but generally not inside straights, unless for “free” — that is, if he had the big blind and the pot wasn’t raised he might draw to an inside straight). He did not play small pairs in raised pots, unless he had limped to begin with or he had the big blind. He might check-raise a big hand after the draw, but was more likely to straightforwardly bet his hand.

Me22 drew three cards. PlayEmAll drew three cards. I drew one card. Against these two, I wanted to disguise my hand, because PlayEmAll might call after the draw with a small pair against a one-card draw, but he might not against a two-card draw, and Me22 was more likely to call after checking if he thought I might have missed a come hand. This decreased my chances of improving, but I was a huge favorite against two three-card draws, since neither could win by making trips.

After the draw, Me22 and PlayEmAll both checked. I did not improve, but was still odds-on to have the best hand, so naturally I bet. Me22 check-raised. I put him on trips at this point and fully planned on reraising, but then PlayEmAll reraised. Whoops! What’s going on here? I had never seen PlayEmAll put in excessive action after the draw with less than a complete hand, so my hand suddenly became a loser. I reluctantly clicked the fold button, momentarily wishing I had drawn two cards, to increase my chances of improving. You can’t play results, though; I had made the right play.

Me22 capped the betting and PlayEmAll called. Me22 showed queens full and PlayEmAll showed four deuces. I had been beaten by both players. I lose in that situation less than 3 percent of the time. (Not that it mattered, but I would be beaten in two spots in that situation less than 1 time in 5,775.) I’m close to a 36-to-1 favorite on the pot. Separately, against either player, I’m a 75-to-1 favorite.

Both players had played terribly, by the way. If I had had two pair less than about 10s up, I would not have bet when they checked and they would have looked silly checking those hands — particularly PlayEmAll when he discovered Me22’s hand. More than 95 percent of the time either player should make at least one big bet by not checking. In fact, given my hand, either player should make at least four big bets by betting.

Typical draw confrontations range from a low of 3-to-1 (pair against pair) in favor of the better hand to 11-to-1 (two pair against two pair). Less-common but still typical matchups are worse for the underdog.

Here are some I lost as the favorite.

I had a pat full house, J-J-J-7-7 on the big blind. CallAllBets limped in the small blind, and I raised. CallAllBets called and drew three cards. CallAllBets checked. I bet. CallAllBets check-raised. Nice, I thought, because I had seen him do this with three of a kind against a pat hand on more than one occasion. I reraised. CallAllBets capped the betting. Of course I called, and still was not worried. He showed his four fives. Sheesh. I had been better than a 250-to-1 favorite. He could win only by making queens, kings, or aces full or four of a kind.

I had two kings in the little blind. Jimbo333 limped from the cutoff. The button folded. I raised, because Jimbo333 limped with any pair, and I was a huge favorite to have the better hand. In fact, since he normally raise-opened with aces and limped with smaller pairs and come hands, I was probably better than a 15-to-1 favorite. (That’s a guess, but it’s close. Eleven pairs were worse than mine, and he should have a come hand maybe a third of the time he came in.) TRex called in the big blind. That didn’t worry me too much. Since he was getting 5-to-1 to put in one more bet, he could be playing with any pair, so I was probably better than a 12-to-1 favorite on him. I make those odds less favorable for me because many players just call the extra bet in that spot with aces or two pair. Everyone drew three cards. I caught a third king. I bet. TRex called. Well, I had him beat. Any three-card draw that beat three kings would surely raise. I wouldn’t have been unhappy to see a raise, because my hand was a huge favorite at that point. If either player had raised, I would have reraised. Jimbo333 folded. I showed my hand, and was mentally stacking the pot when TRex showed that he had made a three-card flush — with no ace or king in it! I mention this for several reasons. One is that TRex is a fairly tight player. He normally would not call on the big blind in a raised pot without a pair. Once in awhile you see a loose player who calls in that spot with A-K suited, but TRex had not had anywhere near that good. And then, having made that miracle draw, all he did was call. I suppose he had been looking for the overcall, but that’s just plain silly. He’s taking a chance on maybe getting one more bet when it’s much more likely he can get that same extra bet—and maybe two more—by raising. Oh, yes, the odds against making a three-card flush are about 111-to-1. The odds against beating my hand with any remarkable draw once I’ve made three kings are “only” about 42-to-1. But the situational odds are actually worse, because I would think that less than 1 time in 100 would a player make such a draw and then only call a three-card draw in a raised pot. So I think the proper odds against this exact situation arising (making a complete hand by drawing to two suited cards and then not raising after having made a miracle hand) are more like about 4,000-to-1.

Twice I have seen the following happen. Fortunately, it didn’t happen to me. Both players drew three cards and both made quads. Now that’s a truly bad beat for the guy that made the smaller four of a kind, and it should happen less often than once in 250,000 confrontations between two players.

I don’t know how many times I have started with trips and been beaten by a three-card draw when the opponent started with a smaller pair than my trips. That is, he could win only by making a full house or four of a kind and then only when I didn’t also improve. I’m nearly an 80-to-1 favorite in that situation.

Of course, I’m not always the recipient of the bad beats. I have put plenty on players myself. I recently won a nice pot this way. XIdMary raise-opened. WeakneeWilly called. I had the big blind and Q-Q-3-3. I reraised, because I knew that XIdMary would come in for a raise with any hand about a pair of kings or better, and there were a lot more hands worse than mine than better that she could be holding. WeakneeWilly could have almost anything. His coming in didn’t really affect my play. He would call a raise cold with about a pair of jacks or better, and also any come hand, so, the number of hands worse than mine than better that he could be holding was even larger than the possibilities for XIdMary. If he had a really good hand, he would have reraised before it got to me. XIdMary and WeakneeWilly both called my reraise. Everyone drew one card. It was my intention to check at that point, because of the danger of being raised and the possibility of already being beat. But I caught a 3 to fill up, and bet. Both called and I took the pot. I looked later at the hand history. XIdMary had had K-K-J-J and WeakneeWilly had had three deuces. Being mostly a calling station, he had just called the original raise and then my reraise, and then, since he always draws one card to trips, he followed his usual pattern. The odds against my winning the pot had been about 10-to-1. I had drawn out on both of them. I could have made a full house and still lost. And I could have beat one improved hand but not the other. Also, WeakneeWilly had cost himself that pot. Had he reraised at his first opportunity, I would not even have played, because I knew that for him to put in the third bet at that point he needed at least trips (and not small trips, as evidenced by his original call of first the opening raise and then my reraise). I would not have come in knowing I was that much of an underdog.

Recently I had a pat full house, 7s full of 10s, when another player had a pat hand. When the smoke cleared, with the betting capped both before and after the draw, I lost to a hand that just shaved me, 8s full. In the five-handed game, my hand was a 117-to-1 favorite before the draw. It’s hard to quantify typical draws, but if you figure them in, I was still probably a 50-to-1 favorite to have the winner after the draw. And even given that I was facing another pat hand, I was still a 5-to-1 favorite.

Now, mind you, I’m not complaining. In all of the instances that I had those bad beats I still managed to maintain my win rate of over five big bets per hour.

This article originally appeared in Card Player Magazine.  © 2006 Michael Wiesenberg.
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