Few things are more annoying at the poker table than being on the receiving end of a bad beat. You get it all in with the best hand yet the cards conspire against you. It can be soul-crushing and may derail a session entirely if not handled properly. Read our top tips for effectively dealing with bad beats and take your game to the next level.

A man looks frustrated and upset when faced with a Royal Flush of diamonds. Poker chips are stacked around the table, along with alcohol and cigarettes.
Dealing with bad luck at the poker table is a critical element of the game; it is no different from understanding bankroll management, position, or ranges.

Prepare Properly Ahead of Time

The bulk of this article will be about dealing with bad beats once they’ve happened. But, in truth, most of the battle is in your head. And it starts before you even sit at the poker table. Coming into a game with the correct mindset is key. If you’re stressed about events away from poker or you’re simply in a bad mood, you’re less likely to be able to handle a suckout.

Avoid playing when you’re struggling with a relationship, bills, or a job. If you have to play, do whatever works for you in order to clear your head. Meditate, practice yoga, take a nap, pray, etc. This is a highly personal thing and will vary for everyone. All you have to make sure is that you’re in the right frame of mind before a hand is even dealt.

Understand That Bad Beats Are Part of Poker

Bad beats are going to happen. Just like death and taxes, it’s a certainty that players are going to be massive favorites and still lose some of the time. It’s vital that you acknowledge this, understand it, and accept the facts. It will help you to stay emotionally balanced.

Imagine if you went all-in during preflop with A(Spade)-A(Diamond) against 6(Heart)-5(Club). What a fantastic spot that would be. But the underdog here would still win 19.21% of the time. Run that hand 100 times and you’re going to lose 19 of them!

If you are able to keep a sense of perspective, it will be much easier to handle bad beats. Another trick that might help is to simply laugh it off. Reframe the negativity in your mind as something light-hearted.

Also, when you benefit from a bad beat, call it out. Tell everyone at the table what happened, even if they saw it. Hammer it home. You don’t need to apologize as it’s just a part of the game. However, calling yourself out as having benefited from a suckout will help you avoid future bias. Instead of focusing on the negative whenever you receive a bad beat, you’ll remember things in a more balanced way.

Respond the Right Way

When a bad beat occurs, it’s important to remain calm. Remember that keeping a positive mindset and a sense of perspective is everything. At the end of the day, we’re all human and emotions can get the better of us. But you have to fight it and avoid tilting.

This is another subjective area where everyone will have their own personal tricks to stay focused. Do whatever you can. Perhaps it’s a case of stepping away from the table for a short break. Get some fresh air, smoke a cigarette, stretch, make a phone call; do what you need to do to forget about it.

If you remain at the table, it’s probably a good idea to tighten up a little. Don’t get rash when you might be emotionally unbalanced. Avoid entering pots with speculative hands. When you do play, try to control the pot size.

Do everything you can to prevent negativity from poisoning your mindset. Go to your happy place. Count your blessings. You’re lucky that you have disposable income to play your favorite game when others are living in poverty. Think about your family and friends. It might sound trite, but one’s mentality is everything when dealing with bad beats.

Realise That You Played the Hand Well

Ultimately, for someone to have sucked out on you, you must have got the chips in way ahead. So what more do you want? Isn’t that why we play poker in the first place? All you ever hope for is to find yourself on the verge of winning a big pot with a monster hand. You found that spot? Good job! Keep doing that and you’re a winning player.

Be sure to study the hand after the session to make sure that it really was a bad beat. Are you sure you didn’t just play it badly? Stay humble and be honest with yourself. Don’t be arrogant. Discuss the hand with your friends, which is what you should always do when trying to improve your poker game. This will help you to move on, and at the same time, it will also give you a sense of perspective.

If your opponent really did suck out on you, remember that bad beats are good for the poker ecosystem. Fish wouldn’t take on talented players if they didn’t have an element of luck to rely on. What is it that Phil Hellmuth said?–“I guess if there weren’t luck involved, I’d win ’em all.”


Bad beats aren’t fun, but they’re an inevitability. Dealing with them effectively is just part of becoming a winning poker player. Ultimately, handling a suckout is a skill to be mastered. It’s no different to bankroll management, understanding position, or constructing hand ranges. Work on it and you’ll improve with practice.

Now that you have learned how to deal with bad beats, are you ready to tackle the world of poker? Sign up for a free account at Natural8 and show the world what you are made of.