One of the hardest things to deal with when you are playing low stakes cash games is all of the bad beats. When you are playing against people who like to call a lot and chase wild draws, it only makes sense that you are going to face more suckouts on the river.
As somebody who has played millions of hands at the lowest stakes online, I know the feeling all too well. I sometimes (half) jokingly tell people that I have probably taken more bad beats than anyone in history!
In this article I am going to give you a few tips on how I deal with all of the bad beats and suckouts that you necessarily will encounter in small stakes cash games.
Embrace the Bad Beats
Once again, it needs to be stated that at the lowest stakes (online or live) you will simply face more bad beats than at any other limits. The reason why is that there are so many more bad players at these stakes calling the whole way with bottom pair or chasing some ridiculous draw.
The key, though, is to understand that this is very much a good thing. The reason why win rates are always so much higher in low stakes games than at higher limits is precisely because you have all of these bad players willing to call you down with anything.
Of course, this means that you are going to face suckouts more often. Higher-stakes players typically fold earlier in the hand than do many of those playing the lower limits. The better players often are never in a position to draw out on you in the first place.
But it is important to understand that there will always be more value in playing against players who chase everything because of this simple fact — most of the time they miss.
We get so angry sometimes when they hit their four-outer on the river against us that we forget the simple math of the game. The vast majority of the time when they play like this, they miss those four outs, one of the other 46 cards comes, and we win the pot with the best hand.
As painful as it is to lose to something ridiculous like a gutshot straight draw, when you look at it from a broader perspective, you can just laugh it off. You should be happy that there are players in your game willing to play this badly. Because most of the time the pot is getting shipped your way.
Suckouts Are a Tax We All Sometimes Need to Pay
Another way of looking at bad beats and suckouts is to consider them a "tax" we must pay to keep playing against such lesser-skilled opponents.
The reason why bad players keep coming back again and again (and depositing again and again) is because they can blame their lack of success on bad luck. Ego is a very real thing in poker. Much like driving, most people rate their skills higher than they actually are. When a recreational player hits a ridiculous draw on the river against you, this is actually vindication in that player's mind. Finally, luck is on their side!
It is hard to think of any other game which is skill-based in the long run, but has this incredible element of luck in the short term. And it is a very beautiful thing. It allows players to ignore the obvious and delude themselves into thinking that they only lose because of bad luck. This is what fuels the game — delusion.
This is why I prefer to think of bad beats and suckouts from recreational players as a tax that I need to pay sometimes. Indeed, it is a tax that we all need to pay sometimes. This is what keeps the poker economy running. If bad players were not able to get lucky sometimes, they would stop playing and the profitability of the games would plummet.
Everything is Crazier Online
The last thing that you need to know about bad beats is that when you play online they are going to come faster and more often than you have ever been used to before. This is indeed one of the main reasons that many live players have a difficult time moving over to play online. (For more on that subject, see "New to Online Poker? Don't Make These Two Mistakes.")
When you are playing live you might only see 30 hands an hour. But online, a typical six-handed no-limit hold'em table will deal three times that many hands in the same amount of time. And when you are talking about fast fold games like Zoom on PokerStars, you could be seeing 10 times as many hands per hour as you would in a live game.
It only stands to reason, then, that when you are seeing so many more hands, you are going to see way more bad beats and suckouts. Many people mistakenly think that there must be something wrong with the dealing online or the sites are trying to “rig” it somehow, but in truth they are failing to see that the pace of the game online is simply much faster than it is live.
This is especially the case when you consider that most people will play multiple tables online as well. When you are seeing hands so much faster online, you will also see many, many more bad beats. There is no way around this.
Many people view bad beats and suckouts as a negative part of the game. In fact they cause a high percentage of players to tilt, especially if several of them happen in succession.
However, when you learn to embrace the madness of small stakes cash games, you can train yourself to look at bad beats in a more positive light. You want bad players to be chasing their crazy draws, because you know that most of the time they actually miss them.
Secondly, you even want them to be able to hit those draws sometimes, because this is what keeps them playing and coming back again and again. If they didn’t get a chance to get lucky now and then, they would all see the truth — that they are actually getting consistently outplayed — and quit.
Next time a bad player hits a miracle card on the river against you, challenge yourself to react to it in a better way. Bad beats and suckouts are a necessary part of the game and they are very much a good thing. Have a laugh about it, pay your tax, and move on to the next hand.
Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams is the author of the popular micro stakes strategy books, Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes. He also blogs regularly about all things related to the micros over at www.blackrain79.com.