What Is Bad Beat In Poker & How to Win a Bad Beat Jackpot

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A bad beat is a term used in poker to describe a situation where a player with a statistically strong hand loses to an opponent with a weaker hand. Bad beats usually occur in situations where a player bets or raises the clearly stronger hand, and their opponent makes a mathematically poor call or raise and still ends up winning due to improving their hand on the flop, turn, or river.

Bad beats are often considered to be one of the most frustrating experiences in poker, as they can result in a player losing their whole stack despite making the optimal decision. Long-lasting downswings where you can be outdrawn left and right for days on end can be a more brutal experience, though, yet you need to prepare yourself for both if you play a lot of poker.

Bad beats are not an uncommon occurrence in poker games, and they can happen to anyone, regardless of their skill level. While it can be emotionally taxing to experience a bad beat, it’s important to remember that they are a part of the game and that every player will experience them at some point. In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into how to deal with poker bad beats as well as jackpots you can find by hitting a bad beat.

How does a bad beat differ from a cooler in poker?

A bad beat is a hand where one player has a significant advantage over the other and loses due to an unfortunate runout of cards. A cooler means a hand where both players have strong hands, but one hand is slightly stronger than the other. For example, the Aces vs Kings preflop in Texas Hold’em. In a cooler, the player with the weaker hand still loses, but it is not considered a bad beat because both players had strong hands. 

To the untrained eye, both bad beats and coolers might appear to be instances of hard luck in poker. However, understanding the distinction between these two scenarios is crucial for professional and aspiring players alike. It’s not just about the cards but also about the implications these scenarios have on decision-making and emotional processing in the game.

In a bad beat scenario, the focal point is the disparity in strength between the two hands pre-flop or at any other point before the final card is dealt. Here’s a breakdown of the three factors making up a bad beat.

Probability of Winning

The player with the stronger hand has a considerably high statistical advantage. This means that if the same situation were repeated multiple times, they would emerge as the winner a majority of the time.

Expectation

Given the strength of their hand, the player expects to win a lot of chips or money on average. This makes the loss, when it occurs, unexpected – which is often quite frustrating.

Decision-making

Bad beats emphasize the concept that making the correct decision doesn’t always guarantee a win in poker. Players need to remember that their good decisions will lead to profit over the long run, even if they face occasional bad beats. This is hard to do as emotions greatly affect human behavior.

Coolers: Clash of the Titans

Coolers represent a face-off between two strong hands, where the outcome is often dictated by the inherent strength of the cards rather than the players’ decisions.

In a cooler situation, both hands are strong contenders for the pot. One just happens to be slightly better. The edge one hand has over the other is minimal compared to a bad beat scenario. Coolers are often seen as inevitable situations in poker. When two players have exceptionally strong hands, the chips will likely go in, and fate takes the reins from there.

Finally, while losing in a cooler scenario can be disappointing, it doesn’t carry the same emotional weight as a bad beat. Players recognize the strength of both hands and understand that such situations are simply a part of the game.

Bad Beat vs Cooler: Examples Hands

Consider two scenarios in Texas Hold’em:

Player A has [A♠ A♥], and Player B has [8♣ 8♦]. They go to the flop in a single raised pot. The flop comes [8♠ K♦ Q♥], giving Player B a set. If Player A ends up winning in this scenario, it’s a bad beat for Player B, given the strength of set of Eights against the overpair of Aces on the flop.Player A has [A♠ A♥], and Player B has [K♠ K♥]. There’s a pre-flop raise war where Player A 3-bets, Player B 4-bets, Player A 5-bet jams and player B calls. The community cards don’t improve on either hand. Despite both players holding premium pairs, Player A’s Aces will prevail over Player B’s Kings. This situation is a cooler, as both players had super strong hands, to begin with.

By understanding the difference between a bad beat and a cooler, players can better frame their experiences at the poker table. This distinction can help in processing losses and making more informed decisions in future hands. You will experience both bad beats and coolers at the poker table, and you should not feel like you made a mistake after a cooler. 

How to Win a Bad Beat Jackpot in Poker

For those looking for a silver lining, bad beats can lead to jackpots in certain poker games. Various online poker sites and live casinos have unique bad beat jackpot (BBJ) rules in place, particularly for No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) and Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) games.

For instance, a common rule on many platforms is that to qualify for the jackpot, both hole cards must be used by both the winning and losing hands. The hands usually need to be of a certain strength, often quad eights or better.

How to win the BBJ then? You simply need to lose or win with a qualifying hand. When a player hits a qualifying bad beat, the jackpot is shared, with the player having the worst bad beat getting the largest portion. The winner of the hand gets a bit less and other players at the table might also receive a slice. It’s essential to familiarize oneself with the specific rules of each platform to capitalize on these opportunities, as BBJ size is usually significantly larger than any deposit and reload bonuses offered by poker sites.

In the cover picture of this article, our pro team player Samuli Sipilä wins a $121,872.60 Bad Beat Jackpot at GGPoker. The hand took place in the summer 2023 as he played heads-up 4-card Omaha and ran into a set-over-set situation with a double pair as a starting hand. Luckily for Samuli, the turn improved his opponent’s hand into quads with sevens and the river brought Samuli quads with fours. A nice payday indeed by just being dealt a bad beat!

What are the Worst Bad Beats in Poker History?

Anyone keen on exploring unforgettable moments in poker should watch some of the most brutal televised bad beats. These heart-wrenching situations often transpire in big live poker tournaments, where stakes are high and emotions run even higher. One compelling compilation showcases some of these unforgettable moments:

Author: Dennis Williams