How To Cope With Bad Luck


We all know the feeling in poker. Losing every flip and being on the wrong side of every setup, like KK < AA. Unfortunaly there is no justice in poker. Bad luck is just bad luck. And losing AA to AK doesn’t mean you will win QJ vs KK the following hand. Poker is a cruel game. The best we can do is avoid going on TILT and console ourselves with the knowledge that luck evens out in the long run.

Ask yourself the following:

–          Was your play + EV[1]?

  • If the answer, is YES -> You got it in good and should be happy about your play
  • If the answer, is NO  -> You got it in bad and should be unhappy about your play

$ 50/100 blinds, no antes

Hand: AK                                                            Position: Button                              Stack: $ 2000

Play: You raise 2.2 BB to 220, SB folds and BB calls with a $ 2300 stack. Flop is K 10 4, you c-bet 250 and he shoves all-in and you call. Your opponent has KJ.

+ EV? The odds are 85/15 in your advantage. This means you will win the hand 85 % of the times.


In terms of expected value (EV) it’s important to factor in call or folds. Your opponent could have made the same move with any Kx, any 10x, drawing hands like QJ / AJ / AQ and of course two pair or set hands like K10 or 44. With AK on such a flop you are in a very good spot against his range of hands. You will have the best hand most of the time and it’s therefore a + EV call.

The result shouldn’t matter. If he gets lucky and wins by getting a J or a runner runner straight or flush, than you should still be happy with your play. In the long term this is a very profitable call.


$ 1530 to call to win $ 4000          Pot odds:            2.61 : 1                 Hand odds:        85 % to 15 %

EV =$  1530 x 85 % – $ 1530 x 15 % = + $ 1071

This means calling in this situation will mean winning + $ 1071 on average for every situation like this.



When experiencing a bad streak, I recommend the following:

–          REST: Take a day, or few days off.

–          RELAX: Relax by doing the thing that relaxes you most.

–          EXERCISE: Go jogging or do the sport you love.

–          ANALYZE: Analyze your game to see if you played well.

–          DROP DOWN IN BUY-IN: If you do decide to play again, then play lower limits and  play your best game


The best you can do to clear your head is to take some distance for the game. Relax and regain your mental focus. Because even though you think you are ‘fresh’ after a couple of hours, the tilting feeling can get back within the first beat you take.


Not sure how to relax, because you can’t think of anything but your bad luck? Do the things you enjoy the most in life. Go out with friends. Have dinner with family. Spent quality time with your girlfriend or boyfriend.


Exercising is a great way to blow off some steam. It literally takes away your frustration. For me, personally, I like to go for a (long) run and with every meter I run I feel more calm and relaxed.


The most importing thing is to really analyze your game and think about the ‘bad beats’ you took. Were they really bad beats? Were they necessary risks? If you analyze all the beats you took and come to the conclusion that you played well, you should console yourself in that knowledge.


Mentally it can be very hard to stop playing when tilting. The feeling of losing money due to bad luck is a frustration that you want to lose as soon as possible. However, watch out. When being on tilt you make worse decisions than when you play normally. And losing a coinflip will hurt even more when you are already tilting. If you do decide to play, than play smaller games and choose your best games. Do not chase your losses by playing high Hyper-/Turbo games as the luck factor is very high in these games.


The top 3: rest, relax and exercise apply to all aspects of bad luck, not just in poker. Taking distance from the bad luck feeling is always good to gain perspective and to avoid being on tilt[2] 24/7.



[1] EV = Expected Value.

[2]Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive. This term is closely associated with steam and some consider the terms equivalent, but ‘steam’ typically carries more anger and intensity”