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April 6th, 2010
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Poker Lesson: Running Bad
Author: Joe Beevers
Wherever you go in poker, you hear plenty of poker stories, usually of the bad beat variety and various claims of individuals running bad. But what is running bad?
Most people say they are running bad when, for instance, their top sets are constantly beaten by straight and flush draws or when their pocket Aces get beat by pocket Kings when a King hits the flop. The stories are often accompanied by "he hit a gutshot", "he hit his one-outer", etc.
Did you know though, that there are actually two or more different ways of running bad? It is important to understand the differences.
You can also run bad with the cards you find – and this is relative. Finding Kings three times in an hour would be considered running good. But if every time that happened an opponent found Aces, then that would be running bad, right?
Getting it in with a set against a flush draw and losing is running bad, but making a flush against a better flush is running bad too. If you’re using a tracking system, your EV will show that you should be winning in the first instance but losing in the second over a lifetime.
It is situational. You can play perfect poker, find big hands and still lose because:
1.You get sucked out on.
2.You find someone with a better hand; this is not running bad, as getting outdrawn is situational.
There is also potentially a third "running bad": besides the hole-cards you’re dealt and the river cards you hit, there are the cards your opponent has and the actions they take.
By contrast, running good can be that you find big hands and they win or it can be that you get it in with the worst of it and suckout on your opponent. It’s important to understand the difference. You can play perfect poker and make all the correct plays but still lose – that’s running bad.
You may have heard players talk of variance. This is the statistical measure of the dispersion of your results. Running good or running bad does affect your bank roll, but you should try and look at poker as a lifelong poker session and not look at sessions individually. I realise this can be difficult; this is often because you are playing bigger than you should be and the result can hurt if it goes against you.
Try to think of it as a game – no more, no less – and try not to get emotional. What is important is that you continue to make the right decisions day in and day out, session after session.
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