I played a lot of organized team sports and learned the concept of winning and losing at a very young age. We were taught to be humble winners and gracious losers. I played on the varsity basketball team in high school and participated in fraternity intramurals in college and maintained those early lessons instilled in me by my father and various coaches. Those traits involving graciousness and humility followed me to the poker tables.
Team sports is something that are great for children because they teach you fundamentals of teamwork and at the same time they prepare you for accepting losses in life. And in poker, losses are a part of the game. But an ability to rebound from a bad beat is what separates winning players from losing players.
If you have ever played poker with me in real life, you'll quickly discover that I'm not much of a smack talker. Especially if you put a wicked bad beat on me, I shrug it off and focus on the next hand. I've been able to take a bad beat since I first started playing poker and Lord knows how many vicious ones I've taken over the years. At the same time, I have issued a few bad beats myself. We often forget about those fortunate incidents and magnify our greatest travesties.
My introduction to casino poker was playing stud poker in Biloxi, Mississippi and then at the Taj in Atlantic City. That's a game where you frequently get outdrawn, so beats are commonplace. When I started playing hold'em regularly, I was able to absorb the beats because I was used to absorbing bad beats in stud.
These days, I play a lot of online limit hold'em cash games. Suckouts and bad beats happen all the time. In any given session, I'm taking my licks. Sometimes I get three or four inside of an hour. Alas, I know those things happen and I put it out of my mind. On the other hand, my girlfriend and several friends of mine who play no-limit tournaments, go on mega tilt when they get sucked out by an opponent. One moment they are calm and serene and focused and then all of a sudden ... wham! It's like invasion of the tilt monkeys and they turn into a completely different person, hurling insults and unleashing a Hellmuthian tirade into the chat box.
It took me while to understand why they get so upset on one bad beat in a $20 tournament. Heck, while they played in a tournament, I took a couple of beats worth a few hundred dollars that were a lot worse. That's when it finally hit me. It should have been pretty obvious but some things go right over my head.
No-limit tournament players go absolutely berserk on bad beats because that hand cost them all of their chips and they were knocked out of the tournament. Several hours were wasted and the end result is an out of the money finish. In cash games, if you take a beat, you keep on playing and wait for another opportunity to get your money back. If you get felted in a cash game, you rebuy and wait for your chance. Over the long run, the better players should win, but short term luck is such a major factor in tournaments that once you lose your chips ... that's it. You're done.
With my new found realization, I'm more sympathetic to my no-limit tournament friends who go insane after a bad beat. However, I've been encouraging them to accept the fact that bad beats are a part of the game and if they want to advance to the next level of tournament poker, they have to be able to take a beat and keep on playing as if nothing happened.