Handling the Baddest of Beats

John Duthie
'The horrible thing is you start expecting to lose these hands even when you are a massive favorite.'

Imagine you are skydiving.

You feel the rush of jumping out of the airplane. Wind and all manner of force is in your face as you speed down towards the earth.

As you fall closer to the ground the time comes for you to pull the rip cord and it fails.

When Tyler Reiman spiked a queen all in pre-flop against John Duthie's aces at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure this past January with 12 people left and enough chips in the middle of the table to send the winner of the pot through to the final table with a massive chip lead, Duthie says that's exactly what it felt like.

"I equate it to that," Duthie said on Day 1 of the World Poker Tour's L.A. Poker Classic. "The feeling the skydiver feels at that point is exactly how you feel I would imagine."

With Duthie practically guaranteed second or third-place money had he won the pot, the value of the beat made it all the more devastating.

"The situation really made it the worst beat that I've ever had or will ever have in the game of poker," he said. "It was literally like losing $1.5 million in one hand when you are an 87 per cent favorite."

Duthie says taking a beat like that can definitely have an effect on your psyche and, therefore, your game.

"The horrible thing is you start expecting to lose these hands even when you are a massive favorite," he said. "What you end up trying to do is keep the pots much smaller. Not take as many big risks."

But as time goes on, you have to put the bad beat behind you, no matter how big it was.

"You actually don't want to play poker for a long time," Duthie said. "You might even say I'm never playing poker again, but a good sportsman doesn't stop playing the game just because he gets beat.

"I'll never forget that hand, but the impact is diminishing. Life goes on and I'm a great believer that it's only a patch. I'm just going through a phase at the moment.

"I'm not an unlucky person. I know it won't last forever and as long as I keep telling myself that, it will be alright."

The worst bad beat story Daniel Negreanu says he ever heard was from a $1-$5 Stud game.

Two players were heads up showing a king-high straight flush against a queen-high straight flush. With a $300,000 bad beat jackpot on the line, the entire table was already counting the money when the player with the queen-high straight flush drew the king on Seventh Street to chop the pot.

"Think of these guys playing $1-$5 Stud," he said. "All they all have is $100 to their name and they are going to win a sick jackpot. That's bad."

But in the end, that's poker.

"Those are the exact two words you chalk it up to," Negreanu said. "That's poker. Weird stuff is going to happen to you all the time. You have to have mental strength and emotional stability. If you don't you are in the wrong environment.

"Other people struggle through much worse things in their lives. If the worst thing you have to complain about is a bad beat and you only ended up in fourth place - Sorry about your luck. Some people have no arms. Some people have been paralyzed from the waist down. Other people have it worse. Think about real bad beats, put it in context and you realize your life's not so bad."

In the World Poker Tour's first Season, Mark Seif had aces cracked in a pot for the chip lead at the final table to bust in fourth at the Legends of Poker main event.

Four years later, in the pot that gave Vivek Rajkumar an insurmountable lead at the WPT Borgata final table, all the money was in the middle with Seif holding aces against Rajkumar's tens before a ten flopped.

"That one still sits with me," he said. "It's been a year and a half now and I still think about it."

But despite lingering thoughts, Seif said he tries not to let it affect his game or his outlook on life.

"I've been extremely unlucky at very unfortunate times," he said. "But I look at it as though I did what I was supposed to do. My job is to get the chips in when I have the best hand. I got all the chips in pre-flop with two aces against two tens. That was my job.

"The fact that I was so unlucky might devastate other people and, as I told you, I still think about it. But at the end of the day, I look at my life in general, and I'm so lucky.

"I get to play poker for a living, I live in a really great house and I have two beautiful little girls. I just live a really great life and, in the big picture, I can't mope around and feel like I'm unlucky."

In the end, even bad beats are all about perspective.

The WPT's L.A. Poker Classic continues through March 2. For comprehensive coverage, tune in to PokerListings' Live Updates and News.

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