It was round 4 of T2 2P at the 2015 National Tournament. Having lost a time-out game to my brother Jordan in round 2, I assumed I probably needed to win the rest of my games to have any shot at taking first. I was matched up against Clift C. who has been (and continues to be) one of the top T2 players in the game. I had jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but LS drought was stopping me from continuing to press the attack. Having looked at Clift’s hand, I knew that he had a bunch of evil enhancements, and his only two evil characters (Assyrian Siege Army and Assyrian Survivor) were both sitting in his territory. Knowing that either of them could do a lot of damage later on, I decided I would use my Jephthah even though it would only be for a battle challenge. I exchanged AutO to Jephthah out of deck, and Clift gave my deck a couple shuffles. He was about to shuffle one more time, but then stopped and said “Ooo, that felt good right there.”

We both watched as I flipped the top card of my deck…Son of God. I was stunned. I still had around 60 cards left in my deck and I had somehow hit Son of God…suddenly the game had changed. My 3-1 “lead” was really more like a 3-3 tie if Clift managed to draw both his Son of God and New Jerusalem

We’ll get back to the story in minute, but I want to talk about events like the one above. In poker they are called “bad beats.” Whether it’s your opponent getting lucky or you getting unlucky, it’s basically a statistically improbable event that ends up putting you in bad shape or even costing you the game outright. For Redemption, bad beats can be anything from LS drought to a random card discarded from the top of deck. In this particular instance, I had around 60 cards left in my deck and the top card happened to be Son of God.

In a T2 game with my brother Jayden a couple years ago, I was winning 6-5 with him holding New Jerusalem in hand, but nothing that was going to be able to beat my defense. With 35-40 cards left in his deck, he pushed out AutO and one of the two cards he drew was Son of God to give him a 7-6 win. Now don’t get the wrong idea—I’ve certainly had my share of times when I got lucky or my opponent got unlucky. In a booster draft game once, I discarded a random card from my opponent’s hand (which contained 9 cards) and it was the one card that would have won him the battle and the tournament. I ended up winning the game (and the tournament) on my turn. It’s all part of playing a card game where random chance is involved, but what’s important is how a player responds to these “bad beats.”

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go back a few posts and read Gabe’s article about “Tilt”. I know for me personally, the thing that has the greatest potential to put me on tilt is a bad beat. A bad beat tends to take my focus off the game, and I start to think about just how unfortunate I am. “WHY DOES THE UNIVERSE HATE ME!?!” my mind screams and before I know it, I’ve missed an opportunity to get back in the game. The ability to brush off a bad beat (and thereby avoid going on tilt) is critical to becoming a better player because bad beats happen to everyone.

Getting back to my game with Clift, I took a bit of time to calm myself and consider how I needed to play the rest of the game knowing Son of God/New Jerusalem were no longer rescuing options for me. I “locked in” mentally, and played a flawless game from that point on. I ended up winning 7-1, and Clift said after the game that he was impressed by how focused I became and complimented me on making zero mistakes.

I wish I could say that has been my reaction every time I’ve taken a bad beat, but there’s been many other times (in many other games as well) where a bad beat has taken my focus completely away or caused me to give up mentally. If that’s been the case for you, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, focus on what your reaction will be the next time you face a bad beat. Get yourself in the mindset that you’re going to brush off that bad beat. Even if you still end up losing that particular game, knowing that you are capable of mentally overcoming a bad beat can be a huge confidence boost for the rest of the tournament.

So, how does one brush off a bad beat? Well, it’s going to be different for each individual because we each have unique personalities, and some people are just naturally able to move on easier than others. Here’s a few things that I try to do when I experience a bad beat:

  • If possible, take a moment to calm your mind. One thing about my game with Clift was that because he had no blocking options, I did not have an opportunity to make any reckless plays in battle that might have further set me back. Instead I just moved to my discard phase and used that time to calm down.
  • Think about how you need to proceed given what just happened. Focus on what you now need to do in order to win or at least shift the momentum back in your favor. In different scenarios it could mean playing more aggressively, and in other scenarios it could mean playing more patiently. If the bad beat caused you to lose the game right there, forget about that game and focus your attention on the next game.
  • Attempt to maintain your “poker face.” This doesn’t mean acting like you’ve completely forgotten what happened—your opponent will probably be too smart for that. However, if you can maintain composure both internally and externally that can be intimidating to your opponent. (“Wow, he just lost his Son of God, but he doesn’t even look worried…maybe I should be worried…”) If your opponent is still focusing on the bad beat, but you’re not, then you now have the advantage.
  • Remember it’s just a game. This might be the hardest one, especially if you’re a competitive player like I am. Even if the bad beat puts you in a position where you know you’ve very unlikely to win, challenge yourself to give the opponent every last bit of effort. You never know what could happen to swing things back in your favor. At 2007 Nationals, I was losing 6-1 in the “winner take all” game of T2 2P and my opponent hadn’t played Son of God yet. Knowing he could win at pretty much any moment, I simply kept attacking and blocking, and making the best play I could. He never drew Son of God and I ended up winning 7-6.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, and I hope you were able to take away some ideas or insights that can help you become a better player. Bad beats aren’t fun, and no one likes to experience them, but they are going to happen and how a player reacts can be the difference in being a good player and a great player. If you have other (positive) ideas for handling a bad beat, definitely put them in the comments below!

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One thought on “Learning From Our Peers – The Bad Beat

  1. John David Cunningham

    this is one of the strongest aspects of your character as a player! you never give up! you could lose Son of God and still make a huge come back from a 3 or even 4 soul opponent lead! great article! definitely factors into the psychology and the tilt! keeping it cool and confident is a huge boost!

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