Bad beats are the scourge of all poker players. They can cause you to pummel your keyboard in anger, hang your head in despair, or in Phil Hellmuth's case, launch a foul mouthed tirade at the camera. Even though they are essential for the balance and excitement of the game, bad beats can be traumatic at the best of times.
A bad beat is when an inferior hand comes from behind to beat the originally dominant hand. For instance, player one holds AA and player two A10 on a 10 5 2 flop. The money goes in, and player two spikes another 10 on the river to inflict a bad beat. Warm-hearted veteran Barry Greenstein suffered a bitter bad beat on GSN's High Stakes Poker, when on the last hand of the night his AA was outdrawn by Sam Farha's KK in a $361k pot. Players deal with bad beats in different ways. An experienced multi-tabler may shrug off a bad beat as part of variance and move swiftly on, whereas a mentally fragile player may end up on tilt. Consummate professionals like Greenstein remain unruffled by bad beats. Other players will flock to poker forums and offer far-fetched theories that online poker is rigged. That said, sharing bad beat experiences with fellow players can be reassuring.
Poker sites have looked to temper the frustration of bad beats by providing bad beat jackpots. They create bad beat jackpot tables, where the house collects a small percentage of the pot to add to the rolling bad beat jackpot. For instance, Ultimate Bet collect $0.50 from the pot of each raked hand that is raked $0.25 or more. Strictly speaking, you can qualify for the bad beat jackpot without having suffered a bad beat.
Rules stipulate that players must have a hand of quad 8's or better to qualify. If player one holds 99, and player two 88 on a 998 flop, and the turn is another 8, player two still qualifies for the jackpot. Therefore bad beat jackpots are not specifically for bad beats, but for extremely rare scenarios where two players have monster hands.
Websites divide winning bad beat jackpots differently - Ultimate Bet rolls over 25% to the next jackpot to give it healthy start, gives 50% to the bad beat victim, 25% to the winning hand and keeps 10% itself. Other sites such as Carbon Poker distribute the jackpot more equally amongst all players at the table. Regardless, bad beat jackpots give small and mid stakes players the chance of a fairytale payday.
Let's recap on some of the biggest bad beat jackpot wins. Carbon Poker holds the record for the largest jackpot ever of $1.2 million in 2009. Lucky winner was university student 'RUGGIO' in the NL100 game, when his straight flush was ousted by a higher straight flush. He was rewarded with $417,396, and other players were greeted with a shower of chips. Winner of the hand, 'AELANI', received a handsome $209k. More recently, New Yorker 'ODESSA99' scooped a $340k chunk of Ultimate Bet's $1 million jackpot last month when his quad queens were beaten by four kings. With its impressive player base, the UB bad bead jackpot just keeps on spiralling, and it has handed out over $61 million in jackpot cash.
Several websites offer bad beat jackpots, the four major networks being PartyPoker, Merge (Carbon Poker), Cereus (Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker) and Boss (PokerHeaven). Network giants PokerStars and Full Tilt poker are yet to introduce the concept, perhaps viewing it as an unnecessary gimmick. Critics of bad beat jackpots argue that the higher rake at the tables means it is not +EV (profitable) in the long run, however a good player should be able to beat the low/mid stakes regardless. Since players tend to play more hands to give themselves the best chance of winning, they adopt a looser style, which means that bad bead jackpot tables can be a happy hunting ground for solid TAG players. Bad beat jackpots offer recreational players at NL50 and NL100 the chance of a monster payday that they would never otherwise have. Even though it's a lottery, you can increase your chances as a high volume player.