7 Worst Bad Beats in Poker History
November 13, 2023
November 1, 2023
Bad beats are actually common in the poker world.
Look at poker forums, and you’ll see that even casual players have a bad day and lose while playing against their friends.
However, bad beats in professional poker tournaments take on a different meaning.
It hurts to think about being so close to winning and losing the ground under your feet. Now, imagine living it. In this article, we’ll talk about the world’s best poker players and their bad beats that shook everyone in the poker world.
Bryce Yockey vs. Josh Arieh
Everyone who watched the 2019 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship witnessed one of the worst bad beats in poker history. The event saw Josh Arieh beat Bryce Yockey in a 2–7 triple draw, creating a jaw-dropping moment that will be talked about in years to come.
Here are some stats for everyone asking how bad the beat was — Yockey had a 99.843% chance of winning, leaving Arieh with a measly 0.16%. People who watched the live stream could hear Nick Shulman shockingly react to the moment, calling it “the bad beat to end all bad beats”.
A 2–7 triple draw aims to generate the worst possible 5-card hand without a flush or a straight. The best hand is 7–5–4–3–2, and the second-best is 7–6–4–3–2. The game features three rounds where players can ask for as many cards as they like.
At the start of the game, Yockey had the second-strongest hand (7–6–4–3–2) with a 1 in 2,458 chance of occurring, whereas Arieh had an A–Q–6–5–3. Arieh had only three draws to beat him and one possible combination to do so — create a straight before drawing to the perfect 7–5 low.
On the first draw, Arieh got a 2, combining a hand of Q–6–5–3–2; the next draw saw Arieh receive a 4, changing his hand to 6–5–4–3–2. Before the final draw, Yockey went all in, not knowing he would experience the biggest shock in his career. Surprisingly, Arieh drew a 7, creating the strongest hand in a 2–7 triple draw and registering one of poker’s worst bad beats on Yockey.
Vanessa Selbst vs. Gaelle Baumann
Losing at a main event of the world’s greatest tournament hurts, but getting eliminated at the very beginning — even worse. On top of that, losing with pocket rockets makes you wonder if you should even be there.
This happened to Vanessa Selbst, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner. The 2017 WSOP Main Event began, and Selbst went up against Gaelle Baumann. She received Aces of diamonds and spades, creating a solid starting hand.
As the flop came around, the dealer opened three cards: A–7–5 (all clubs). Things were looking up for Selbst, especially against Baumann’s pair of 7s (diamond and heart). However, the turn yielded a 7 of spades, giving Selbst aces full but also giving Baumann quads.
Baumann raised an all-in bet, and the river round opened the last community card — a 4 of diamonds. Selbst then bet $16k, with Baumann raising it to $36k. After taking several long moments to reflect on the potential outcomes, Selbts went all-in. At that point, hands were revealed, and Selbts saw that Baumann had quads (four of a kind).
After just one hour of the 2017 WSOP main event, Selbst left the table after experiencing the worst bad beat of her career. Not long after, she retired from poker and has only returned back to the circuit after a 5 year absence.
Brandon Caputo vs. Harvey Matthews
Getting pocket bullets in a regular poker session with your friends is exciting. Now imagine landing such a starting hand at the 2021 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas. It’s a dream come true, or so Brandon Caputo thought.
On the other hand, things weren’t looking good for Harvey Matthews, who landed the worst possible hand, a 2–7. However, it’s critical to point out that both cards were suited diamonds.
Understandably, Caputo wanted to get as much value as possible for his pair of aces, so he called the big blind. As Matthews was the big blind, he checked. The flop was 10–2–3, where the 3 of diamonds popped up. Caputo bet $160k, and Matthews called with his pair of 2s.
During the turn, 8 of diamonds appeared, meaning a flush draw was in play. Matthews went all in, and Caputo called. The river drew a Queen of diamonds, meaning Matthews made the flush and created one of the worst bad beats on Caputo, who walked away from the table with the tail between his legs.
Matt Affleck vs. Jonathan Duhamel
The 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event saw Matt Affleck go up against Jonathan Duhamel. Affleck got pocket aces and was on the button, while Duhamel got a pair of jacks. Duhamel took action by betting $575k, doubling the pot size, and Affleck re-raised to $1.5 million.
After taking a moment to consider, Duhamel re-raised, increasing the pot to $6 million, and changed. Afterward, Affleck called. The flop opened 10–9–7, not helping the players with their hands. Affleck bet $5 million more after Duhamel checked. Duhamel called and brought the pot to $18.4 million.
After the turn opened a Queen of diamonds, Affleck remained the favorite. Duhamel checked, but Affleck went all-in, bumping the pot to $30 million. After thinking about his options, Duhamel called his opponent’s all-in, increasing the pot to a jaw-dropping $41 million.
According to the stats, Affleck remained the favorite with a 79% chance of winning, whereas Duhamel already looked like he had given up. The only scenario he could win was if the river drew a king, a jack, or an 8.
As luck would have it, the river opened an 8 of diamonds, eliminating Affleck and his pair of pocket aces. He ended 15th and went home with $500k. Duhamel went on to win the main event and pocket over $8 million.
Cary Katz vs. Connor Drinan
Up until this point, we talked about the events where the underdogs somehow ended up on the winning side. But what happens when both players go head to head with the same hand — a pair of pocket aces? That’s exactly what happened in the 2014 World Series of Poker Big One for Big Drop, a charity game played during the WSOP Main Event with a $1 million buy-in.
Drinan drew the cards first and got a pair of pocket aces. At that point, he only had a 2% chance of losing before the flop. However, when Katz also drew pocket aces, there was a 96% chance they would split the pot.
Katz went for a two-bet while Drinan, being in the big blind, re-raised, increasing the pot to $580k. Katz countered this move with a four-bet raise of $2 million. At that point, Drinan went all-in, bumping the pot to $10 million, and changed.
The flop revealed 2 (diamonds)—10 (hearts)—5 (hearts), which didn’t help anyone. However, the turn opened a 4 of hearts, giving Katz a four-card flush draw. As the odds turned in Katz’s favor, the river yielded a 2 of hearts, giving Katz a flush.
Although Drinan wore sunglasses, we could feel his pain. He left the table, finishing 18th.
Phil Hellmuth vs. Adam “Roothlus” Levy
Phil Hellmuth is one of the most prolific players in the world of poker, with over $25 million in earnings. Due to his long-running career, he was big even in 2008, when he experienced one of the worst bad beats.
Hellmuth was under the gun when he received a pair of 8s, while Levy, primarily an online poker player, received a queen and a 10 of clubs. Hellmuth went for a three-bet, and Levy called. At that moment, the two hands were nearly even, with Hellmuth having a slight edge.
The flop gives a 9–6–J, creating a double-ended straight draw for Levy. However, Hellmuth’s pair of 8s remained a favorite. The turn (8 of diamonds) changes the course of the game, giving Hellmuth a set and Levy a straight.
Hellmuth then checked, and Levy nearly doubled the pot with a $37k wager, which Hellmuth called. The river opened 2 of clubs, not helping any player.
Hellmuth wagered $60k, and Levy raised it to $155k. Hellmuth then called, and they flipped the pocket cards. Safe to say, Hellmuth was not happy with how the game unfolded.
Daniel Negreanu vs. Joe McKeehen
Last but not least, we have another poker Hall of Famer going through an exceptionally bad beat. Daniel Negreanu, a decorated poker pro, went up against Joe McKeehen on the last day of the WSOP Main Event.
McKeehen, who was on the button, two-bet his J-3 (both diamonds) pocket while the big blind Negreanu called with his A-4 hand. The flop revealed 10 (diamonds)-King (clubs)-Ace (diamonds), giving McKeehen a four-card flush and a gutshot straight draw and pairing Negreanu’s ace.
After Negreanu checked, McKeehen bet $700k. Negreanu went with an all-in raise to $5.8 million. The turn opened a 3 of hearts, pairing with McKeehen’s pocket 3. However, Negreanu remained the favorite.
As the excitement increased, the river revealed a Queen of hearts, helping McKeehen beat the odds and eliminate Negreanu. What else is there to say — fate has a funny way of doing things.