I am not a fan of these type of "bad beat" forums, as I feel they can easily lead to destructive habits, but they are not without their merits as well. I'd like to highlight for you here what I feel are some of the positives and negatives about using places like the #Padded_Tilt_Room.
-One of the definite benefits one might enjoy from sharing their poker frustrations in such a place is the venting of said frustration. Getting it "off your chest" so to speak, is beneficial to mental and emotional health, as well as your game. If you are tilted in anger at the tables after all, you're likely to rage off more chips. There is a very big caveat to this however. And that is, venting actually means letting it go. Get your rage out and be done with it, move on. This not so subtle point seems to be missed by players who frequent these venues, which in turn takes this positive and turns it into a negative.
-Another benefit is that, once the rage has subsided, the player may be able to take a look at the situation in a new light, perhaps with comments from others, and actually learn something from the experience.
-Potential for a deeper understanding. Another possible benefit is a sense of community, an understand that you are not alone. In fact, every poker player from the dawn of the game has suffered bad beats, 1 outters, and runner runner defeats… we have all laid those on others as well, but I digress. Reading others stories, as well as receiving comments on your own, may help foster this realization sooner rather than later.
-One of the biggest negatives of actively participating in these things is the onset of a negative mindset. When venting becomes a ritual, a habit, where by the player becomes regularly engaged in the negative thought process, it can lead to destruction to both one's mental health and one's poker game. It can also lead to focusing on the negative all the time, which will foster more leaks in your game. You may start to expect to lose, and in the worst possible ways, such that when it does happen it draws your entire focus. Not good.
-Making excuses. Unfortunately, many people who actively participate in bad beat forums also end up aligning themselves somewhere in the "rigged" camp. This is truly amusing on more than one level. For starters, a large site like PokerStars that makes hand histories available, has not only undergone extensive testing for random shuffles, but players who have played millions of hands can also demonstrate via their databases, that things happen at roughly the correct frequencies one would expect and thus it's not rigged. Secondly, the rigged theories always work against the individual, but often conflict with each other. It's not uncommon for one player to say it's "rigged" to always let the short stack win and double up in mtt's (when they are the big stack taking a beat), while another in the same day is arguing it's "rigged" to let the big stacks win (when they are short and had their premium pair cracked to go broke). Beyond the amusement of rigged with no proof rants, a very real and destructive end result is the making of excuses for one's misfortune.
It's hard to look at one's self objectively and admit, I'm not good, I make too many mistakes, I don't understand certain situations well, etc. It's easy however to blame the software, the opponents, variance, the poker gods, etc… blame your results on every external force under the sun, to avoid having to take the blame personally.
The truth is, we all take beats and get unlucky at times. And we all get our share of good luck too. But all of us, every single player, makes mistakes. Aligning your brain with excuses about why you're not winning money at poker sets you up to continue failing, by giving you an excuse to not work harder, learn more, and take responsibility for your results. It's a very easy trap to fall into, when you shove your 8bb stack with AA and get cracked by the BB's call with J7. You played the hand well, and got unlucky! It must be rigged, or the poker gods hate you, nothing more to see here, right? True, you got unlucky in this individual hand, but how about earlier in the tourney? How did you get down to 8bb to begin with? Playing too tight and blinding off? Leaking chips with loose preflop calls? Spewing your stack by bluffing too frequently? You will never know the answer to these questions if you don't explore them to begin with.
-Unconstructive mental focus. This is an extension of the above. It is really the ultimate trap for aspiring poker students to fall into. Expending mental energy and focus on things outside of your control is never going to help you improve as a poker player. You can't control the other player calling or folding, or deciding to bluff, etc. You can't control the next card off the deck. Zomg you got 1 outted on the river when their smaller set made quads! Welcome to the non-exclusive club of every poker player ever. Going on and on about this bad beat is not going to help you make better decisions on the next hand, or in the next tournament, and it certainly won't help you learn anything or improve your game. Place your mental focus on things you can control, i.e. your own decisions, and work on learning and improving your game so your decisions are the best that they can be. Don't let bad beats dominate your mental space and rob you of the chance to do better.
So, while I think having a venue to vent out the anger and frustration, releasing it forever, can be a good thing, I believe unfortunately many players who avail themselves of such forums take it too far… instead of using it to release, they end up fostering it, seething in it, and following a path of poker self-destruction as a result. If you are reading this and thinking, some of this hits close to home, I would encourage you to reflect honestly with yourself about your mental state and your game. I chose this time of year purposely for this article… in the hopes that some would see themselves in here and make a New Year's resolution to change their ways.
Oh, and if you happen to be reading this at some other time of year in the future, go ahead and consider changing your ways now… no need to wait until the next New Year's resolutions come along.