Losing in poker might sting a little, but it’s to be expected given how many hands you’ll play in any given sitting. It’s also where the phrase ‘know when to Hold’em and known when to fold’em’ comes from, with the importance of letting go of bad hands a key part of any poker player’s strategy. Holding on to a hand in the hope that something will turn your way as the community cards comes out is a way to get yourself into trouble and to be tempted to bluff your way out of it, resulting in painful losses as often as fortunate wins.
What about when you have a decent hand and just get beaten by a better one? That’s when it becomes a slightly more bitter pill to swallow, given you’ll likely have done everything right but simply came up against someone with kinder cards than you. Some casinos and poker rooms offer what is known as a ‘Bad Beat Jackpot’ to make that pill slightly easier to swallow, seeing a player with a ‘Bad Beat’ of a hand paid a jackpot regardless. One of the points of argument is about what exactly makes a hand a ‘Bad Beat’, with most venues defining their own rules.
Bad Beat Jackpot Explained
Before we look at the various high-paying Bad Beat jackpots that have been hit over the years, let’s first have a look at what exactly we’re talking about. As mentioned in the introduction, most casinos and poker rooms have their own rules for what will trigger a Bad Beat jackpot payout. As an example, let’s have a look at the rules employed by the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. They have outlined a number of requirements, which are as follows:
- It only applies to Texas Hold’em games
- A minimum pot must have been reached
- There need to be at least 4 players sat at the table and dealt in
- A player must have a pocket pair and receive four deuces minimum but be beaten
- Both winning and losing cards must use their hole cards
- The hand must be completed to the showdown
- 40% of the jackpot is given to the best losing hand
- 20% of the jackpot is awarded to the winning hand
- 40% of the jackpot is shared out equally to the rest of the players at the table
A small percentage of every hand played in the casino or poker room is taken and paid towards the jackpot, allowing it to build up until it’s hit. Other casinos will have their own eccentricities in the manner in which the payout is hit and the split of the jackpot, but that gives you some indication of what we’re talking about.
The Biggest BBJs
Now that we know what a Bad Beat jackpot is and how it works, let’s explore the biggest jackpot payouts that have come about because of a Bad Beat in a game. This list isn’t definitive, but it will give you a solid idea of the sort of money players can make despite not having a winning hand if luck is on their side.
$1.375 Million Won at Playground Poker Club
The Playground Poker Club has seen a couple of high money Bad Beat jackpots paid out over the years, including $1,210,989 being paid out in August of 2017 when a player with quad jacks was beaten by someone else who managed to hit a straight flush on the river. That alone would have been enough to make this list, if not for the $1.375 million jackpot that was triggered in April of the following year.
It was 5.30am and nine players were sat around the table playing a $2/$5 blinds game, with another five No Limit Hold’em games going on at the same time. The players witnessed a flop made up of the ace of spades, queen of spades and jack of diamonds followed up by a turn of queen of hearts, which saw Kwane R get quad queens. When the river was turned over, however, a ten of spades gave Daniel F a Royal Flush.
The split meant that Kwane R scooped $522,622 for being the player with the Bad Beat hand, Daniel F won the hand and took away $261,311 and the other seven players were given $37,328 a piece. What made the Playground Poker room even happier is the fact that everyone else seated at a table got paid $5,938 simply for being there.
$1.1 million Hit at Motor City Casino in Detroit
2018 got off to a flying start for players in the poker room of Motor City Casino in Detroit when the Bad Beat jackpot of more than $ 1 million dollars was hit. It was during a $1/$2 blinds No Limit Hold’em game that a player called Scott thought he had the jackpot in the bag when he placed quad threes on the table. Unfortunately for him, however, another player called Kenneth had quad queens.
Of course the word ‘unfortunately’ is a relative one and Scott was unlikely to be too heartbroken when he was told he’d be going home with $427,453. Kenneth won’t have worried either, picking up $213,713 for winning the hand in such fortuitous circumstances. Because it was a six-hander, the other four players split $106,856 between them. Motor City Casino operates a policy of always having reserves in place in case another Bad Beat comes around hot on the heels of the first one.
One Player Wins Twice
It’s not just real-life power rooms that promise Bad Beat jackpots, with plenty of online sites also happy to see players given a share of a jackpot if they’re unlucky enough to hit quads but not end up as the winner. That what happened at BetOnline, not once but twice for the same player! santinhoz triggered the site’s Bad Beat jackpot in November of 2018 when his quad tens were beaten by quad aces, releasing the $1,249,972 BBJ and receiving $218,033 for his poor fortune.
Fast forward to January of 2019 and santinhoz was on the receiving end of quads once again, this time getting quad jacks. They weren’t enough, however, because another player known as Orianne17 got a straight flush and received $87,109. There were three other players on the table with them and they got a share of $23,229, whilst everyone else playing on a qualifying table on the site received $801. That meant that the $696,880 was split between ninety-two players in total.
If that story wasn’t remarkable enough on its own then consider this: the BetOnline Bad Beat jackpot is generally triggered every three months on average, but the jackpot was hit again just three weeks after santinhoz’s second win. That in itself isn’t all that impressive, but it was hit again after a week, then again ten days after that and then it was triggered for a fourth time in three weeks just three days later! The biggest win of the four went to a user named Interesni after his quad kings were beaten by Pimpika who got a straight flush, seeing Interesni take home $62,751 for his troubles.
The Bad Beat in the Bad Beat
Losing out to a better hand is a painful experience when you think your hand is going to be a winner, but being on the receiving end of the Bad Beat jackpot certainly makes things easier. Imagine, then, how R J Bergman felt when he not only didn’t win his hand despite having quad nines, but also didn’t even get the Bad Beat jackpot because someone else had quad tens and the winner of the hand had a straight flush!
It happened in Arizona at the Casino Del Sol, with Bergman being dealt a pair of nines, another player had a pair of tens in the hold and a third player had queen king suited. The flop of ten and jack of diamonds along with a nine meant that two players had trips and one was on the flush draw, only for the turn to be a nine of diamonds to give the third player their straight flush and Bergman his quads, before the river was a ten of clubs to give the other player his quads!
It wasn’t the biggest payout in this list but the dramatic nature of the hand, played back in 2018, means that it deserved a mention. The quad tens were the Bad Beat hand and therefore resulted in a payout of $9,000, whilst the straight flush saw the holder receive $4,500. All other players at the table got $665, which included Bergman and his quad nines. The only point at which the quad tens were ahead during the game was when the river came out, making the fact that he failed to get the biggest share of the prize all the more painful for Bergman.
The Hollywood Star Who Ended Up a Winner
Nowadays James Woods might well be better known for his controversial tweets and support of Donald Trump, but he’s starred in some big and much-loved movies over the years. They include the likes of Casino, Salvador and The Specialist, at least two of which seem appropriate when you consider he won a Bad Beat Jackpot in the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. He spotted that the Bad Beat jackpot had reached quite a high level, so he sat himself down at a $1/$2 blind table with the hope of being there when the jackpot was hit.
His luck was in and he was dealt the six and seven of spades as his hole cards. When the flop came it revealed an ace of clubs, a ten of spades and a nine of spades, meaning that Woods was on the straight draw. Unbeknownst to him one of the other players had pocket rockets, so the ace in the flop meant he was on trip aces heading into the turn. The turn was an eight of spades, giving Woods his straight flush, with the river revealing the fourth ace to mean that the other player had quad aces and was beaten by the Hollywood star but triggered the Bad Beat payout.
Woods received $122,000 of the $488,000 jackpot, with the other player getting $244,000 for his quad ace losing hand. The remaining players were each given $17,000 simply for being there. Woods, who has provided voices for The Simpsons and Family Guy in the past, made sure not to discuss the possibility of there being a Bad Beat because to do so would have invalidated the jackpot being paid. The player who had the quad aces used his winnings to buy his mum a house.
The Casino That Was Forced to Pay
Station Casinos of Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas was home to a game of poker in which eighty-three-year-old Avi Shamir had a straight flush but was beaten by Leonard Schreter with a better straight flush. That isn’t much of a story in and of itself, considering the relatively low Bad Beat jackpot amount of $120,000, but what makes it noteworthy is the fact that the casino originally refused to pay out on the Bad Beat.
Most casinos have a rule that players are not allowed to collude or to discuss the possibility of a Bad Beat, but Red Rock Casino felt that Schreter had broken this rule by exposing his cards to other players before the action was complete. The casino therefore refused to make the payout, not only to Shamir and Schreter but also to the other players in Station Casinos card rooms who should also have been given some money according to the promotion’s rules.
In the end, the matter was put before the Nevada Gaming Control Board to rule on, with players like Rochelle Lindner feeling as though she was entitled to her $565 payout. Ultimately the NGCB decided that Shamir should indeed receive his share of the winnings, but Schreter had withdrawn from the dispute claim because he felt badly about possibly causing his fellow poker player to miss out on the jackpot.
The Player Who Missed Out for a Toilet Break
The final Bad Beat story worth telling you about took place in April of 2018 in the poker room of Harrah’s Casino in Philadelphia. The Bad Beat jackpot had been building for three months when it finally hit at a total of $179,313.40. A player named Ibrahima D had hit quad queens on the turn and must have been thinking that he’d be taking the jackpot home, only for John T to have had a king-high straight flush from the moment the flop came out.
Once again, the rather low total in comparison to others on this list might make the story forgettable, but for what happened to Darrell Peterson. He had felt the call of nature just before the hand was dealt and so popped to the toilet, only to return and discover that Ibrahima had won $89,656.70 and John got $44,828.35 because of the Bad Beat. He might have got his own share of $44,828.35 if he hadn’t needed the loo. It wasn’t all bad for him, though, as some players on the table realised that they wouldn’t have got the cards they got if he had been playing, so they chipped in and gave him some of their winnings.