The beauty of poker is that on the surface it is a game of utter simplicity, yet beneath the surface it is profound, rich, and full of subtlety. Because its basic rules are so simple, anyone can learn poker in a few minutes, and novice players may even think they’re pretty good after a few hours. From the expert’s point of view, the veneer of simplicity that deludes so many players into thinking they’re good is the profitable side of the game’s beauty.
It doesn’t take long for pool players or golfers to realize they’re outclassed and to demand that a match be handicapped, but losers in poker return to the table over and over again, donating their money and blaming their losses on bad luck, not bad play. It’s true that in any given session the best of players can get unlucky. Going into the final day of the 1981 world championship of poker, Bobby Baldwin of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had a substantial lead over the eight other surviving players. Within a couple of hours he had two hands beat when his opponents outdrew him on the final card on 21-to-l shots. Suddenly he was out of the tournament.
Coincidentally, in both hands Baldwin’s opponent needed one of the two remaining queens among the 44 unseen cards, and he got it. However, it is more likely for a good player like Baldwin to suffer these bad beats, as they are called, than for an average player or a weak player to suffer them.