The poker bad beat — In fiction and in fact

Last week, the British soap opera Coronation Street featured a poker game in which a man staked the money for his wedding reception on a straight flush, and lost to a Royal Flush. That never happens for real. Or does it?

Ciaran is an Irishman, and has the luck of the Irish, unfortunately, luck can be both good and bad, and when he sits down to play Texas Hold ’Em and makes a straight flush, 8 to the queen in diamonds, he thinks he’s won a big pot heads up against the husband of the manageress of the Rovers Return public house. What he doesn’t seem to realise, and what every poker player with half a brain would have realised, is that there is a bigger flush on the table; his opponent can win with the A-K of diamonds. Guess what he has? Ciaran throws the money for his forthcoming wedding reception into the pot, then stares in fascinated, incredulous horror as his smirking opponent shows down.

[This episode can currently be found here].

It is not unlikely that the scriptwriters based this cameo on The Cincinatti Kid, the film version; in the book, the Kid has queens full of tens; his opponent has 7-J in diamonds. The poetic version can be found here.

The Kid and his nemesis were playing five card stud; a flush is a rarity at five card stud, a full house even more so, and a straight flush v a full house is a hand that beggars belief, but what beggars belief even more is the way Lancey played the hand early on coupled with the Kid’s suicidal check raise on the end. And we won’t even mention the string bets!

The big question is, do hands like this ever happen in real life? The proof of this pudding is in the eating, check out some of the unbelievable bad beats that can be found on YouTube.

A bad beat is a subjective term, but if you are way ahead, say with quad 6s, and someone makes bigger quads on the river, that is a bad beat. You may be beaten already, but if someone flops a straight flush, and you draw against it and end up making quads or even a mere full house, most players would consider that a bad beat.

The following are all screengrabs from the virtual tables, which were played as dated. The screengrab above was played December 21, 2008

Regarding the first hand below, see also the poetic version.


November 5, 2006: Bonfire Night 2006: a low limit cash game Pot Limit Omaha Hi Lo, Royal Flush quashes quad kings.


August 27, 2007: A magic gutshot fills a Royal Flush on William Hill.


April 27, 2008: Sun Poker aka Caribbean Sun, quad 10s crush quad 3s.


November 17, 2008: Kings full lose to quads.


December 21, 2008: Quad jacks lose to a royal flush on Full Tilt Poker.


December 6-7, 2009: Heads up on the final table on Full Tilt Poker in the small hours, the short stack finds a straight flush.


PokerStars: Quad kings beat quad 6s at 7 Card Stud, March 9, 2010.

[The above article was published originally November 24, 2011. My apologies for the varied sizes of the screengrabs but I decided it would be safer not to play about with them. The video links were originally to the Coronation Street page on the ITV iplayer and to a YouTube clip from the film The Cincinnati Kid. These are no longer there but I did manage to locate the relevant clips from both on the same site, which I have re-edited and uploaded to this site. Enjoy].


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