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Aug 22, 2019

Did Tiger Woods Really Suffer “Bad Beat” to Russell Westbrook?

By RTR Dennis

665x200 aug19 tiger woods russell westbrook

Tiger Woods recently hosted his annual Tiger Jam event in Las Vegas. This event raises money for Woods’ charity organization, the TGR Foundation, which extends college-access programs to underserved students.

One of the biggest highlights of Tiger Jam is the celebrity poker tournament. Woods, who competes in the tourney every year, found himself pitted at the same table as All-NBA guard Russell Westbrook.

These two squared off in an all-in hand, which became the highlight of the tournament. Woods shoved preflop with ace-king suited, while Westbrook called him with pocket queens.

The first card on the flop was an ace, which caused Tiger to raise his arms in triumph after landing top pair. However, he was quickly deflated as the second card was a queen, giving Westbrook a set. The board failed to save Tiger, and he was eliminated from his own event.

WPT anchor Lynn Gilmartin captured the entire scene and tweeted about it:

Westbrook’s Win Over Woods Is Labeled a “Bad Beat”

The media has picked up on this poker story, given that it involves two prominent athletes. Major news outlets have labeled the hand a bad beat (examples here and here). But is it really?

No exact definition of a bad beat exists. However, most poker players have a general idea on what these type of hands are.

Basically, a bad beat is when a hand that’s an overwhelming favorite loses to an underdog hand that gets lucky with board cards. If you shove with pocket aces preflop and lose to 6-7 suited, for example, then you’ve suffered a beat.

Some poker novices confuse bad beats with a “race.” The latter is when two players go all-in preflop and each hold cards that give them close to a 50% chance of winning.

Race or Bad Beat?

Back to the hand between Westbrook and Woods: was it a bad beat or simply a race?

Again, Woods held ace-king suited and the Oklahoma City Thunder star had pocket queens. Here are the percentages on each hand winning or tying:


  • Pocket queens winning = 53.59%

  • Ace-king suited winning = 46.02%

  • Tie = 0.39%

Based on the percentages, you can see that Woods didn’t suffer a bad beat at all. He essentially lost a hand where he was at a mild disadvantage.

Woods vs. Westbrook Still Makes for a Fun Poker Story – Even if It’s Not a Bad Beat Story

Perhaps you were already well aware that ace-king suited losing to pocket queens isn’t a bad beat. But the numbers thoroughly prove that it’s not.

Regardless, it’s nice when poker grabs mainstream headlines for the right reasons. Tiger Woods and Russell Westbrook are legends within their respective sports.

The latter has averaged a triple-double in three straight seasons. Previously, Oscar Robertson was the only player to average a triple-double for a season. But even Robertson was only able to pull off the feat once.

Woods has won 15 Majors, which ranks him second all time behind Jack Nicklaus (18 Majors). Woods’ most recent victory came at the 2019 Masters.