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Poker Downswings  


BeastsOfPoker
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(@beastsofpoker)
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How to Deal with Them Like a Pro

Once you’ve played poker for a while, you’ll notice the chances of having a win in any single session is close to a coinflip or 50/50. If you’re a winning player, that ratio might be more like 55/45 or even 60/40, but hardly above that. Even extremely skilled players like Phil Ivey can’t get the ratio of winning/losing sessions much higher than that – there are always going to be sessions where you lose more than you win, and in many cases there is absolutely nothing you could have done differently to prevent it.

While in the long-term skill is a determining factor in your results, in the short-term luck plays a huge role in the outcomes of individual sessions. But, sometimes the cards might be against us for a longer period than we would like – for some players, this stretch of running bad might seem like a never-ending nightmare.

Phil Ivey cooler
Phil Ivey running into a cooler with kings at the partypoker Millions 100K Super High Roller

Facing the inevitable downswing

‘’At some point during your poker career, you’re gonna run worse than you ever imagined possible’’ –Anonymous poker champ

The question is: How does a player handle a brutal, long downswing where losing 5 buy-ins in a row is just a tip of the iceberg, where every flip lands the chips away from your stack, where you whiff all the flops completely with premium starting hands? As a result, even the weaker regulars and recreational players seem to get the best of you lately, and your confidence has long gone down the floor.

As the swing gets bigger and everything seems to work against you in the game, you start to question your plays that made you money before. Did you lose the ability to make money with poker, or is it really just variance only? It’s hard to be objective in that situation. Most players are asking themselves where they went wrong and is there something to stop the downswing & endless bleeding of chips at the tables.

Here’s a short answer to those two questions: Not anywhere and nothing. If you’re sure you’re still playing your A-game often enough and you’re a solid player overall, then you are doing nothing wrong. Nor did you choose to play in a game that made you lose that much (unless you’ve recently changed your main game into one with less edge available).

How to get out of this endless downswing/abyss?

How to get out of this endless downswing

The logic here is simple: You have absolutely no control over your luck at the tables, so there is nothing you can do about the downswing. It’s not the answer a player in the middle of a long downswing wants to hear, but it’s a fact they have to face sooner or later. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though it doesn’t feel like that. All you can really do here is a pack of 4 things:

  1. Continue to game select well and applying proper bankroll management
  2. Continue to work on their game and working to improve as a player
  3. Continue to play their A-game most of the time
  4. Maintain a positive mindset, exercise regularly, sleep & eat well

If you make sure to follow these 4 guidelines with consistency, you can rest assured that eventually the cards will fall your way again and a winning streak jumps back on your menu. Maintaining a positive mindset is not the easiest task on this list, but try to find joy in other areas of your life in case poker isn’t delivering it right now. If you feel constantly frustrated while playing during a downswing, consider taking a short break from the game – a quick timeout has saved many poker players from going broke, as they arrive back at the tables with fresh mind, looking forward to make the best decisions possible no matter the monetary outcome.

One more thing: Working on your game by reviewing hands with fellow players can prove better during a downswing than just studying the game on your own. The downswing might have some sort of effect on your ability to objectively judge your own plays, and getting an outside perspective here usually helps a lot.

Pro's comments on poker downswings

"When you play long enough, you notice that poker, like many games of skill, has ’domino-effect’. Meaning that bad run often makes you do non-optimal plays which leads to worse results. Basically no human is totally immune to this, but it's your job to minimize it to best of your capability. The other side of this coin is that when you're running hotter than the sun and your opponents start to take lines that seem bit ’tilty’ to you - your job is to make them pay as much as possible for it."

"Contrary to popular belief: being aware that your run affects your game doesn't make you a weaker player. It actually makes you tougher to play against since being aware of each players mental-state is something that we need to take in to an account in every hand we play."

Conclusion

Poker is a game of both luck and skill, with many ups and downs to test your abilities. Sometimes it can feel like a rollercoaster where the downs just happen to be much worse than the ups. To ride it out, you need to maintain a positive mindset, trust in your strategy that has won money before, game select well with a good BRM and taking care of yourself physically & mentally.

There is no magic trick that will end the downswing – you will just have to let it ride it’s course. There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it sometimes. The greatest players in poker are the ones who manage to play their best during times when their bad run is soul crushing – it’s up to you if you want to join them and fight a good fight no matter what!

Become the player you were born to be and start dominating the games – Continue reading more tips & articles in Learn Poker!

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