You might be here reading this because you’re at your wits’ end. It has been weeks, even months, and your pocket aces have been overridden by ace-king or ace-queen every single time. You’ve even been undone by 7-2. Off-suit.
Downswings in poker happen. And they happen to everyone, from players working the tables once a week at the local club to serious online poker players competing in poker tournaments. This blog explores what you can do when you find yourself in a downswing at the card table.
What Are Poker Downswings?
Here’s another term for you: variance. Variance is basically the difference between what you expect and what actually happens. In live poker games, it takes a long time to get to the true variance since the play is much slower with fewer hands. You need to factor in a lot of hands played to get to the true variance of your game. But if you play poker online, the game is much faster, so getting to the true variance value won’t take months or years.
Variance is your friend. Even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time, the central mission of variance is to balance out the bad beats with extraordinary luck. It just takes some time to get there. Sometimes running bad in poker feels overwhelming, with more than its share of variance, and granted, to balance it out with good luck may take twice, three or five times the length the bad beats ran, but variance will get you there. It’s essentially about finding a balance between vicious and virtuous cycles
What Causes Poker Downswings?
It comes down to three potential factors. We’ve already talked about the first factor, which is that useful scapegoat known as variance. After that, there’s old-fashioned bad play. Add to that a bad mindset, and you’re well on your way to an extended downswing holiday. Variance is a factor out of your control. It is one of those things you’d be better off just accepting. Bad play — everyone does it. But the difference between good and bad players is knowing when it’s bad play and when it is just bad luck (a function of variance.) A bad mindset can get you further in the gutter. While it may not actually get you into a downswing, prolonged exposure to bad beats will definitely have an adverse effect on your mental strength, causing you to make more mistakes, like treading quicksand.
You can see how easy it would be to blame your downswing on bad luck or variance. It’s like going for an interview, not getting the job, and wondering why. There are a lot of questions to answer. It might be useful to look at yourself first. Was your presentation good enough? Did you articulate your strengths well, showing them off to your best ability? If you answer yes to all of these with no holes detected, only then can you conclude that maybe you just weren’t a fit for the company. Same with downswings. Make sure it isn’t about your play before you point the finger at variance.
How To Manage Poker Downswings
A downswing can be harrowing, debilitating to both your mental state and your bankroll. If you have determined that there’s no other cause of the downswing than variance, there is little else you can do but weather the storm. Ride it out, but stay warm and come out stronger on the other side. There are many possible ways to improve your win rate.
One of the effects a downswing might have on your play is tilting. Either you grasp at straws, widen your hand range, make emotional decisions and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Or you tighten up your range, playing only monster hands, like you’re afraid of the dark. Neither action is ideal. Stay focussed.
One way to do this is to take up your books: study, watch YouTube videos, visit the best online poker sites and read their blogs. Right-brain functionality will soon override the emotional left.
Take a break from the tables. Read up on your game and analyze your hands played, but do not play one hand for that week. It will help you to reset and come back fresh.
Put your pride in your pocket and move down in stakes. It won’t make you a lesser player, but neither is it a step back in your poker journey. It is a sober and wise move.
And once again, focus. The next hand won’t be the same as the last. Come to the game with a fresh perspective and a fresh mindset.
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