Super Tips To Help Poker Players Deal With Variance and Downswings

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a man in distress sitting at a poker table with playing cards, poker chips and a wallet in front of him on the table
BetMGM Jul 03, 2023, 7:34 AM

From beginners to professionals, everyone will experience ebbs and flows throughout a game of online poker. This is the nature of the game; players battle it out for several hours before crowning an eventual champion. During this time, they will experience a variance of downswings and upswings. And with luck and strategy being so prevalent in poker, you can go from being on a hot streak to a lull of weak cards for hours on end.

How you deal with the good and bad is a great indicator of the sort of player you are. An experienced player will understand that because a game can go on for five to six hours, there’s plenty of time to make up for mistakes. And if you win big, there’s also enough time to blow it all away. It means that no matter how well you play, if you can’t back it up with a strong strategy and mentality, you can fall to the wayside due to tilting. 

What Are Downswings in Poker?

A poker downswing is when a player experiences a series of losses. For beginners, this can be detrimental to the game as it often leads to tilting. Once a player reaches this state, they begin to make out-of-character bets in an attempt to revive their game, often losing more in the process.

Although dealing with bad beats is part of the game, there are methods to overcome them, like accepting that they’re inevitable and that everyone experiences them. The best thing you can do is shake it off and move on to the next round. Otherwise, you could become fixated and angry — two big no-no’s around the table.

 Knowing when to stop playing poker is important in maintaining a healthy mentality and ensuring you never become too demotivated to play again.

What Is Variance in Poker?

So, what is variance in poker? Just as with other sports, poker variance refers to the fluctuation of wins and losses (ups and downs) players experience during a game. It could be said that the best type of players are those who maximize their winnings and minimize the amount they lose regardless of variance. 

Knowing when to fold plays a huge part in variance. For instance, if you’re holding a strong hand like an ace-king and the river produces an ace–5–7–4–8, it may be tempting to raise the pot as you’re holding an ace pair and the rest of the community cards are low value. However, if you look closely, you’ll realize that an opponent needs only a 6 to formulate a straight, meaning you’re in danger of betting high and losing big.

Strategies for Overcoming Downswings and Variance

As previously mentioned, there’s no avoiding variance and downswings. Throughout a game, you’ll probably experience a handful of mistakes and losses. As harsh as it feels, it’s great for learning and bettering yourself — there’s always room to grow, even for professionals. Here are five tips to overcome these normal fluctuations.

1. Manage Your Bankroll

 Bankroll management is a big part of poker. Get it right and you’re setting yourself up nicely for the latter stages of a game. Get it wrong and it feels like you’re always playing catchup. Variance and downswings can take a toll on your bankroll, so before making or calling a large bet, be sure to consider the number of chips you’ll be left with.

Setting limits, like how many times you can lose or win before leaving the table, are great ways to ensure your bankroll is always healthy. Other unconventional poker tips include setting an amount for how large you can raise the pot in comparison to the number of chips in your stack. For example, not making a bet that uses over 50% of your current chips.

2. Have a Solid Network

From encouragement, advice and support to learning new strategies, having a solid network within the poker community can make all the difference to your mindset. So, be sure to make some friends while you’re playing. After all, it’s a social game.

3. Stay Disciplined

The main goal during a variance or downswing is avoiding tilting. Otherwise, you risk a long and tedious game of mistakes and impulsive decisions. Staying disciplined through understanding that it’s unrealistic to win every time, as well as creating habits like taking a break during a series of losses, can make all the difference. Sometimes fresh air is the best medicine to clear the mind.

4. Focus on the Long-Term

A game of poker can go on for several hours, meaning there’s always time to recover. The key is to remain patient and wait for the right time to strike. When you try to force a win, your playing style can become marred by bad decisions and, worse, tilting.

5. Reduce Play Time and Increase Study Time

All professional players will tell you that studying the game is just as important as playing it. It allows you to develop new strategies, learn from the mistakes of others and adapt your game when needed. Try to balance your playing time with time spent learning the ropes. It will serve you well when you’re facing your opponents.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.