Poker Downswings


For more general information on downswings in NL Hold'em, see the article on variance in poker.

Big Poker Downswings

Every regular poker player knows that you can't come out of every poker session with more money than you started with. There are always going to be sessions where you end up losing more than you win, and often there is very little that you could have done to prevent it.

Even though poker involves a certain amount of skill, luck is something that is always going to be a big influence on the outcome of each individual session, and it always will be. Any poker player that plays regularly enough will find that luck gets the better of us sometimes for longer periods than we would like, and for some, this stretch can seem never ending.

Facing a big downswing in poker.

As a frequent player at the cash or tournament tables, we are prepared to lose 2 or 3 buy ins or not place in a number of tournaments from time to time, its just the way it goes. But occasionally, although it doesn't happen very often, a 2 or 3 buy in loss will just be the tip of the iceberg. We will come face to face with a seemingly never-ending stretch of bad cards and busted draws.

So what goes wrong?

Every coin flip all-in goes the other way, none of the draws hit, and we manage to miss every single flop that we see. Even our AKs seem to get beat every time by hands like AQ and AJ. “Surely it's just variance” you say to yourself and its not going to be long before you get back on track and your hands start holding up again like they should. But as soon as you start to regain some of your faith, another Ace falls on the flop when holding KK.

The effect of a big poker downswing.

The problem with these huge downswings is that they are completely out of our control, and there is no amount of perfect play and good reads that can stop you from going down with the swing. As the swing gets bigger, you start to question your game and wonder if you have lost the ability you once had to win money from poker.

This can then lead to you altering your game to see if you can improve and win some of your money back, but the new style of play is usually worse and just ends up losing you more money than if you had just stuck with your normal game. Players always want to know how to deal with big poker downswings, so the questions always end up being:

  • Where am I going wrong?
  • What can I do to stop the downswing?

The answers are pretty simple… nowhere and nothing. Even though these are the honest answers to the questions, they probably didn't help and probably didn't put your mind too much at ease. If you are a solid player and continue to play your best game at all times, then you are doing nothing wrong.

You have to remember that every hits a big poker downswing from time to time, and it's simply a bad dose of variance slapping you about for a few sessions.

The only thing that is going wrong is your ability to have a bit of good luck once in a while, and there is nothing you can do to get that back on track. Therefore because you have no control over your luck, there is nothing you can do about the downswing. Once again, these probably weren't the kind of kind of answers you wanted to hear.

How to get out of a big downswing.

The best advice anyone can give to someone in the middle of endless losing sessions is to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long it may seem sometimes. Eventually the cards will right themselves and you will start to win some more of the coin flips and your bankroll will be on the road to recovery.

Try to maintain a positive attitude and play the game you know best at all times. If your same style of play allows you to win money for months and months, it does not make it a losing style just because you haven't seen any wins for a few weeks. If the big blow to your bankroll is having an affect on your ability to play, the best advice then is to take a break from the game and put poker at the back of your mind for a while.

A week-long break is usually perfect for helping you to snap out of a negative frame of mind and get your game back on track.

Give it some time before you start playing again so that when you come back you can start afresh, the bad losing streak that you had will no longer be of any concern and you can carry playing the way you know how.

Poker downswings evaluation.

Poker is a game of ups and downs, and unfortunately, the downs always feel a lot worse than the ups. There is nothing that you can do to stop the long losing sessions, you just have to let the downswing take its course and ride it out as best as you can.

Always try and maintain focus even when you are at your lowest, because by playing your best game you will be minimizing any losses that you may have. Every poker player experiences very bad runs and bad beats, so just try your best to play through it until you are back on the up. You never know, the biggest upswing of your life might be just around the corner…

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Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.


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