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Expert Advice On How To Handle Poker Downswings

Charles S

Nov 16, 2022

Man looking tired and frustrated at the poker table

You have probably gone through a poker downswing at some point, whether you play poker professionally or just for fun.

Poker is a game of numbers, and the odds are frequently close. Because of this, variation and the downturns it brings to the game are both natural occurrences.

Downswings in Texas Hold'em can be mentally taxing for most novice players since they are challenging to accept without a solid grasp of the rules.

I'll discuss what a downswing is, how to handle tilt, how to manage your bankroll, and your alternatives when you're experiencing one.

I can only guarantee that following my suggestions will benefit both your game and your bank account. Of course, carrying it through will be the challenging part.

Before we discuss how to handle them, let's first discuss what downswings are, why they happen, and how probable it is that you will experience one.

What Is A Downswing?

You have undoubtedly had a losing poker session at some point in your poker career, no matter who you are. If you've played a little poker, you've probably even experienced a string of losses. In poker, a downswing is when you lose several hands in a row and a significant portion of your bankroll.

No matter how skilled you are or how awful the other poker players you play with are, losing sessions is a part of the game. In actuality, we've all occasionally watched live TV defeats of renowned athletes.

Why is that so, then? Shouldn't the superior athlete always prevail? These are the questions that beginners frequently ask, and with good reason.

The fact that there are so few poker situations in which everyone has 100% equity in hand is the cause of skilled players losing. Even the smallest edges can be exploited by the top players.

Variance is bound to come into play when you play a game where the advantages are minor or just not as significant as they would be in a game like chess. Poker variance may be particularly harsh.

Depending on the games they play in, their talent, victory rate, and the calibre of their opponents, all players occasionally experience downswings.

You are making a theoretical victory rate whether you play online or offline. In tournament poker, players track this win rate as ROI (Return on Investment) or in terms of bb/100 hands over the long term.

Your downswings will be less frequent and less severe the greater your victory rate is. Even if you are the finest player in your game, you will occasionally experience downturns.

You can easily grasp the impact poker variance can have on specific session outcomes by imagining the biggest fish in your game getting lucky on you in a string of consecutive huge pots.

How Long Do Downswings Last?

Getting Angry At The Poker TablesFirst, although it may sound harsh, if you play losing poker, you will always lose money in the long run. There isn't a way to avoid it.

Your win-rate will be crucial if you are a successful player in determining the severity of downswings. Poker players measure their advantage in a game by calculating their win-rate in big blinds earned per 100 hands (BB/100). The greater your win rate, the less variance will affect you.

How To Deal With Poker Downswings?

When it occurs, a poker downswing can have a number of detrimental effects. So, before taking the game seriously, every player needs to learn how to handle it.

A downswing has several implications, the first and most obvious of which is that you are losing money, which, depending on how restricted your bankroll is, may have a negative effect.

A poker downswing can start toying with your head and harm your mental game, which is the other, more serious aspect. This can result in poor table play and exacerbate the issue. A poker slump might also cause you to make other poor life decisions as a result of your poker tilt.

Top 9 Poker Downswing Management Strategies

You've been going through a downturn, so you're looking for strategies to handle it. There are a lot of things you can do, but I've chosen to narrow it down to the key suggestions that will undoubtedly help you control your present downturn.

Even if you are not currently experiencing poker variance losses, it will benefit you in the long run to keep these in mind. After all, there will eventually be a downturn.

These are the top suggestions to help you endure your downturn and prosper after it.

#1 - Retain A Sense Of Perspective

Variance is a fundamental part of poker. Look at the greatest players in the world. They’ve all experienced a long downswing, and they’re still at the top of the game. Everyone may experience bad luck, and you simply have to accept the fact.

It doesn’t mean that you have become bad at playing poker overnight. If your records show that you’re making a long-term profit, don’t doubt yourself; it’s just variance, and the tide will turn. There will be days and weeks in the future when you are untouchable. When those heaters come by, remember the downswings and vice versa. Keep things in perspective, and don’t lose your head.

#2 - Maintain Realistic Expectations

Early in his or her career, a poker player who has high expectations in poker tournaments may fail. Despite the fact that we are all wired to believe we are more intelligent and skillful than we actually are, this is a trap that needs to be avoided.

You should always aim to play your best poker, and after some time, you should calculate your realistic win percentage in the games you are currently playing.

You will know what you stand to win when playing once you are aware of your rough win percentage. Anything lower or higher than this will just be an exception.

It is important to comprehend equity and standard deviation, therefore, become knowledgeable about these ideas. You must be aware of the several types of poker downswings that can occur and be ready to deal with them.

Keep in mind that downswings will be more frequent and painful when they occur the closer you are to breaking even.

#3 - Remember Your Bankroll

Practise good bankroll management in pokerDon’t forget that one of the key reasons we practise bankroll management is for this exact reason. Bad runs are inevitable and your bankroll is there to protect you against such losing sessions. So don’t go chasing losses by playing like a maniac or increasing the stakes.

Maintaining consistency of stakes and buy-ins is important for two reasons. Firstly, it makes things a lot easier to review your performance when you’re comparing like for like. Jumping up and down through the levels muddies the water. Most importantly, constantly playing above your level leaves you vulnerable to going broke.

A downturn can absolutely devastate your bankroll if you don't have a strong enough one. Your required bankroll will vary depending on the sort of game you are playing, your level of skill generally, and your success rate.

If you want to keep playing poker professionally or even just occasionally, you should create a good bankroll management strategy that is appropriate for the stakes you wish to play.

#4 - Do A Database Reset

Doing a hard reset occasionally can be beneficial if your graph has recently been tanking and your positional numbers are stagnant. We frequently start to make more subpar, dubious plays than usual when we are running poorly. Occasionally, as a type of mild tilt, these choices can even be made nearly unconsciously. As we are aware that we are losing, we naturally want to exert pressure and work to recover our money as soon as possible.

Try a database reset if you believe this might be the case. In other words, start again from scratch as if your Hold'em Manager or PokerTracker database contained no previous hands. While I don't recommend wiping out all of your own hands, you could alter the filters only to display hands from the current session onward or just start over with a fresh database.

Play your "first" session after performing the physical reset, and concentrate on playing poker without making any mistakes. Ask yourself honestly if this play is likely to be profitable in the long run whenever a decision looks to be on edge. Choose the safe path and stay away from the challenging areas for a while.

#5 - Be Extra Selective

The trick to becoming a winning poker player is not to be the best player. You just need to consistently play against those who are not as good as you. Don’t forget that basic principle at the poker table.

So if you’re struggling with a downswing, don’t play in tougher games that will make things worse for you! This will further affect your confidence and decision-making. Instead, be extra picky with your table selection and try the life of a bum hunter for a while. Playing your normal game against vastly inferior players will help to rebuild things financially. But more importantly, it will help to restore your self-belief.

#6 - Drop Down In Stakes

When stuck in a rut, many poker pros find that dropping down a level can help them. We’d go a step further and advocate dropping down even lower through the levels. When everything is going against you, it’s very easy to second-guess your decisions. Playing at stakes that are far below your level really eliminates any fear factor. If you know that you can afford to absorb plenty of losses, you can focus on the poker aspect.

In addition, playing at much lower stakes gives you a free pass to try new things. Why not adopt a super-aggressive style for a while? Put yourself in sports that you wouldn’t normally be in. Get your brain thinking in different ways. Try anything to break out of the rut, knowing that if it goes wrong and you lose money, it won’t make a dent in your bankroll.

#7 - Never Stray From Your Strategy

In fact, the worst that may happen to a poker player is not even a downswing. It won't affect your long-term win rate because it is an expected and typical aspect of any poker career.

Your style of play, both during an upswing and a downswing, will have an impact on your win percentage.

When playing poker, you should always be at the top of your game and decide based on your knowledge of the game, not your feelings.

Poker tilt is a very prevalent issue that might force you to play more loosely, more tightly, aggressively, passively, etc.

This is why great poker players should have enough faith in their decisions to stick with them, whether they are winning or losing.

You might think your bluffs are unsuccessful if it seems like you lose every time you use one at times. Examine all of your poker statistics, not just those from the session where you performed poorly, to determine if they are.

#8 - Go Back To School

Poker 101 written on a legal padAbove all, you need to go back to basics when stuck in a poker downswing and reassess your playing style. Firstly, you need to review your hand histories and database. Are you sure this run is down to negative variance and not a leak in your own game? Remain honest, as lying to yourself ultimately does more long-term harm than good.

If you’re certain that your bad run is purely down to luck, then think about going back to basics. Read your old poker books, the ones that first inspired you to play. This might help you rediscover some enjoyment. Spend time on your game, reviewing hands and looking for holes. You should study regularly anyway, as this will only have a positive impact on your overall poker game and your confidence.

#9 - Take A Break From Poker

If you’ve tried everything and nothing’s helping, the best course of action is to stop playing for a while. It’s important to remain realistic and accept that not every poker player can be a winning player. If you’re a losing player, in the long term, this downswing might never end.

However, if you’re sure that this is purely down to variance, a break can still be beneficial. Take some time to revisit old hobbies. Discover new ones, preferably things that are completely unrelated to poker. Physical activity is always good for both body and mind, so exercise often and get plenty of fresh air. Come back refreshed, and by then, you will be raring to get stuck into studying and crushing once again.

The Bottom Line

If you hadn't at some point attributed your failures to a slump or bad luck, you wouldn't be a poker player. Sometimes this really is how things are, and other times it's just an explanation. It's important to keep in mind that poker downswings can happen to even the best players.

You must understand how to handle poker downswings, avoid getting tilted, and maintain a good balance in your life if you want to make a profession out of the game. I advise using the advice I provided in this article as well as improving your overall mental game and being ready for downswings at all times.

You'll see that poker downswings don't matter at all when you look at your outcomes annually or after playing a sizable number of hands. Keep learning and using new poker strategies, and your bankroll will continue to grow.

Now that you know how to handle a bad streak and are ready to start playing again, why not give online poker a go by signing up for a free account with Natural8?