Dealing With Downswings – Part #2

Continues Looking At Poker Downswings With A Focus
On The Effects Of Downswings And Suggested Remedies

Part one of our Dealing With Downswings series looked at how we define downswings and what can be considered a downswing compared to normal variance. This article carries on the discussion by looking at the psychological effects of downswings and then providing a short (but effective!) list of how to deal with these effects to ensure you return to profitable play as quickly as possible.

Poker Downswings – A Vicious Circle

The vicious circle of poker downswings works like this: You loose a few buy-ins, suffer a few bad-beats and find yourself holding kings at the exact moment your opponent holds the aces. After a while you notice your bankroll taking a minor hit and start to worry. This worry then causes changes to your (previously profitable) game which in themselves cause losses – which cause your game to change once more… and so on.

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What has happened is that a minor piece of variance which you labeled as a downswing became a self-fulfilling prophesy. Different people react in different ways to a downswing but follow several distinct patterns including:

  • Failing To Bet Their Hands Strongly Enough For Fear Of Being Beaten, Thus Missing Value And Allowing Draws To Beat You
  • Chasing With Marginal Hands And Weak Draws In The Hope Of Getting Lucky
  • Becoming A Victim Of ‘Angry Tilt’ And Literally Spewing Chips

How To Deal With Poker Downswings

Awareness of the fact that your perceived downswing has affected your game is the primary factor here – if you are not honest with yourself about this then you will never find yourself in a position to take any of the positive steps to resolving it.

An acknowledgement of the important role that chance and variance play in poker is also important, this will allow you to put your downswing into perspective – especially when the ‘damage’ is relatively minor compared to what is statistically possible.

Here are some tried and tested methods for those who are suffering the effects of a poker downswing:

  • Take A Break: Stepping away from the tables for a few days can refresh your mind and allow you to take a wider view of the game. Realizing that your doom and gloom was caused by a little bad luck and a couple of small mistakes can leave you feeling invigorated when your return to the tables. In the heat of battle people can rarely look at things in such an objective manner.
  • Re-Tooling Your Game: Spending some time analyzing your own game should be part of your routine whether on a downswing or not. However, this becomes far more important when suffering the effects of variance. If you do not know how to effectively analyze hand histories there are several tools which will do this for you. Check out our dedicated section on the best poker software tools for more on this.
  • A Change Of Scenery: Online players have a massive choice of sites and games to choose from. If you suffer from a downswing then poker can seem like a dark and frustrating place. Changing game and even playing for ‘fun stakes’ can help to make this pleasurable again – when you enjoy your poker winning will come naturally. Changing sites can also help, especially using a different screen name, you can psychologically attribute the downswing to your virtual representation on site A and start fresh on site B.

Check out our fish-o-meter for the most profitable sites based on your personal criteria, and remember that downswings are a normal part of the game – it is how you react to them which is key.


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