Dealing with a Downswing in Poker

No matter how much we study the game and strive to make the right decisions, you are going to encounter downswings in poker. Variance is simply part of the game and if you play long enough, you’ll inevitably come across some extra-long downswings that will really test your patience. What starts as just an unlucky sessions can spiral out of control into a bad losing streak where it seems like you can’t do anything but lose, watching as you lose hand after hand to incredibly unlikely odds. While this may seem depressing, I’m telling you this so you’ll know how to react when it happens to you.

Downswings occur in all varieties of poker, but they aren’t quite as debilitating in limit poker games, since you can’t lose your whole stack in one hand. No Limit poker, on the other hand, is typically the one that can really get under your skin. Even very good players can get so frustrated that they get overly aggressive or make other impulsive adjustments that make a bad situation even worse. Fortunately, there are a few things to do to when you are experiencing a bad downswing.

The first thing you’ll want to do is simply step back and take a short break from poker. No matter how much we try to distance ourselves emotionally, these types of downswings still will get to us. Taking a few days off from poker will help you recharge, clear your head and when you come back you can do so with a completely new attitude.

Another thing to do to help shake off a downswing is to carefully review your hands to see if all of your “coolers and suckouts” are really as unjust as you think they are. If you poker at a high volume you should be investing in tracking software so you can replay your sessions and inspect all of your big losses. By doing this, you are more emotionally distant from the results, less results oriented and you can rationally think through whether you played it optimally. You will often find that once you are in a bad frame of mind after a few losses, it seems like every single hand is going against you when in reality it only seems that way.

There are plenty of poker forums you can join to vent your frustrations, post specific hands and get advice from other players on how to deal with your downswing. The general consensus will usually be the same, however: take a break from the game until you calm down enough to play unaffected poker.

Although downswings can be scary, don’t forget that there is another side of the coin. If you are a high volume player, you’ll also come across times when you can simply do no wrong and win every big pot you get involved in.

That light at the end of the tunnel should be enough to keep you going even during the worst of times!

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