Five Tips for Dealing with a Downswing

Andrew Robl

If you've played poker seriously for any amount of time, you've probably hit a downswing. And downswings can be downright demoralizing.

If you play the game long enough, though, they are as inevitable as the setting sun. Or getting your aces cracked on the bubble.

What separates great players from good players is their ability to deal with a downswing.

We've all been there. The beats start piling up and day after day you're booking losses. You feel like you're playing well, but the cards just don't fall your way.

Poker is a Game Dominated by Short-Term Luck

If you had a time machine and could change one card in every WSOP, you can guarantee that you could change the outcome of the entire tournament with just that one card.

Jerry Yang

That should show you how much weight is placed on the falling of cards.

When the cards aren't going your way, it's entirely possible to play your best poker and still lose for 20,000 hands, 600 tournaments or even more.

Unfortunately, it's the nature of the game.

If you've experienced a lengthy swing, you can attest to the fact that it makes you question everything you have ever done in poker.

You start to wonder if you ever actually did beat the game. You wonder if the players are all getting better or if the deck is just stacked against you.

In reality, you're just as likely to be a few good cards away from a heater. 

These are five tips to get you back on the right track:

1) Take Some Time Off

When it gets to the point where you don't even want to look at poker, don't.

You'll be amazed at how much better you feel after taking a day or two away from the game to relax.

In the midst of a downswing, frustration will often get the best of you. Nobody plays their best when they're tilting - even a little bit.

Some much-needed time away from two-outers and rivered flushes will allow you to clear your mind and come back to the game fresh.

John Juanda

2) Keep Things in Perspective

You are a winning player. You have done very well at poker to get to this point.

That wasn't all luck.

Downswings happen to everyone. They're a part of the game.

It may seem like you can't win now, but in reality nothing has changed - you're just playing in a game dominated by long-term skill but short-term luck.

In the long run, the good players will always win and the bad players will always lose.

You have to take the good with the bad.

If you want to have those 10 buy-in days where you go on sick heaters and steamroll the table, you have to be able to stomach the other side: the prolonged downswing.

3) Take a Step Down

Downswings can be hard on both your morale and your bankroll. A good way to get back on your feet is to move down in stakes.

Playing smaller gives you a chance to play with a lower stress level. With the weight of the money off your shoulders, you can concentrate on beating the softer competition.

When you're running bad, sometimes all it takes is a few winning sessions to get your confidence back.

You can jump back into your regular game whenever you feel you are ready!

Mike Matusow 2

4) Take a Look at Your Game

Although downswings are inevitable, the longer they drag on the more you should take a look at your game.

Everyone thinks they're better than they really are, and the middle of a downswing is a great time to really take a look at your game and see if you are playing your best poker.

Downswings lead to frustration and frustration leads to tilt; tilt leads to the dark side. And of course by dark side, I mean bad play.

Go over your hand histories with a poker-playing friend. Are you actually getting unlucky or are you putting yourself into too many marginal situations?

You may be surprised at what you find when you get past that "poor me" attitude.

5) Fooooooooocus

Nothing is going to pull you out of a downswing like good decision making. You just have to play through it.

If you focus on making the best possible decision every single time the action is on you, you'll be back to your winning ways before you know it.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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millifilli 2015-01-11 10:08:42

Just my two cents on downswings...

Downswings are an inevitable part of the game that one must master. Learning to understand how you react to stints of bad luck is just another skill any good poker player must have. Many poker players spend time learning about pot odds, or how to play certain hands in different positions, and learning to navigate the ebb and flow of luck is no different than that. Its a skill that you must work at and will hopefully improve over time.

I think its a positive sign that you came in here to discuss your experience. It shows that you are willing to look into your game and your willingness for improvement. poker forums are a sort of "poker therapy". People go to therapy when life throws us curve balls and the same is true for poker players. The only difference is that we end up in forums talking about our sorrows instead of on a shrinks couch. (maybe some of us end up on both :P)

One of the tools of poker therapy that i utilize besides surfing forums is to watch videos on the subject matter. you can find some pretty good videos on youtube talking about downswings. Sometimes i like watching videos of players' sessions where there are getting tons of bad beats. It sort of eases the pain to know someone else is going through what I am. Emotions are powerful things that are part of the human condition and managing them is a life skill. We all know how poker can be a metaphor for life. And i swear that when things in my life are going bad it will always show up on the poker table too. So learn to ride the ebb and flow and stay in awe of the possibilities of life.

Anyway, there's my two cents. I know its not filled with technical jargon but poker psychology is an important part of the game. This link has a list of 5 good poker videos on "dealing with downswings". You can find all these videos on youtube but if you want to see what I watch when i'm downswinging to help put my head back in check than check it out. Good luck!

http://calipokerrooms.com/how-to-deal-with-downswings.html

ira 2009-11-19 22:05:00

i had i think one of the roughest downswings in the history of the humanity. 600 tournaments and sng-s in a row. And the worst part is that I always had the best of it when i went in. It was just dreadful ! But the whole things started i guess due to the fact that i didn't spend enough time playing, stopped taking poker seriously and played only once a month on occasion.
and then when I decided to go back to play regularly - booooom. That was painful. I am still recovering and trying to tilt my poor bankroll up from minus :P
Thank you for writing this - it's very helpful ! Lower limits usually yield higher variance. All hail the donkeys !

bill 2008-10-07 17:17:00

i di exactly that i took aweek off and checked with my buddy and found out i was playing a lot out of position it really helped

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