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  • Dealing With Downswings In Poker

    poker downswingsEvery poker player will experience downswings from time to time; they are an unfortunate reality of the game. What separates the winners from the losers is how they are dealt with. Downswings can be crippling to a player’s mental health and financial health if they are mishandled. There is no use in trying to prevent a downswing, it is just not possible, but it is definitely possible for players to play through them with limited damage. There are many tactics that players can utilize to help minimize the damages incurred by an inevitable downswing. Setting a stop loss is a very effective way to minimize the impact of a downswing in poker.

    How/why do downswings happen?

    Downswings are usually blamed on bad luck. While it may indeed be partially true that the downswing is due to bad luck, it is rarely the only reason. It is much more likely that a player lost a hand or two to bad luck, continued to play (badly), and then blamed the losses on the few hands they lost where they got unlucky. It is only human nature to blame other things for our own mistakes. Players like to convince themselves that they are playing well and that they are just the victim of terrible luck, it is much easier on the ego. When a player starts to blame their downswing on outside forces they will begin to see the destruction of their bankroll. It is the inability to see the real cause that is most detrimental to a player.


    So why do downswings start? The start is most often the result of just one unfortunate hand. This one unlucky hand will tilt players, when a player tilts they are thrown off of their “A” game. Downswings can be described as a snowball effect. Once they start the losses pile up rather quickly. It is very unlikely that a downswing can be contributed only to a period where a player is running bad. It is just not within the realm of possibility that a player gets unlucky fifteen times in a row. This isn’t to say it is not possible, but it is very unlikely. This is the reason that many players often feel they are running worse than they are and may exaggerate reality. Two unlucky hands feel like five and five unlucky hands feel like ten. This frustration inevitably leads to poor play.

    How to deal with a downswing

    The best way to deal with a downswing is to either take a break or scale back on your play. A break will allow players to refocus and come back with a new mindset. This break may only need to be a few hours, or it may need to be a few days. It all depends on how frustrated you are. The angrier you are the more time off you will need.

    Scaling back on your play is the alternative to taking a break. There are a few ways that a player can effectively scale back his play to help return to prime form. The first way to do this would be by cutting down on the amount of tables you are playing. It is easier to make solid, well thought out decisions when you are playing three tables instead of eight. If you are already playing just a few tables you could drop down in limits. When there is less money at stake it will be easier to play relaxed. Relaxed players will always make better decisions than players who are stressing out over their downswing. See which option is best for you, act on it, and you will be on your way to ending the downswing.