5 Tips On Fighting Downswings
Are you in a long, never ending downswing? Are you tilted out of your mind? Is poker sucking and affecting your regular life?
These are all common reactions to poker losses. Poker is a highly emotional game and losing large amounts of money in a game can really affect a person’s mindset. The word ‘downswing’ can mean a lot of different things for different poker players. Newer players might think a 10 buy in loss a downswing. Long time PLO players might call that a bad session. Whatever word you categorize as a downswing , it is important to work as hard as you can to minimize the losses when they come. If you are in a long downswing and it seems like it will never end, try using these tips below.
Prepare For the Downswing
As a poker player, you should know that downswings are an inevitable part of the game. There will be a stretch in your poker career when you run the worst you ever have and you are the unluckiest player that you know of. The question for you is: What are you going to do about it?
Be sure to have a plan when fighting the downswings- review hands, have a support network, have a study routine, and generally, have a plan for what you are going to do when you encounter downswings. Have a schedule for yourself and make sure that you are still consistently playing poker during these downswings. Adversity is always easier when you plan for it and are mentally prepared.
- Know that getting out of a downswing takes time and that you are not going to make back the entire loss in a very short amount of time (unless you play PLO).
- Many times, players can lose buy ins much faster than they can win them. Understand that climbing out of a downswing can be a long process, depending on your win rate, volume, and other factors.
- Understand that variance and sample size are two big factors when evaluating a downswing and keep this in mind before making big adjustments and assumptions about your game. This is especially true in live games.
Be Honest With Yourself
Is this downswing caused by run bad or play bad (or both)? Are you only focusing on your bad beats and coolers, or are you thinking about your other leaks and where you are losing money by playing poorly? It’s important to understand how much of your downswing is attributed to bad luck vs. bad play. Typically, most downswings have a bit of both involved, and it is important to not focus on all of the negative results alone. Focus on the things that you can control and keep working hard to fixing your leaks. Sample size can be a very big factor and players can run well for a very long time (100k hands +).
Really ask yourself if your downswing is all bad luck or if you are an underdog in the games that you play in. The number one takeaway from this article is that you should lower your ego and be very honest with yourself. Think about what you can do to improve your own play and not only focus on the things you cannot control.
- Do a heavy amount of self analysis and ask poker friends to check your database and/or hands.
- Focus on your leaks, not your bad luck. Sulking and feeling sorry for yourself does not get you anywhere and does not remedy the situation.
- If you do not feel you are a winner or if you feel you are letting your mental game slip often, move down or do heavy self analysis to fix the problems.
- Play your game and don’t change your style simply because you are running bad (unless you think that you are making some technical mistakes). Continue to make bluffs and play with confidence, do not shell up and take the lower variance route because you are scared you will lose more money.
Some players refuse to move down in stakes until it is far too late, when their bankroll has been obliterated and their confidence completely shot. Don’t do this. Move down temporarily and try to book some wins and regain confidence. Players should always be playing a mix of games and stakes and game select in the best games possible. Playing a lower limit for a short duration does not mean that you have become a ‘regular’ at the lower limit and you should not force yourself to act like you are going to play the lower limit full time (though this is a fine option if necessary).
Many players have too big of an ego and cannot get over the fact that their downswing may be attributed to bad play. Move down for a bit until you feel better about your game, regain some confidence, and then move back up when you are feeling good.
- Give yourself a short term goal for moving down and how many buy ins you will win at the lower level. This goal can either be a monetary goal or a hand/hour total goal.
- Play a range of games and stakes and game select the best games possible. Regulars should not be playing any one limit or format (unless you are only playing zoom /fast tables). When you do this, moving down should not affect you as much.
Book Some Wins
When you are constantly losing and each session ends in a loss, one way to gain momentum is by booking wins. Finishing the session with a win can change the ‘routine’ of losing. Suddenly, it’s not ”Ugh, I ran so bad, I ran x amount under expectation and I lost another 3 buy ins”; but instead, it is ”I finally stacked a regular and won 2 buy ins and I’m feeling confident.” Change the narrative and allow yourself to start feeling positive about poker.
Sometimes, a string of small wins can really be the key in turning around a downswing. Even if you are up a few buy ins over a short time period in your session, you should quit to book the win. Going up a few buy ins and then losing all of them (and more) can be detrimental to an already fragile mental state.
- The key is to book wins, no matter how short or long the session. Do not get greedy or try to make all of your losses back in a few short sessions- it’s unlikely this happens.
- If you are in a long downswing, consider booking the win, no matter how long you have been playing. If it is 1 hand or 500 hands where you are up 1 buy in +, consider stopping and relishing the victory.
- Your primary goal should be to regain confidence during these stretches and being able to play your A game. If this means making some good, logical bluffs or some tougher hero calls, then do it. Many players will shell out and take the lower variance play when running bad, and it is a bit strange to think that you actually cost yourself money when you don’t make a very +EV bluff.
A common trend I see when players are going through downswings is a reluctance to play, study, and grind. Many players shut down completely and play very little. While this is a somewhat ‘normal’ response for most poker players, it is not the best approach for fighting and getting out of a downswing. Not playing or studying can obviously be hugely detrimental to you as a poker player if you are playing full time, as well.
When going through downswings, you need to work HARDER, not less. Downswings generally do not just take care of themselves unless you are proactive about them or are just a poker robot who is immune to variance (and can grind it out). When I say work harder, I mean that you must put forth more effort into poker than normal. This means: Playing more hours, studying more, reviewing more, and working on your game more.
If you are a winner in your games and you are in a downswing, variance will eventually even itself out and you will hit an upswing and recoup your losses. You need to play in order for this to happen, though.
- Have a set schedule of time dedicated to poker. During downswings, make sure that you maintain this level of dedication and continue to study and play.
- Strengthen your mental game and try to play through these downswings. Be consistent with your study and play.
There are many techniques and methods that you can use to help fight downswings. The two takeaways that are most important in this article are: Be open and honest with yourself when self evaluating the downswing (and lower your ego) and to be proactive about your downswing while it occurs. Your mental game and approach to downswings may change many times throughout your poker career and that is okay- like poker, your overall approach will evolve over time. Just remember your fundamental approach to improving your game (in all facets) and you will reap the rewards.