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How to Deal with a Downswing

A downswing is a period of time that a player consistently loses money no matter how well or poorly you are playing. They happen to everyone at some point in their poker careers and can often make or break you.

Emotionally and mentally they can be extremely tough going. To put it into perspective, it’s like going to a ‘normal’ 9-5 job and having to pay someone the privilege to do so. Most sane person would never do this, but unfortunately as a poker player its part and parcel of the game.

Many players say that it’s how you deal with a downswing as to how far you can progress as a player. If you can accept that they are going to happen and just concentrate on playing your best poker for the most part of the downswing then there’s really nothing else you can do.

The downswing is basically a factor of variance in poker and is something we simply cannot control. All the coaching, game improvement and community input in the world to improve your game may still not get you out of a downswing. It’s something that you just need to grind through and hopefully come out the other end a better and stronger player as a result.

Whilst by no means easy, the quicker you understand why its happening and the quicker you accept that it’s simply out of your control, the better you will become as a poker player.

Throughout this article we will be looking at some key steps to help you get through your downswing by looking at; take time off, keeping perspective, dropping down in limits and reviewing your game before looking at some key points.

Taking Time Off

A downswing can be an extremely stressful time and whilst it’s true that the only way to get through is to grind it out until you ‘reach the other side’ sometimes taking a bit of time away from the game can be a good thing to gather your thoughts and just either chill out or forget about your troubles.

By time off we don’t mean a few hours away from your computer. Don’t play for a week or so and if you can afford it, get out the house and get away from it all. More often than not you will return with a fresh, positive outlook and your commitment to the game will have improved.

It’s important that throughout this down time that you totally switch off from poker though. If it’s still stewing in your head about how bad things are going then it will become almost impossible to relax. You need to go somewhere or do something that will give you time away and also make you forget, if only for a while, of your tribulations in poker at that moment.

Keeping Things in Perspective

This is often one of the toughest things to overcome in the midst of a downswing. Often thoughts of “I’m the unluckiest player ever” or “what have I done to deserve this” start running through your head, but it’s vital you understand this happens to a lot of people and is almost a certainty that at some point everyone has to battle a downswing.

At the end of the day, no matter how bad your downswing, there is always someone, somewhere in the world who is much less fortunate than yourself. Whether that be the friends you have, the family around you, the money in your back pocket, the food at your table, if you are reading this article then I can guarantee someone is less fortunate than yourself.

Poker is only a game and there’s likely a million other things you can do whether it be in a recreational manner or a career changing role. There can be more to life than poker!

Dropping down the Limits

Now you may think that if this is something I cannot control then why should I drop down the limits if I know the plays I am making are optimal and I’m just on the other side of variance at the minute.

Well, if your bankroll is a substantial one then this may be fair enough, but the longer you go on, the more money you will lose and then the smaller your bankroll will become. So when the time comes and you are starting to come out of your downswing you may not have any bankroll left to fall back on.

By dropping down, don’t look at it as a defeatist way by thinking you can no longer cut at whatever level, look at it as a temporary fix to something that sometimes you cannot control. It will drastically limit your loses and by the time things turn around, you will have the bankroll still intact to go back to your original stakes and start to re-build.

Reviewing your Game

We’ve spoken a fair bit in this article about variance can be a cause of your downswing, but another cause could also be that of your game deteriorating over time. There are countless poker professionals out there who 3-4 years ago were beating mid stakes games and making a very tidy income from it. However, now they struggle at stakes much, much lower than these simply because they have failed to put the time and effort into keeping their game up to scratch and failing to improve.

Whilst you are in a dowsing always look to improve your game and get others to look at your game to see if they can spot any glaring mistakes you may be making but are simply unaware. You may not find any major leaks, but just simply addressing this situation with an open mind to the fact that you could be the reason for your downswing is a positive outlook to have.

Key Points

  • Realise that downswings are part and parcel of the game
  • Learn to deal with them, once you come through you WILL become a better player as a result
  • Drop limits in the midst of a downswing to protect your bankroll
  • Actively look to improve your game and find any leaks