Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Downswing

The largely random nature of poker induces what are known as upswings and downswings. Downswings occur when you repeatedly lose regardless of the quality of your play. It can be incredibly brutal to endure and typically how a player handles his downswings will make the difference between being a winning player or a losing player over time. You're on tilt once you start questioning your instincts and your mindset changes from 'how can I maximise my profit' to 'how can I lose this hand'; you'll burn through your bankroll before you know it on tilt - learning to avoid it is key to making a profit playing poker over the long run.

Downswings are made up of consistent bad beats (ADiamonds9Hearts losing to
AClubs3Hearts, KSpadesKDiamonds losing to JSpadesJDiamonds), long runs of cold cards and repeated unavoidable situations (KSpadesKDiamonds running in to ASpadesAHearts). A downswing can crush your ROI, destroying the previous weeks worth of rock solid play without you even making a single error in judgement; the skills required to deal with this are patience and persistence.

The key to dealing with bad beats is simply to enjoy them. It might sound strange, but if you are receiving bad beats you are actually playing correctly. Think about it. To take a bad beat you have to get your money in with a better probability of winning the hand than your enemy - this is pretty much the idea of poker. So receiving a bad beat is like a pat on the back, it lets you know you are playing well and that if you continue to play well you can be sure that your fortunes will pick up.

Situations like  KSpadesKDiamonds running in to ASpadesAHearts on the bubble are inevitable, there are certainly times when you could lay this hand down but the majority of the time you're going to be happy to get your chips in with KSpadesKDiamonds as you are far more likely to run in to a weaker hand than a stronger hand - particularly at the $10+$1 level.

On my recent downswing I took a week off in an attempt avoid tilt, during this time I decided to write this blog to keep me focused. Since playing again after making this blog I've had two third places, a bad beat on the bubble, one loss and back to back victories - one of which is broken down and examined here.

Games Played - 138
ROI - 5.28%
Winnings - $97 USD

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