Every online poker player at some stage in his or her career will have had to deal with a period of nasty downswings.
If you’re reading this article and thinking “I’m too good to suffer downswings”, than you really couldn’t be more wrong. When you start playing online poker professional or either on a casual level than you have to take into account that you are playing in a game that involves a lot of luck.
Long term winning in online poker is about playing optimally, making good calls and committing your chips when you’re ahead in the pot. However, a lot of the time professional poker players will be committing their chips even when they’re just marginal favourites. The most obvious example that springs to mind is when players move all-in pre-flop AK vs pocket pairs. The equity is only a few percent in your favour.
The fact that most pro poker players move huge chunks of their chips into pots when they’re just marginal favourites by a few percent is what makes bad beats and variance and incorrigible part of the game. You cannot control the outcome of the show downs that you win. And this means that you can go through crazy runs of bad beats and suck outs on the river, especially in HU matches, that can seem almost an endless run of deadly hands.
This is exactly what causes downswings in both professional and casual poker player’s bankrolls. Any smart ass who takes just a stabbing gaze into Tom “Durrrr” Dwan’s career will be able to see the affect to which variance and downswings can serve a massive dent to your poker bankroll. In November 2009, Dwan suffered a downswing worth $4 million from playing online high stakes action. Many rail birds even caught him playing in the $25/$50 games at one point – a gorge away from the $400/$800 PLO games that he was accustomed to.
The same sequence of events happened in 2010 too. In October 2010 Dwan suffered a downswing of $750,000 just for that month. This would have been infinitely worse had it not been for his amazing +$1.5 million session on the last Sunday night of that month against Zigmuund Sahamies.
The point to all of this is that regardless of how good you think you are, you will inevitably go through periods of playing online poker where you’ll suffer massive downswings worth up to 40% of your total poker bankroll. Poker is all about taking risks and playing +EV which means that in the short-term or on a monthly basis (depending on your volume) you will go through bad times, period.
How to React to Downswings and Bad Times
In order to give yourself a better chance of staying sane and not losing your mind during massive downswings, there are a number of things that you can do.
For starters, you can stop playing. Take a break, go on holiday or just get away from the computer and ring games at PokerStars for a week or two. This will help to calm you down, take bad beats less personally and give you a clearer more object view on the game.
Secondly, you should move down a level if the variance is eating away at your bankroll. By moving down a level, such as from $2/$4 to $1/$2, it reduces the risks that you are taking and alleviates the potential size of the downswing. I’ve also personally found that by moving down a level it makes the game much more easier. Winning more pots helps to make you feel better as a player and gives you that confidence and aggressive hubris that made you such as deadly, calculated player in the first place.
Lastly, if you can hit up different types of poker games such as MTTs or SNGs. Mixing and matching your game can take some of the strain away. Playing MTTs in particularly massively limits the amount of money that you can lose in a day, in comparison to say a cash game where you can lose 100BBs and lose another 100BBs with a re-buy within seconds.
This poker article was provided to us by the guys at InstantWinGames.org.