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Dos and Don’ts When You Are on a Poker Downswing

Poker downswings dos and donts

9 minutes

Posted by: Ivan

Dos and Don’ts When You Are on a Poker Downswing

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There is no other game in the world that can take you to the absolute top and the emotional rock bottom as fast as poker. No matter who you are, the ups and downs of poker will affect you mentally at some point in your career.

The highs of a poker career can feel like being in heaven, but the lows have the ability to destroy players' will to play – or worse.

Anyone who plans on playing seriously should be aware of how exactly downswings work, how common they are, and what to do when they experience one.

After suffering more than a fair share of downswings in my life, here are my top tips on what to do and what not to do the next time you suffer a downswing and your bankroll enters free fall.

Five Things to Do While on a Downswing

5. Review Your Sessions

The first thing you should do when you see that you are in a downswing is to review your sessions if you are playing online or think about the poker hands you played in your live sessions.

Variance is always partially to blame for downswings, but making big mistakes can also be very costly and make downswings more common and more painful.

Try to think about the things you may be doing wrong in the game you are playing and what you could improve upon.

Remember, money saved is money earned. If you can patch up some leaks that you should not have, your downswing will last shorter, and you will be back to winning sooner.

4. Study Poker Extensively

Apart from studying your own online poker sessions, you should also spend as many hours as possible studying the game in general.

You could watch poker coaching videos or review other successful poker players' sessions. You may come up with new ways to approach the game or realize you have some leaks in your own you weren't even aware of.

The more tricks you have up your sleeve, the better you will do in the long run. Studying poker should be something you do during the good times as well, but doing it during downswings will help improve your confidence and keep your game sharp.

Studying poker during dowswings

3, Talk to Your Poker Friends

Talking to other poker players is always a good idea during a downswing. I highly recommend not telling too many bad beat stories, but if you need to get it off your chest, go right ahead. I am sure your poker friends will sympathize.

Once you get all the crying out of the way, you can start talking about actual poker strategy and ways of handling the downswing.

Your poker buddies have all been there as well, and they may have some good tips and provide emotional support. Namely, they can remind you of the time they went on the downswing and came back up from it in a matter of weeks.

2. Drop Down in Stakes

If necessary, there is no shame in dropping down in stakes. If your bankroll has suffered a hit or you don't feel as comfortable as you used to in your main game, drop down and try playing at lower stakes for a while.

A few wins in a smaller game might be what you need to regain your confidence and go back to playing your best possible game. If you keep losing, the hits won’t be as bad financially.

In general, I don’t recommend dropping down if you have a big enough poker bankroll to keep pushing in your regular game. However, it can be the right thing to do if it will help you both mentally and financially.

1. Take a Break

One of the absolute best tips for poker players going through a downswing is to take a break. The length of a break will depend on many factors, and only you know how long you actually need.

However, the main objective of taking a break should be to return to a mental state in which you know you are a favorite in the game and you are making money by sitting at the table.

This means you should not play until you are confident you can play your A-game for hours on end, even if you are losing. If you go back to playing and find you are not playing good poker, go back on the break. Do other things that make you happy until you are ready to play again.

Five Things Not to Do While on a Downswing

5. Don't Chase Your Losses

Chasing your losses is the worst thing you can do in gambling in general, and poker is no exception to this rule.

If you are on a downswing at a certain stake, it can be tempting to try and move up and quickly win the money back in one lucky session at the next highest level.

However, there is no guarantee you will have a winning session when you sit in the higher game, and your head will surely not be in the right place. You will doubt yourself and will be even more likely to lose.

Even more importantly, don’t ever try to win your poker losses back by playing gambling games like roulette, as this is likely to put you deeper into the hole.

Dont chase poker losses gambling

4. Don’t Quit the Game

I have seen many players quit the game for extended periods of time after downswings that I would not describe as large or significant at all.

In poker, it is very important to manage your expectations and know exactly what you can expect. A downswing is bound to come your way every so often, so be prepared for it!

Instead of quitting the game you love and enjoy, take a short break to get your mental game sharp again. Once you are ready, go back and crush everyone!

3. Don’t Be Disrespectful

Losing at poker, especially in live games, can be extremely annoying. Some players simply beg to be berated or insulted with their table manners, but you should never stoop to that level.

No matter what kind of beats you take or what your opponents say, you should do your best to always keep a cool head and stay professional and respectful.

You don't want to be known as the guy who loses his mind when he is losing, and you don't want to antagonize the fish, either.

If you are experiencing a particularly bad session and simply can’t take it anymore, the best thing to do is call it a night and come back tomorrow with a fresh mindset. Always try to stay a gentleman and observe the rules of poker etiquette.

2. Don’t Overestimate Yourself

After some time, you should know what your win rate is in a particular game and how well you do in the group of opponents you are usually up against.

However, it can be easy to overestimate your poker abilities and think you are the next poker phenom, especially if you have had a few great sessions recently.

You should always have a realistic outlook on the possible win rates, the length and size of expected upswings and downswings, and all other metrics that determine success in poker.

Dont doubt your poker abilities

1. Don’t Doubt Yourself

Probably the biggest mistake you can make during a downswing is to start doubting your poker game. You should always study and keep improving, but you should also play the best game you know how to, and not deviate from that.

If you are playing scared because you have mentally prepared yourself for a losing session, you should not be playing at all. Instead, take a break until you are ready to play the best poker you know how to.

Doubting yourself and rethinking every basic play you need to make will lead to you losing money in hands you would have actually won had you played proper poker. This will cause further frustration and even more self-doubt and anxiety.

It can easily become a vicious circle that you’ll struggle to break. Instead of going through all this, keep these poker tips in mind when the next downswing rears its ugly head and be ready to take it full-on, using whatever means necessary!

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