How to Distinguish Between a Poker Downswing and Poor Play

Poker Downswing or Poor Play

1 minute

Last Updated: March 19, 2024

So, you have put your first deposit onto the online poker platform of your choice, or you have been hitting up the local card room for the first couple of times, and everything has gone to plan.

You’ve doubled or trebled your initial investment, and you feel like you are on your way to the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Then disaster strikes, your aces or kings seem to get cracked every time, you find yourself losing with strong poker hands, and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it.

You feel like you understand the game better with a bit of experience under your belt, but you seem to be doing worse than you did when your poker knowledge was limited.

Well, my friend, it looks like you are in the midst of a downswing, or are you?

It can be really easy to fall into the trap that your losses are due to a downswing when the reality is that you are not playing your best poker.

Trying to distinguish between bad play or being on the wrong side of variance is a complex matter and has tried to be answered by many a poker mind.

Although this question isn’t solved per se, there are ways to determine which side of the spectrum you are on.

The Best Way to Determine Downswings and Bad Play

As stated already, it is quite difficult early on in your poker career to distinguish whether you are running badly or just playing poorly, especially if you consider yourself as someone who is a recreational player.


But if you really want to find out, one of the easiest ways is either keeping records of your hands, albeit this can be a long and arduous process if you are doing so by hand.

Another option is exploring the web and purchasing poker tracking software. To truly find out whether you are playing bad or if the river just hates you, you will need to put in some serious volume, circa 50,000 hands at least, to get a true metric of your poker skills.

You can find a list of the best poker tools and software here, some of which have access to free trials.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get stuck in.

This will surely help you identify where you stand on the side of the variance and if you are making huge mistakes when you play.

Downswings and Bad Play are Not Mutually Exclusive

It is important to know that you can both be playing badly and also be in a downswing. They’re not mutually exclusive.

Downswings can lead to tilt, and you all know that you never play your best poker when you are steaming.

The inverse is also true; bad play can lead to greater downswings.

However, you can take comfort in the fact that bad play is something you can control. If you want to be a winning poker player, you will need to put in the effort to achieve this.

It has never been easier to improve your game. There’s a plethora of books, masterclasses, courses, and plenty of free content that you can indulge in to help your profit line.

Now in this day and age, not everyone has the time to scour the internet to find the best avenues that will help you improve, but you are in luck – there’s a great shortlist of resources to help you find the exact materials you need to help elevate your game.

These poker training courses are the best out there, so make sure you save the article to your bookmarks so you can browse it on your next coffee break.

How to Survive the Downswing?

So, you’ve bought a poker tracker, put in enough volume, you’ve seen your results, if it clearly shows you that you are running bad, then you can truly say to yourself you are in the midst of a downswing.


Of course, being in a downswing is a horrible feeling, but at least you can take some solace in the fact that you are not playing poorly.

The challenge for you is not to go broke, which requires some strict bankroll management. I delve into some more details on overcoming downswings in previous articles, but some quick tips on how to survive downswings are:

  • Taking some time away from the poker table
  • Taking time to study and learn new poker theory
  • Don’t chase losses
  • Move down in stakes

Maybe even play some freerolls for poker to blow off your steam and get back to your normal flow if a game where you are not risking anything will help you with that.

You need to remember that you’ll need to simultaneously practice all these tips rather than just focusing on one. This is the best way to limit losses and keep your sanity.

Final Thoughts

The question asked is one that has left some of the best minds in poker scratching their head, especially in the pre-internet era. Luckily, now you are fortunate to be in a position where we can find out either:

  • You’re playing bad
  • Running bad
  • Or both

That’s a great position to be in because you can control the quality of your play.

If you have followed my advice, you’ve already bookmarked the article to find the best poker training courses so you can start to improve your game right this second.

If you are running bad, you’ve now got some advice on how to get through those rough patches in your poker games, and well, if you are unlucky enough to be both playing bad and in the middle of a downswing, at least you now know avenues are open to you so you can start turning losses into cold hard cash.

Disclaimer: content on may contain affiliate links to online gambling operators and other sites. When you use our affiliate links, we may earn a commission based on our terms of service, but that does not influence the content on the site since we strictly follow our editorial guidelines. Learn more about how we make money and why we always stick to unbiased content. All content on this site is intended for those 21 or older or of legal gambling age in their jurisdiction.

Copyright © iBetMedia UAB. All rights reserved. Content may not be reproduced or distributed without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.