Poker variance and the long run
A lot of student’s ask me about poker variance and the long run. They are wondering how long could a downswing last and if there are any ways to counter it. Therefore, let us dedicate this discussion to poker variance and I will try to give answers to most commonly asked questions.
Firstly, let us clearly state what the variance is. To put it as simple as I can – it is the difference between how much money you expect to win on average over the long run and the results you have in the short term. So can we reduce it and for how long could it possibly last?
A lot of players underestimate this part and think, if they are running bad for a week, it must end the next week. It is far from the truth and especially in online poker. Why online? Because online you have a much smaller win rate and you will encounter smaller or bigger variance all the time. It is just the way this game works and you should not judge your ability just by your short-term results.
For example in 2015, I finished the year over 150 buy-ins under EV. It is ridiculous to even think about that and it is hard to understand how much of the variance we can encounter until it hit us. It does not mean I finished the year losing 150 buy-ins, far from that, I was able to win a healthy chunk of money, but I should have won 150 BI more over that period in the long run. This is really a huge swing and it is not going to happen a lot of the time. However, it is not something unbelievable, such things happen from time to time and you need to ready to deal with it when it comes.
As ridiculous, as it sounds, poker variance is a good thing for us. It is the only reason why weak players keep coming back and giving their money away. If they would lose, every time when playing against better opponents, most of them would never return to the tables and the whole game would be doomed. However, now they keep coming back for more action and that drives us forward. Therefore, you should not be angry when encountering poker variance, you should not be made after losing with AA and in similar spots. You should see things as they really are and taking all you can from these situations.
There is a positive side of this as well. You can use this time to improve your Texas Holdem game, to study poker strategy, analyze your lines, and maybe even learn new things. It is important to identify your mistakes and many players find this time perfect for that.
Poker variance mostly depends on competition and your win rate. If you are winning huge and are almost killing your competition with 10bb/100 hands, you will not encounter huge variance. However, if you are just 1bb/100 winner, the variance can hit you very hard and you should be prepared.
The best way to reduce poker variance
To be honest, there are some ways to reduce your variance and in order to do that you have few options:
- Table select and play in weaker games. Poker is no place to show your ego and if you keep playing five better players in 6max games eventually, you will go broke. Many players overlook this and it costs a lot, not only they have much bigger variance – they drastically reduce their win rate and can easily go from winning player to losing one.
- Learn to keep your concentration and play A game as much as you can. This is an essential step because the difference in the win rate when we play our A and C games are crucial. If you have not done that already, I highly recommend reading my FREE ebook on self-management and concentration! You will get simple tips on how to prepare for your game, keep your concentration and much more!
- Know when to quit your session. Last, but not least. Quitting your session on time is very important and if you continue playing when tired, angry or feeling bad, you will not achieve much. Valuable buy-ins that you will lose because of that could increase your win rate much more than you can imagine. This is another way to reduce poker variance and increase your win rate simply, by quitting poker session on time!
Keep it all together
The worst thing you can do, when running bad, is losing your mental game. This leads to poor decisions and poor decisions lead to even further decrease in your win rate. This can put you in a circle of “bad run” while actually you are simply losing cause of poor decisions and play.
- Do not try to get back at anyone
- Do not change your style while running good or bad
- Base all your decisions on strategy, not emotions
- Constantly analyze your game
If your bad run continues for quite a long time, you are probably already making some mistakes and it is very hard to spot it on your own. If this is the case, I recommend asking some friend to review your game or getting professional poker database analysis. This will help you to make sure, if you are playing right and highlight some of the mistakes. Fixing it will help to improve even further and move you closer to your goals.
Remember, make sure to put full attention to your mental game and learn to deal with coming issues. It is going to be the deciding factor for your success because everyone encounters variance!
The best thing you can do to yourself is to think about long term results, not short term ones and keep your concentration to max level.
I really hope this will help you build better understand of the poker variance and what should you do in order to reduce it. Remember, simply find the best games, concentrate while playing and keep your A game. These steps will let you stay ahead of your competition and control your actions even when everything looks bad. Furthermore, I found a few interesting ideas on how to manage your bankroll for MTT’s, so if you are interested in that, check out this article. Just remember, If you are losing for a while, it does not mean you are doing something wrong so keep working on your game and you will be good!
Just to see how important your win rate is in determining how big variance you could encounter, visit poker variance calculator here and see for yourself.