Poker Variance: How Bad Can It Get & What to Expect?

Understanding variance in poker

5 minutes

Last Updated: February 23, 2022

If you are new to poker and just trying to learn some of the basic game concepts, I bet you are yet to understand poker variance.

It’s a famous phrase in the casino gaming space, and while it can significantly work against a player, it’s the primary reason you can make thousands of dollars from a poker game.

Just like when you’re playing online pokies real money and every spin can land a massive win, variance in poker is a real thing that you’ll have to deal with in the long run.

Poker variance involves a lot of calculations, and most players need a calculator service, but we are not about to get involved in math here. Instead, we look at the basics of poker variance and how bad it can get.

What Is Poker Variance?

Poker variance is primarily connected to poker downswings. In the simplest terms, it is eventful bad luck, the difference between your expected winnings from a game based on your win rate in the long run and the results you get in the short term.

Typically, every poker player has to deal with the variance at some point. Even the best and luckiest will experience the ups and downs. Thus, having a better understanding of poker variance will help you know how to handle the swings.

How Bad Can It Get?

Most of them rely on poker variance calculators, but the extent of the swings depends on one’s actual win rate and standard deviation.Running bad just happens in poker, but every player’s worry is how bad it can get. Well, it’s not something a player can predict straightforwardly.

Poker lovers with low win rates are more likely to encounter longer break-even stretches and more often compared to high-win rate players. They also have high chances of experiencing bigger downswings.

In any case, a variance calculator is every poker player’s best bet for calculating their expected variance.

The overall variance largely depends on the win rate, which is quite challenging to determine.

First, it keeps changing over time as the level of poker skills changes with time, so the poker calculator serves as a tracking tool and keeps a record of your standard deviation.

Poker variance basics

Therefore, how bad downswings get will depend on your win rate, but the player’s bankroll will determine the extent to which the player can withstand the swing and keep playing.

If your bankroll is not sufficient to support the swings or you have been playing at higher stakes, then it gets difficult to keep playing your best poker amid the considerable variance.

A Double-Edged Sword

Almost everything worthwhile is like a double-edged sword. There are always two possible outcomes, one as good as the other being bad.

Therefore, despite how scary poker variance is to many players, it is a curse and a blessing in equal measure.

Every player should learn to embrace variance and appreciate it as a standard part of poker play. However, no matter how skilled you are as a player, you will not be winning all the time.

There are a few measures one can take to mitigate the effects on your bankroll and mental wellbeing, but the truth is that the up and down swings are inevitable.

Dealing with Variance in Poker Games

Playing poker may seem quite a simple task, whether the game is live or in the virtual environment. Many players play as a recreational activity, and you have also played card games in the past.

However, this could be a significant underestimation of poker. It is far from the truth of the game. A game that could see you take home a six or seven-figure payout is no joke.

Besides, every decision a player makes counts, and a simple mistake could have significant monetary impacts. Here are a few tips that can help players deal with poker variance.

Acknowledge Variance & Approach It Head-on

There are no two ways about variance. If you play poker, you will encounter some swings, and the sooner you accept this reality, the better. You can then play games and maintain your calm even when things seem to be getting awry.

Remember that your mental stability has a significant implication on your gameplay. Therefore, it’s essential you understand the worst-case scenarios you could encounter during a game.

Play Where You Are the Best Player

It sounds like a coward’s strategy but is really helpful if you want to make a ton of money. If you line yourself up against a couple of recreational players, you are more likely to crush the games and take some nice profit home.

So, choose a good game for you and get to know all the weak players. That way, your win rate stands better, and you are less likely to encounter significant downswings.

Keep Emotions in Check & Know When to Quit

There is so much in a poker game at times, which makes it challenging to maintain a calm mind. For example, the odds would constantly be against you while opponents make some demeaning remarks.

Here, things could get quite challenging to keep moving, but that’s your only way out. Make sure you do not act out of emotions, and if things get tough, know when to quit.

How to deal with poker variance

It’s a bad idea to continue playing on an unstable mind or starting a session when you have a bad day. It comes between you and your A-game, and there is no point in starting a session under these conditions.

Make It a Habit to Take Breaks

Cash game players have one advantage. They can get up and leave the game at any time. Whether you had a bad day on the felt or otherwise, it’s always good to play optimally and ensure you have some days off the game.

It goes a long way in maintaining your mental wellbeing and controlling your emotions. Taking a break is especially important if you had a big loss during your previous session or two.

Summing Up

People play poker games with different goals in mind. Some are just starting and trying to learn some tricks before they can get fully in the game, while for some, like celebrities, it’s a recreational activity.

Some tycoons do not even mind losing a few thousand dollars, but we are not all there yet, and that’s why you need to understand the most critical aspect in gameplay, variance.

In any case, we all feel good winning. Our article should help you understand the basics of poker variance, and we hope the tips above will assist you in your future sessions, no matter the stake level you are at currently.

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