COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing
II. What is a downswing? What causes a downswing?
III. Minimizing/Shortening a downswing
IV. Dealing with and getting out of a downswing
Poker is known to many people as a game of luck because so much variance is involved. They claim that you can get it in with the best hand over and over but you will still lose because poker is all luck and no skill. Nevertheless many of us at 2p2 understand that in the long run the best players, the players who make the most right decisions, come out on top.
Then there’s the rest of us:
“WTF I RUN WORSE THAN ANYONE EVER POSSIBLY COULD. POKERSTARS IS RIGGED, FTP HAS THIS DOOMSWITCH ON ME SINCE I WITHDREW.”
“ HOW DO I GET BOTTOM SET AND THE SITE GIVES HIM TOP SET”
“HOW DOES HE CALL MY COLD 4BET WITH J9s AND FLOP TWO PAIR RAWR”
Hero loses his stack in one unlucky hand, and then goes on monkey tilt and loses ten more buyins to chase his losses. Eventually he tilts off half of his roll in one sitting. Enter the downswing.
II. What is a downswing?
Over a very large sample, a winning player’s graph will look like a straight line with a positive slope. However, large samples take years for the graph to converge, and a downswing is a “small” patch of hands which give our positive line a few dips along the way. A lot of downswings are inevitable as they are just the nature of the game. KK vs AA preflop, set over set, bad beats, etc. But the difference between a marginally winning player and a crushing player is more than just the skill gap. In the end of all time, everyone gets the same amount of kings against aces, the same amount of post-flop coolers, and the allin EV and expected winnings will have overlapped. The player who crushes the game is able to accept the natural downswings with a positive or indifferent attitude, and minimize or completely avoid the player-manifested downswing
, usually caused by tilt. Natural downswings will happen, but allowing it to negatively affect your play will only make the overall downswing much worse than it has to be.
III. Minimizing a downswing
So what can we do to minimize a downswing? The very first thing that comes to mind is bankroll management. You can ask around 2p2 and people will tell you that 20 buyins is a decent amount, but I disagree with this. I’ve played with 20 buyins before, and a huge problem arises: the chips still feel like money. Playing on scared money causes the player to lose the slight +EV edges because he’s scared to lose the money. Even if he doesn’t play scared, these slight +EV edges are usually high variance and a few buyins down the drain will have a huge impact on your confidence and ultimately your game, and any deviation from your A game is EV lost. When you play with say, 50-100 buyins, the money has virtually no meaning to you. It’s just numbers on a screen, and to beat this sick game you have to realize that those numbers are not money. They’re just a way to keep score.
Following up on the BRM concept, I strongly STRONGLY believe in a stop loss. A stop loss is the amount of buyins you can lose, and if you do hit that number then you end your session (personally I use a stop loss of 3 because I’m a variance-sissy). Yes, it’s frustrating to play 200 hands and want to win it back, but save the grind for another day. The tables aren’t going anywhere, the fish aren’t going anywhere, so play when you have a clear state of mind. Forcing the grind to get unstuck can lead you to make –EV plays because you’re mad, you’re trying to win it back, and you’re tilted.
IV. Dealing with and getting out of the downswing
Now that we know how to minimize the downswing, how do you deal with it? This really depends on your personality, but I’ve found a few good things to try.
- Play Video Games: forget about your downswing
- Work out/Sports: take your anger out in a positive and productive manner
- Socialize/Get a girl: I know some of you grinders are too busy clicking away hours on end. Take some down time and go outside and see what the sun looked like
- PLAY LESS TABLES: Upping your volume is not always the answer, unless your game is rock solid. Lower the table count and really squeeze the EV out of each decision. It will deepen your understanding of the game and you’ll be more aware of your leaks
- Just go on tilt: Nothing’s wrong with tilting it out and releasing your anger… at a 2NL table.
- Play a different form of poker: I suggest MTTs and PLO. When you’re sick of the swings NLHE gives you, play some MTTs and PLO and really feel what variance is. By the time you’re back to the NLHE grind, the swings feel less painful because you’re use to a sicker amount of variance
- Get someone to sweat you: There may be leaks in your game and having someone watch you play could open your eyes to the leaks in your game. You may realize your downswing isn’t just bad luck after all
- Watch poker videos/get coaching: Same concept as above. Coaching is pricey though, but with a few hours you could get your major leaks spotted and fixed
For the micro grinders and even the SSNL grinders, be thankful of the times when you hit a downswing and are struggling to get out of it. Only when times are bad does anyone try to further their knowledge about the game. If it wasn’t for my downswing at 5NL I would never find 2p2. If it wasn’t for my downswing at 25NL I would never start posting. If it wasn’t for my downswing at 100NL I would never find deuces cracked. Getting your ass handed to you at the tables is the reason a lot of poker players grow, and like all the other grinders and others who are reading this, I know your goal is to keep moving up. So embrace the cruel learning process because it’s going to happen whether you like it or not – all you can do is have a positive perspective on it.
Good luck at the tables,