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Old 11-16-2009, 09:45 PM   #1
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COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing


I. Introduction
II. What is a downswing? What causes a downswing?
III. Minimizing/Shortening a downswing
IV. Dealing with and getting out of a downswing


I. Introduction

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.
  1. Play Video Games: forget about your downswing
  2. Work out/Sports: take your anger out in a positive and productive manner
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. Just go on tilt: Nothing’s wrong with tilting it out and releasing your anger… at a 2NL table.
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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

V. Conclusion


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,
AFchung
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Old 11-16-2009, 09:46 PM   #2
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

first?
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Old 11-16-2009, 11:00 PM   #3
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

Nice post, thanks.
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Old 11-16-2009, 11:09 PM   #4
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

While I appreciate the effort, Sammy's post on downswings should be linked here. If you haven't read it, it is a classic. Sorry, I don't have it linked because it was burned in my brain. Also, the classic anthology thread has three good threads on downswings.

http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/69...hreads-430489/

I think section III is really up to the person. For you, having 50-100 BIs means that you can play without scared money. That isn't the same for everyone. I'm comfortable playing with 12 BIs at a level without affecting my game. Everyone has a different level.

Finally at the micros, everyone has leaks. Bad ones. Don't talk yourself into believing that you're on a 25k hand downswing or BE stretch. You have leaks. Fix them, that's all you can do during a downswing. Get to the point that your "downswing" is only winning 2 ptBB/100 and your upswing is 8 ptBB/100. If a forum regular posted, "I've played 100k hands at 2nl and am losing, " would you really believe it is just variance?
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Old 11-16-2009, 11:27 PM   #5
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

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Originally Posted by AFchung View Post
If it wasn’t for my downswing at 5NL I would never find 2p2.
Same here. Downswings are when I take the most effort to work on my game. After my downswing at 5NL, I found 2+2 and started crushing it. After struggling at 10NL, I started watching videos and have really improved my game. There's just so much to learn, but you never take the time to learn it when things are going well. Make sure you make the most of a bad situation.

And learning the game will rekindle your excitement for the game. I know that downswings tend to make me want to play less. After watching the stox videos, I get excited to practice what I learned and get back to action.
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Old 11-16-2009, 11:35 PM   #6
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

Great post.

Everyone faces downswings. I am a firm believer that handling downswings is what separates those who can play this game for the long haul and those who bust rolls.
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Old 11-17-2009, 12:02 AM   #7
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

Ooooh, one of my favorite topics!

Since we're linking threads, this is a good one and includes one of my favorite posts of mine with ridiculously over the top analogies:

The Anatomy of a Downswing
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Old 11-17-2009, 04:58 AM   #8
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

My reward for staying up late cruisin' 2p2! ty, sir.
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Old 11-17-2009, 09:07 AM   #9
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

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Originally Posted by Cry Me A River View Post
Ooooh, one of my favorite topics!

Since we're linking threads, this is a good one and includes one of my favorite posts of mine with ridiculously over the top analogies:

The Anatomy of a Downswing
Holy crap that was good (even with the baseball stuff)

This is by far my biggest leak (I think), playing one pair hands like it's the ****ing nuts or something.
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Old 11-17-2009, 03:54 PM   #10
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

Moving back to your "bread and butter" game (ie a game where you know you are a winner) or dropping down a limit can be very helpful too.

In my experience the main thing you need to snap out of a downswing is a little confidence and stability. Getting back to the ABCs and a game where you know you win can certainly help.
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Old 11-17-2009, 07:55 PM   #11
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

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Originally Posted by andyEB View Post
Moving back to your "bread and butter" game (ie a game where you know you are a winner) or dropping down a limit can be very helpful too.

In my experience the main thing you need to snap out of a downswing is a little confidence and stability. Getting back to the ABCs and a game where you know you win can certainly help.
Confidence is HUGE.

Both times I moved up (2 to 5 and 5 to 10), I underwent quite a bid of bad luck on the cards and combined that with my intimidation with the higher dollar amounts as well as my expectation of stiffer competition really handcuffed my play. Both times, my bad luck vanished, I got accustomed to the higher dollar amounts, and I was able to get the mindset that I was the best player at any given table. All of those things helped me immensely.
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Old 11-18-2009, 02:45 AM   #12
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

solid post. about the BRM thing, i personally play with 25 buyins...it seems pretty "aggressive" or whatever, but i have a system where i use 5 buyins as a sort of cushion, and a downswing at one level will never go below 5 buyins, because once i have like 19.9 buyins, i move down a level and grind it back. this works very very well for me. so basically if your disciplined and set up your own kind of BRM system, and make it work for you, then i think you will be alright. also i play lots of MTTs, so the variance at uNL doesnt really phase me anymore
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Old 11-18-2009, 11:33 AM   #13
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

Nice post.

About downswings: it's all in your head. I recently discovered I had a 50k b/e swing somewhere from june to july, but I didn't experienced it like that.

June was a good month overall, except for the last week (15k hands). July started good, but than I had a downswing running 18 BI under AIEV. After that downswing, I made it all back, all together it was in about 35k hands.

So that's a 50k b/e swing that looks like horror, but I didn't experience it like that, because my head is programmed in months: june was good, despite the slightly bad run in the end and july was also ok despite the downswing in the middle of the month. I had no idea I was 50k b/e.
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Old 11-18-2009, 01:23 PM   #14
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

nice post dude
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Old 11-18-2009, 06:06 PM   #15
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Re: COTW: How to Deal With and Get Out of a Downswing

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Originally Posted by andyEB View Post
Moving back to your "bread and butter" game (ie a game where you know you are a winner) or dropping down a limit can be very helpful too.

In my experience the main thing you need to snap out of a downswing is a little confidence and stability. Getting back to the ABCs and a game where you know you win can certainly help.

I was going to bring this up as well. September started off quite ugly for me at 25NL. I couldn't get a monster hand like a set to hold up for a turn and river if my life depended on it. As a result, I started playing a lot less because of the inevitable horrible session I was going to have.

Around September 16th I realized I was making a bunch of bad plays that were contributing to my losses. I might have actually been winning at an ok rate without the spew. I decided to play some 10NL temporarily. My main goal was to not spew, and focus primarily on valuebetting. I 24 tabled 10NL for a total of 10 hours and made $200. I owned, and the money I made was significant to me. I got back to the quarter feeling refreshed and confident that I didn't need to start throwing in a bunch of fancy plays to get me through a downswing. In fact, I realized that the middle of a downswing is probably the best time to forget about bluffing altogether.

I just wish I took a trip back to the dime sooner to get me back on track. I think that the next time I have a downswing of more than 5 buyins or a break even stretch that lasts a couple of days I might give this a try again, even if its just for a couple of hours.
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