Downswing philosophy question


Is coming out of a downswing a function of time (ie.,playing lite or not at all during this period) or is it a function of hands played (due to variance,must you play through the bad times, albeit judiciously,until the cards start swinging back your way again ). I’m most interested in your opinions, one way or the other, and why you think you’re right.

1 Like


So let’s look at an scenario that might shed some light on this…

You are at a table and running bad. You decide to stay.

Case 1: You just sit out. This would be the time function.

Case 2: You just fold. This would be the playing function.

There would be no difference between the two. However, there is a case 3: you leave the table. Taking a break saves you the blinds and antes, but you would miss opportunities when your luck suddenly changes and you aren’t playing.

Personally, I just grind through the bad times, sometimes dropping down a stakes level or two until I am running better. I will admit that this is more superstition than science, but it’s what i do.

1 Like


I believe there’s no answer to this question. It’s a lot like hitting in baseball. There’s streaks and slumps. And each one is unique. There could be any of an endless number of reasons for it. Sorting it out could be simple, or it could be indeterminate. Any answer could be the right one, and it could also be that you make some adjustments and coincidentally your outcomes improve around the same time. To really know, you have to be highly observant and analytical. Completely seriously, a a good poker coach could help you figure it out.

In short, there’s many factors that go into your game. When you’re running bad, take a step back and assess your play, and try to return to your fundamentals. Then start making small adjustments. If you need to rest and clear your head, do it.

1 Like

  1. Keep playing but pay attention to the hands you are losing, Are they really bad beats or are you not seeing something? or playing it wrong?
  2. Read up on your current style, (forum, sites, books) maybe you are complacent and forgetting a step.
  3. I don’t believe in slumps, if I am focused “bad beats” can happen, but poker is a math game, if you know the math then the odd always even back out. The only part of your game that isn’t math, is your style in betting, bluffing, etc… & your enemies, Nit up & watch what you personally might be lacking!


There are 2 components to this… running good and playing well.

As I understand it, we are talking about running good or bad.

Random events rarely show perfect distributions. For example, if you flip a coin 100 times, one wouldn’t expect it to go heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails… all the way through. There will be times where one result or the other comes up several times in a row. Flip the coin enough times and these “streaks” will even out.

Streaks like that are unpredictable. It’s not possible to tell exactly when one will start or when one will end, but they do happen.

The same is true of poker hands. Sometimes you will make a hand more often, sometimes less often. Over time, these even out, but they are as unpredictable as the coin flips. One could say that this is the luck factor, and totally different than skill.

I grind it out and try to play through these times because that gives me the best chance of being there when it swings the other way.



Downswings are a function of two key variables, Expected Value (EV) and Variance.

EV is driven by your skill relative to your competitors. The better your play compared to the other people at your table, on average the more chips you’ll gain. With higher EV, you’ll have fewer downswings.

Variance is luck. If you make a play that will win chips 75% of the time but lose chips the other 25% of the time, on average 1/4 of the time you’ll lose chips. Make that play three times in a row, and there’s still a greater-than-one-in-a-hundred chance you’ll lose all three times. That doesn’t mean it’ll never happen, just that it’s fairly rare. In general, cash/ring games are lower-variance than tournaments, so if you prefer playing tournaments, make sure you’re appropriately bankrolled to handle strings of 10+ buy-ins without a cash, or merely min-cashing.

When I’m in a downswing, I spend a lot of time analyzing my play to tease out what parts of my downswing are due to negative-EV decisions at the table, and what parts are due to variance. When I say “a lot,” generally I aim for about two hours of analysis for every one hour of play. That may seem excessive for a play site, but I’ve found that it helps me recognize where I’m falling into traps. Some examples of recent (to date in 2019) outcomes of my downswing-related analyses include the following:

  • Opening larger preflop when I’ll be out of position, and smaller when I’ll be in position postflop
  • Modifying my opening/3-betting preflop ranges based on my observation of opponents’ calling/raising frequencies
  • Recalibrating my continuation-bet frequency and sizing to extract value when I have air, and create value when I have strong draws
  • Improving my real-time analyses of my opponents’ ranges

The goal is to take the knowledge I gain through hand reviews and improve my EV. Variance will always exist in games of chance like poker, but EV is something that I can control. Understanding where I’m missing opportunities to increase EV tightens up my game, and helps pull me out of downswings faster.