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.

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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.


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. 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.


This is absolutely right. I was playing last night in the Hijack tournament, and had great cards. I had AA three times, a KK, several 99s and 88s, and my cards were so good that I even flopped a flush after folding preflop.

Not surprisingly I was the tournament leader three times, but in the second hour on the bubble I played excruciatingly badly and lost half my stack with TT from the small blind, and soon after crashed out altogether. I hardly ever go “on tilt”, but you could say that this time I did.

I think one factor is that when you have a huge stack and are dominating the table and outplaying opponents, overconfidence can creep in, perhaps due to an extra surge of testosterone, and you make spur of the moment misjudgments.

Often when I win tournaments I am not leading, and am in a constant struggle to just hang in and survive and make one more place up the ladder, then perhaps I have some good cards, or good fortune, and double up to get onto the final table. I find that once you get onto the final table, there will be some opponents who will throw away their stacks, so it pays to be conservative at first, then when you get down to about 4 players, it gets very tough, and you really have to study the style of play of your opponents and set traps for them when you flop monsters.

I think a lot of people forget that we aren’t playing solitaire. People can and will adjust to your game, especially in the later stages of a tournament. If you are dominating a table, you should expect to get trapped at some point. You can switch gears yourself and minimize this, but it’s going to happen.

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we all suffer downswing, the downswing can last anywhere from 1 day to 1 month. My longest was 2 week. What usually happens during downswing are, you don’t get any good hand, you cant hit any set, all your flush miss, when you have a monster the other guy have a better monster.

downswing is a test of a poker players real mental strength, some players go completely broke, and some players get through the bad time and come out stronger.

If you are a poker player, you will suffer downswing, it is all due to the fact that poker is probabilistic based game. Heck even chess players suffer downswing. muhahaha


Yes, this is true. I played a tournament tonight in which I think I played quite well. It was one of these tournaments that is 250,000 chips to enter, so does not have a lot of entrants, and therefore few paid places, five in this case. I was dominating the table and at one point had half of the chips in play, but it was incredibly tough to polish off the small stacks as they won all-ins again and again. But when we were down to three players, I made a ghastly mistake, because I just knew the opponent was bullshitting yet again and decided to teach him a lesson. Here is my contribution to the Replay Poker Hall of Shame.

However, I was able to fight back from looking into the abyss, and with the mighty T 2 was able to get my revenge.

I think people tend to play really badly at the end of tournaments, because it is just a case of mental exhaustion and wanting to get the game finished.

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lol, the doyle brunson special :grin:

Yes indeed, the Doyle Brunson hand.

The interesting thing about the reversal of fortunes was that in both cases A9 was the losing hand. A9 is a very problematical hand, because in, I daresay the majority of cases where there are six or less players at the table, it is probably going to be the best starting hand, but there are enough exceptions to make it very dangerous.

It is vulnerable to so many hands. AA and 99 are its worst enemies, but AK, AQ, AJ, and AT also dominate it and are unwelcome. KK,QQ, JJ, TT, and especially 99 are also very unwelcome as they start ahead and nullify the 9, and then any pocket under pair starts ahead with a coin toss chance of success. KQ, KJ, KT, QJ, QT also pose an enhanced threat if picture cards other than A come down. If you raise preflop with A9, the hands listed are the most likely to call. On the other hand, if you limp and miss the flop, you have no idea what opponent has and the most innocuous flop can be full of pitfalls, as in the hand shown here.

A9 suited is better than unsuited, but one of the weaknesses of the hand is that it cannot make any straight using both cards, so AT is much stronger. In addition, AT can make the nut straight, and AT suited can make the Royal Flush too–not that I have ever had one.

However we have to play the cards we are dealt, and you can’t be folding A9 too often in the later stages of a tournament where you need to win blinds to stay alive, especially if no one has bet before you.

In the T2 hand above, I think both players were really tired and ready to put a conclusion to activities and, to be honest, I don’t think I even noticed that I had 2 pairs on the flop until later. I just saw top pair and shoved.


10-2 is also the hand Bronson said lost him more money than any other hand. He has claimed he no longer plays it, but if you watch him actually playing, he does play it if he can see a flop relatively cheaply.

If one is really observant, they will see that none of the book-writing pros actually play exactly like they suggest in their books.

Edited to add: OK, I haven’t read every book out there, so maybe someone does play the way they suggest.

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No, and it is said (I don’t know) that Doyle Brunson had to change the way he played after the publication of his successfull book Supersystem.

Personally I don’t bother that much with theories and systems, because when you are playing at the level we are playing at, the quality of play is so poor that you can be a consistent winner simply by following basics and eliminating really stupidly egregious errors like accidentally calling a raise when you intended to fold (as I did one time last night) and calling bets when you do not have the correct odds to call.

One of the most important calculations to make is this: opponent leads out on the flop with a half pot bet, you do not have the nuts and your hand needs to improve to have a chance of taking the pot, assuming you are not going to bluff. What odds are being offered? If the pot was 1000 chips and is now 1500 chips, you are being offered 3:1 odds. What are the odds of you improving your hand on the turn? If you have second pair, an overcard, three cards to an inside straight, and your cards are suited and one of the cards on the flop matches your suit, there are something like 18 cards that could improve your hand and give you trips, two pair, an open ended straight draw, or a flush draw, or some combination of each, so you do have the odds to draw a turn card that will improve your hand, but even then you are still far from winning the pot yet and could even be up against an unbeatable hand. If the cost of seeing the turn is not very high relative to my stack size, I may call. But I only have a few seconds to make this decision.

Stack size is important here, because if I go below 10 BB I am probably going to be playing all or nothing preflop, and if I am close to that line, I may want to hold my powder for an attempted blind steal or double up, whereas if I have a big stack hitting a draw on the river may enable me to stack an opponent with relatively little risk to myself. Stacking an opponent will put me a little closer to the money, so it is not all about chips counts.

Last night I played a hand down to the river in which I raised preflop with 66 and was called by a player in late position and another in the blinds. Flop came K82 high. I test the waters with a min bet and opponent calls. Turn comes another 8, opponent min bets and I call. River comes 6. Hallelujah, full house. Opponent makes large river bet and after some thought I flat call. He turns over 8 6 unsuited, and his full house beats mine. I could have been wiped out, but I took this in the gut and lost 30% of my stack. But if opponent had put me all in on the river, would I have folded? I don’t think so as K8, 82 and 86 were the only hands that could be ahead of me. (He probably did not put me all in because K8 or would have given me the nuts.)

You only have a few seconds to think this through, so you are bound to make mistakes just like chess players do when they come under time pressure.

Also the people who write poker books and play on TV invariably have several minutes to make up their mind on how to play a hand and observe the demeanor of an opponent, whereas in online poker you have up to maybe 5 seconds to make a snap decision, so it is a different ball game as you are making hundreds of decisions in a short period of time–most of them being simple folds, of course.

In the tournament I played last night, there were 33 players with 99,000 chips at stake, and the game lasted 159 hands and took well under 2 hours, so that is a hell of a lot of decisions to make in a short time. Impossible to quantify the total number of decisions, but maybe about 250 in all in <120 minutes, so at least a decision on an average of less than every 30 seconds for a couple of hours, in which even one silly mistake could be fatal.

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