Momentum In Poker

In poker momentum is Important to a players success. Once you get on a roll and have good momentum you’ll win more hands, you’ll be less likely to make a mistake, momentum builds confidence and you’ll overall play better. The question is how do we get momentum in a ring game or tournament?

In my opinion the best way to get momentum is to play well and win hands when you first join a table or tournament. You can win one big hand with a lot of chips in the pot or you can build up momentum by winning multiple pots generally for a smaller amount of chips.

However It’s easy to lose momentum, If you lose a big pot it can easily stop your momentum and you’ll start doubting yourself and your decision making in later hands. In my opinion the key here is to stay calm and don’t panic. If you can win a few hands your confidence and momentum will start rising again.

I’ve won a few tournaments by building up my momentum and playing confidently.

How Important do you think momentum is in a ring game or tournament and how do you build up momentum?



Momentum is an illusion. It’s a psychological error on the part of the player. To the extent that it “works”, it is preying on the other players at the table buying into the notion.

In a fair game, every hand dealt is discrete, disconnected to previous hands, in terms of the cards that are dealt. The fact that you filled your draw on the previous hand has no influence on the probability of you filling it on your next draw. It’s like flipping a fair coin. Just because you hit “Heads” 6 times in a row doesn’t say anything about what the coin flip will be on the 7th throw.

Psychologically, a coin flipper might say “wow, this coin is stuck on Heads” I can count on it. But they might also say “Tails is overdue, it’s bound to come next time”. Either way, they’re wrong. There’s a 50-50 chance that the coin will be heads or tails.

Psychologically, though, humans are prone to thinking that these things are connected, that there’s some causality at play, or mystical forces. The science of randomness shows us that there are clusters of events in random sequences. It’s natural and to be expected.

If a player experiences a cluster of winning hands, the rest of the table may believe that they have “momentum” but they could just as well lose their next hand. If players are scared of the “momentum” they believe they are seeing, they may make errors such as overfolding good cards.

Exploiting opponent’s psychological errors is what good play is all about, so anything you can do to convince the table that you’re a winner and have momentum and will somehow win every hand you play will help you.

But there’s no such thing as momentum in a fair card game.


“The science of randomness shows us that there are clusters of events in random sequences. It’s natural and to be expected.” I wouldn’t call that momentum because momentum does have a certain human psychological element to it. But un-scientifically speaking it’s definitely a “streak”, winning or losing just depends on which side of the streak your on. But even according to your quote, a “streak” ,for lack of a better term, is scientifically “natural and to be expected”. So IMO one would be crazy not to play the streak hard until the science of randomness catches up. The trick is catching AND accepting the change in the “cluster of events” when they turn on you. Of course this is only one part of the game but important enough to recognize and exploit to your advantage.

1 Like

Momentum may be psychological, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Your mental state and that of your opponents can have a major impact on the game.

Part of this is about table image. When you have positive momentum, people see you winning. They are very likely to over-adjust, forcing them to make mistakes that they wouldn’t have made otherwise. They might even lose all hope and surrender, as happened to me the other night. We got down to heads up in a SnG, and after 10 hands, my opponent said, “I can’t beat you” and left!

Momentum can also affect your own mental state. Having that little extra bit of confidence that you are playing well makes playing well easier. The trick is to not let this go to your head. Having momentum doesn’t mean you can do no wrong. It doesn’t mean you will win every hand. Your goal shouldn’t be having momentum, it should be to develop sustainable momentum.

Of course, this works both ways. Negative momentum affects your mental state and your table image too. This can easily lead to a downward spiral that’s not easy to escape.

Momentum may be a psychological effect, but unless you are a cyborg playing other cyborgs, psychological effects matter!


The problem with that is that you can’t predict streaks, you can only identify them in retrospect. Play each hand on its own.

Hello, how can I play a game against a friend?

Hi Paspi,

If you scroll down to News and Announcements Category you will see a screenshot provided by fizzymint which shows you how to access the private tables under the heading “ new feature Private Tables. I hope this helps.

Momentum is a mindset for all playing. When the going is good, get going, when the going is bad , lay back. It will come around again for you as always. “ it is what it is “ .


Of course each hand is a completely separate unique event, just like a coin flip is. And I’m definitely not saying one can predict streaks. What I’m trying to say is if one can identify when that “cluster of events”,
is, ATM, favoring you then that is the time to push and play hard exploiting “your turn”. It’s probably one of the easiest recognizable and exploitable nuances of the game, especially for those of us that are mathematically challenged. I mean c’mon now, how many of us havn’t had a day or week or month of play where we could do no wrong ? Where every deal are 2 pocket face cards, you’re making your sets and hitting all your draws, even if it means going down to the river ? We all have, it’s simply the other side of the miserable 27o and his friends days. All I’m really saying is to take advantage of an acknowledged statistical anomaly when it presents itself. When it’s “your turn” to be on the other side of this event you obviously adjust accordingly.

Yeah, I know when my hands are hitting frequently and when they’re not. It doesn’t mean anything, though. I used to be more like you, and would play more loose and more aggressive when I was hitting frequently. It worked until it didn’t, and then I’d loose a lot of chips wondering why I wasn’t winning hands anymore. Often it takes one big miss to cancel out a bunch of hot pots, so I don’t count on my current hand hitting just because a lot of my last few did. I take appropriate risks with every hand and play my opponents, and I win a lot more regularly and surprised a lot less often that way.


I don’t know about momentum, but I do think that your mental and emotional state has an effect. Over a period of the last few months I had gone down from over 200 million chips to less than 170 million chips, and my play was very lackluster. Certainly I made a few final tables (I only play multitable tournaments), but my concentration was poor and sometimes I just butted out of games because I wanted to do something else. Then over the last 2 to 3 weeks I came back to form and have won over 50 million chips back, and feel confident and decisive and am picking off my opponents moves, even if I have to play heads up for more than half an hour to seize the bragging rights.
And yet just a few weeks ago I thought I might never win another MTT.


Momentum is obviously a thing, because it isn’t just the cards you’re dealt that determine your decisions; it’s also the behaviour of other players. The behaviour of other players induces you to both fold good hands and win with mediocre hands or even weak hands. During good times, you make bullish bets that induce other players to fold. During bad times, another player is going through a good spell - his very bullish bets induce you to fold. Hence both good times and bad times seem to last for days. Over time, the cycle evens itself out, because everyone makes foolish decisions - fold when they shouldn’t fold and bet when they shouldn’t bet.

1 Like

Momentum, especially sustainable momentum, isn’t just tied to your cards and/or table image. Sure, you can gain momentum by hitting a rush of good hands, but this will often gain you a big stack, and it’s the stack that can help you sustain your momentum.

Having a monster stack at a final table, for example, can be way more valuable than the ICM math might suggest. The short stacks will usually be waiting for the other short stacks to bust, the medium stacks are waiting for the short stacks and other medium stacks to bust. The big stack can open up their range and put pressure on everyone.

When you have momentum, you build a stack that acts like a flywheel. You can often sustain the momentum until you pick up a great hand, and you can afford to speculate on hands you otherwise would have to fold. You can bluff more often and more profitably. Momentum helps in lots of ways.

Momentum is NOT the same as just getting a run of good cards.


It’s true that having a big stack relative to the players at your table is a great advantage and gives you a lot more possibilities, in tournaments as well as in ring games. I suppose if you wanted you could consider getting a big stack to be a sort of momentum. I think using the word “momentum” in that way is a metaphor, and all metaphors are imperfect, but some are worse than others. The big stack does nothing by itself. Big stack + good, aggressive play + tolerating a bit more risk for a lot more potential reward is what you’re getting at. If someone wants to wrap that up in a word and chooses “momentum” then ok fine. But for me, it’s better to understand these things in direct terms: the advantage of having a big stack, the advantage of aggression, the advantage of being able to play wider ranges and tolerate a -EV call here and there for a chance of scoring the nuts on fifth street.

No, the big stack can help sustain your momentum, it isn’t the momentum in and of itself.

Momentum: the impetus gained by a moving object.

Since the flow of a poker game doesn’t have mass or velocity, of course we aren’t using the term the way it’s used in physics. This doesn’t make it a meaningless concept. As applied to poker, we understand that momentum is the tendency of a winning player to keep winning. (or a losing player to keep losing)

Having momentum can help you to build a big stack, and a big stack can help you to sustain momentum, but the stack itself isn’t momentum. Momentum can include any number of things: getting great cards, playing what you have particularly well, table image, confidence level, and so on, and it can be sustained by factors such as stack size, ICM pressures, intimidation factors, and others.

Dismissing momentum as “a lucky streak” is a gross over-simplification and misunderstanding of the dynamics of momentum.

That’s what I mean; there is no such tendency.

There’s no reason to say that the next hand dealt in a fair game is any more likely to go to the winner of the previous hand than it is to go to the loser.


People do think that way, because of how our brains are wired. If you see a thing keep happening, we’re evolutionarily programmed to expect that to continue to keep happening. We notice when things change.

When a player wins, and then wins again, and then wins again, we think the likely outcome the next time is that they will win still again. Yet, there’s nothing that makes that outcome any more likely than any of the other previous wins were, in terms of the cards.

In terms of the player, or in terms of the chips there’s where things might be going on.

The player who’s lost several hands in a row might start thinking “I just can’t catch a break” and start doing any number of things, from folding more to play a tighter range; overfolding marginal hands like middle pair; stop chasing draws since they “never” fill; overbetting hoping that the aggression will intimidate the other players and let them steal a hand; bluff into a made hand that isn’t going to fold. This may be called “momentum” but a better way to understand what is actually going on in this situation is that the losing player is playing poorly, or perhaps they played fine, but now has made bad adjustments which are further hurting them.

If you just chalk that up to “momentum” it doesn’t convey any of this understanding, and you’re left with a mystical sense that somehow the “hot” player is “on a roll” or is “playing good” when all that’s happened is they had a good outcome or several on a few hands that could have gone either way, and now his opponent is flummoxed and has lost faith in his “ability” to draw winning hands, and responds to this by making inadvisable adjustments to how they’re playing.

Players may be able to exploit the human nature of their opponents into making them believe they’re on a hot streak and can’t lose, and this can result in them over-folding. So, if you want to do that, one way to do it is to convince everyone that you’ve got this mystical force behind you called “momentum” which means that you can’t lose. If that works (convincing your opponents that there’s voodoo on yourside when there’s no voodoo) then good; you’ve got an edge in your game over your opponents. But Dumbo the elephant didn’t need the feather to fly, either.

Chips also can be used as you say as a kind of force, but that force isn’t best understood as “momentum”; it’s pressure. You win a hand, you stack an opponent, and double up. Now you’re the big stack. Suddenly, no one can knock you out; at worst all they can do is double up themselves to knock you down to even. Now, if you want to, you can raise bigger than anyone can afford to call, and push a lot of players off of reasonable, playable cards that just aren’t worth calling off 1/2 your stack preflop with, or going all-in on the river.

If you think of your big stack as being at the bottom of a slope, and all the chips at the table roll down the slope, and that the chip stack itself has a gravitational field, such that the larger it gets, the more the rest of the chips are attracted to that stack, you might think that what’s going on is a sort of momentum.

When really, the chips are just inert objects, and aren’t attracted to each other at all, and what’s actually going on is that you’re winning them by convincing your opponents to put chips in the middle when you’ve got the best hand, or to concede the chips they already put in the middle to you because you’ve convinced them that they ain’t got it. And one of the best ways to do the latter is by putting pressure on your opponent to fold by making bets that are comfortable for you with your big stack, but not comfortable for them.

But again, if you confuse yourself by thinking of it as “momentum” rather than “pressure”, you can convince yourself that your stack is “too big to fail” so you can bet anyone off any hand, because your betting is just that intimidating, and that’s when you try to bluff someone off a pocket overpair by betting a draw like it was a made hand, they call, double up, and now you let them back in the game.

People have that happen to them all the time and say, “The momentum changed!”

No, it didn’t, you overplayed your stack, got beat like you deserved, trying to use position and big bets to win hands, forgetting that people can call, and now your favorite weapon got taken from you, and what else did you have left to play with?

If nothing, then you’ll probably continue to lose, still won’t understand why, and chalk it up to mystical “momentum.” If you understand that you were winning a lot of hands due to the pressure your big stack was putting on the other players at the table, you can better appreciate the mechanic at play, and thus use it better to win those hands and to avoid blunders that can arise from being overconfident and as a result playing poorly due to a misunderstanding of what’s actually happening at the table.

You argue against yourself. On the one hand, you say, “…we think the likely outcome the next time is that they will win again,” then go on to say, “…there’s nothing that makes that outcome more likely.”

Thinking someone is going to win the hand makes it more likely that they will win the hand. How often do you continue in hands you think you will lose?

Do you honestly think that the best hand wins every pot?

You look at some flour and say, “that’s not a cake.” You see some eggs and say, “that’s not a cake.” Sugar isn’t a cake, butter isn’t a cake, baking powder isn’t a cake, milk isn’t a cake. You don’t know how to make a cake, so you conclude that cakes don’t exist? Cakes are “magical?”

Sorry, but momentum is a real thing, and exists beyond the straight mathematics of statistical modeling. Some of it’s components are psychological and thus impossible to quantify, but that doesn’t make them magic. As for those who do understand that there is more to poker than just math… let them eat cake!

I’m not arguing against myself; you’re mis-reading me.

When I said “we think the likely outcome the next time is that they will again” I’m referring ot people who believe in the fallacy of momentum.

Collective thinking that one player is going to win the hand does make it more likely that that person will win the hand. Psychological poker is a game of manipulation to achieve a concensus about this. But if I am the only person at the table who think that I will win the hand, I very likely will have to take it to a showdown, which will answer the question finally.

And yes, every hand that gets to showdown, the best hand wins it. Obviously many hands do not get to showdown, because a player convinces another player one way or another that it will not be profitable for them to continue the hand, and they let it go.

I’ll answer your cake metaphor with a movie metaphor. You’re watching a movie, and you talk about moving images. I answer you by saying that what you’re really seeing is a series of still images, shown so rapidly that the human brain blends them together, giving the illusion of motion. You couter with “Ah, but these are photographs of actual moving objects, and even if the images are stills, the objects that were photographed really are moving.” To respond, I change the channel to Cartoon Network, and say “Ah, but what about this? These are drawings, they depict things that never existed, and none of them is moving.”

Now do you see? We can’t conceive of how to make a cartoon until we understand how “motion pictures” work. It’s fine to call them “motion pictures” even though there isn’t actual motion in the picture, but unless we’re sophisticated enough to understand the way the thing works, it would never occur to us that it could be possible to create a cartoon. If someone showed us a cartoon, with that level of non-understanding, we’d think we were seeing something magical.

I was going to let this go rather than go back and forth with RP “royalty”, so to speak. But I never recall calling the mathematically recognized “cluster of events” a streak,. I don’t play,or believe in “streaks”. But I do believe the math that admits to these “cluster of events”,and that given time, eventually even out. Again, the trick is discovering them, both good and bad ,for your personal style and adjusting your play to fit the situation. As for momentum, it is strictly a law of physics. It’s the human psyche and psychological pressure of, or on, the players that make it an important part of the game. Maybe we should call momentum something else when it comes to poker. I think “streak” is still available.

1 Like

Yes, having a big stack does give you momentum, because if you win half your “horse-races” you may win the tournament, but with a small stack you can win half your “horseraces” and you are still back in the clubhouse. “Horseraces” are very important on final tables, because you have to knock out opponents to get deeper into the money, but you don’t want to allow small stacks to come back from the dead and gain momentum of their own.

Big mo’ in motion. With the stack size disparity I could easily call the shove without fear of losing the tournament. However, had I lost this hand, it would have been a case of better luck next time.

Incidentally once you get down to the last two players in a MTT, big mo’ is a huge factor, because if you are able to seize the lead, you can then relentlessly grind down your opponent who cannot afford to lose a raised pot, until he gets to the point where he is ready to shove with any ace or pocket pair.

1 Like