Downswings in poker suck.
Whether it’s a session of terrible luck, or months of bad beats & a dry run of cards – downswings can leave you questioning your strategy and sanity. But even though these stretches of bad luck can hurt us mentally and financially, there are some key things we can do to end a downswing quicker and weather the storm.
This entire conversation comes from a question asked by Ned.
“How do you keep your confidence up when you are running really bad? What are some good tips to get out of a poker slump”?
Ned’s question is great since the answer pertains to everyone. Everyone, including your favorite poker player, goes through a downswing. And while it may be tough to remember this in the midst of one, you will eventually end that downswing. This is a crucial, and honestly inevitable, part of poker.
Tip #1: Increase Your Study Time
When in a downswing your “poker brain” starts to erode (and for some players, at an alarmingly-quick rate). First and foremost, you NEED to avoid tilting as tilt will bury your bankroll. And studying is one of the best ways to pause the emotional part of your brain and engage the logical centers.
By studying, you are patching any poker leaks in your strategy – potentially any that might be contributing to your downswing. This will improve your confidence which in turn improves your mental game. I know most players aren’t stoked about studying more, and they’d rather hit the tables and try to dig out of their downswing quicker, but trust me – studying is incredibly beneficial when things are going poorly.
I recommend posting hands in a poker forum and getting feedback on your lines and rationale. People in the forums will help pinpoint your weakness and will help you improve in areas where you currently struggle.
This again brings us back to being left-brained focused and objective. I like to look at this from two sides: the logical part of your brain and your emotional part. Most people make their decisions with their emotional side, but this can lead to irrational decisions and poor heat of the moment choices that can prolong our downswing.
Instead, we want to focus on using our logical brain. We want to make logical decisions at all times. We want to make strong strategic decisions and not plays out of fear or anxiety. The only way I have found to override the emotional side of my brain is by studying. My emotions can subdue when they trust my logic-based capabilities.
So review some hands, start using your poker software again, and you’ll quickly see how much of your downswing was avoidable vs. self-imposed.
Tip #2: Avoid Getting Nitty
Do not allow fear to deteriorate your strategy into nitty play.
When you think about how people tend to respond to adversity in their life it’s typically 1 of 3 ways:
- Fight (in poker that would look like overly-aggressive play)
- Flight (in poker that would look like leaving the game or possibly quitting altogether)
- Freeze (in poker this looks like nitty play that freezes up and fears putting in money without the nuts)
More often than not, players tend to nit up and start taking fewer risks trying to limit their losses. Nitting up too much is a form of tilt, and on the surface, it seems safer since taking less risk means a lower chance of losing again. Its a form of emotional protection.
But what typically ends up happening is online poker players get too tight and pass up on many profitable real money opportunities because they are so focused on staying in the box. Or they start making absurdly large bets/raises with strong poker hands to “chase out the draws and ensure they don’t lose yet another pot.” Notice how these reviews and opinions provide sound advice on how and where to play in order to maximize the EV of their hand.
Don’t over-adjust your play style. Make rational +EV decisions from a strategic point of view, not an emotional one, and everything will pan out in the long run.
Tip #3: Every Session Is A Blank Slate
Do not go into your current session expecting it to be like the last. Start fresh every single time.
If you walk into your current session saying, “my last 5 sessions went bad and this one will too” – don’t even bother playing. It will be a rough experience and that mental state will work against you.
Instead, bring a new and fresh attitude every time you play. Be confident in your strategy (the one you’ve been studying and improving between sessions) and leave the fear & anxiety at home. Your sessions have no memory of the last, and past sessions only influence future sessions if you allow them to.
If you are currently in a massive downswing, I highly recommend you dive into The Mental Advantage right now. In this course, Dr. Cardner and I break down the key factors of the mental side of the game.
This 6-video series has complete videos on:
- Overcoming mental stumbling blocks
- Solving tilt (this one is HUGE when it comes to snapping downswings)
- What it takes to go pro
- Learning poker (psychology-backed studying tactics)
- Developing expertise (going from winner to crusher)
- Increasing discipline (this extends into your real-life too)
These skills extend well beyond the poker table and this course is a steal if you want to focus on becoming more bullet-proof in general. Plus, if you buy The Mental Advantage now, you’ll get an additional 4 hours of bonus material. It’s the best $199 you’ll spend all day – I guarantee it.