Anatomy of a Downswing versus Anatomy of an Upswing

    • Tim64
      Tim64
      Black
      Joined: 02.11.2008 Posts: 7,697
      I need to get this down now even though it's 2am and I'm tired after an evening's work and then getting home, reviewing responses to posted hands and then hitting the tables for 90 mins.

      I moved up to NL50 a couple of days ago and things went well the first day after the recent $200 downswing. It felt like I was playing well, the BR was slowly going up and it seemed like I was making progress once again. A day one profit of $30 was pretty satisfying and - as always happens, I started extrapolating along the lines of: "at this rate, I'll have won back all my losses after about a week and be ready to start thinking about NL100 again".

      Then, later the next day, a losing session - down $60 (6BI). I am immediately crushed. The following thoughts go through my head:

      "Maybe I'm just a losing player";
      "This game is just a big waste of my time";
      "The only reason I have any BR at all is because of bonuses I've cleared - without them I'd have a negative balance";
      "Building a BR of, say, $1000 will take YEARS, not months. What am I doing investing so much time on this?"
      "The few people who DO make money playing poker have some knack or mathematical ability that I just don't have and that I never will".
      And so on...

      But that was yesterday. Today, before I left for work, I clawed back $20. And earlier tonight, thanks to some fishy play by donks out there, I not only clawed back the rest of the lost $60 but even moved ahead again. My BR is the highest it's been for over two weeks and so now, of course, I feel entirely different about the game. The following thoughts go through my head:

      "I just needed to be patient - the bad luck always evens out eventually and you start winning again";
      "I have a BR of over $400 - all won from other people. I MUST be a winning player. I have to stop doubting myself";
      "The dips on your graph are irrelevant, so long as the overall trend is upwards. You have to imagine how the graph will look in a year's time: that $200 loss you were so miserable about will look like a small dip and the $60 loss you scowled over will be a tiny pinprick - almost invisible";
      "You've got to stop worrying about the profitability of individual sessions. All that matters is ensuring you make as few mistakes as possible. If you do that and follow the articles and the advice of people on this site, you WILL make money in the long run."
      "You don't NEED to be Einstein. You just have to work hard, be mentally tough and think through each decision rather than acting with your gut."
      And so on...

      So the real question is this:

      When I am in a downswing, why can't I think rationally about the reasons why it happened - i.e. the variability of the cards and the necessity of losing a certain number of situations where you are a mathematical favourite? Why do I internalise the situation and make it about me, rather than the cards - which I cannot alter?

      And, when I am in an upswing, and in a single session I have a winrate of, say, 20BB/100 hands, why do I find it so difficult to understand that this is not a realistic winrate. That it is only part of the very gentle upward movement that the line on the graph will appear to follow if one were to look at it over the course of a lifetime. You know there will be ups and downs along the way so just accept it and understand that it will be a long, slow progress - there are no short cuts.

      This is, to me, the fundamental truth about poker - we can't see the bigger picture. Every time our bankroll falls, we are gloomy and depressed. Every time we are winning we think we are invincible and all the riches our heart's desire lie just around the corner...

      Maybe the next time I have a better than average run or a worse than average run, I'll remember to read what I wrote here and just realise that: results don't matter in the short term if you are making the right decisions in the long term.

      Anyway, no stats this time, because stats are results-orientated. And I'm completely over that. (Yeah, right.) ;)
  • 3 replies
    • Waiboy
      Waiboy
      Bronze
      Joined: 18.09.2008 Posts: 4,877
      Hey Tim64

      I think the answer is quite simple (well at least for me anyway). The negative thoughts come because I don't really completely understand or trust my game. Therefore I second guess myself when things are going badly.

      Of course, when things are going well, it's much easier to say well that's my great understanding of the game being put into practice. Just because you hit everything or made the correct decisions or were faced with situations you understood well is not always obvious.

      Ultimately, if you know why you're losing you will feel better about your game. If you don't understand why you are winning you won't question that so much. Knowledge breeds confidence. Hence the answer to working through the negative thoughts is to understand they are bred out of a lack of understanding and to resolving to work hard on your game.

      Whaddya think?
    • Tim64
      Tim64
      Black
      Joined: 02.11.2008 Posts: 7,697
      if you know why you're losing you will feel better about your game. If you don't understand why you are winning you won't question that so much. Knowledge breeds confidence.


      Spot on, I think. You're right: we don't take the time to really understand why we're losing - we just blame the cards or 'variance' or other people's fishy calls and outrageous suckouts. And on the other hand we don't really care why we're winning. In both cases we think: "I need to get back to the tables asap."

      If we're losing, it's because we're chasing our losses; if we're winning, we feel that we don't have time for study because every second not playing feels like 'lost profit'.

      I'm on a mission to crack this blinkered approach once and for all.

      -T64
    • Waiboy
      Waiboy
      Bronze
      Joined: 18.09.2008 Posts: 4,877
      Originally posted by Tim64
      I'm on a mission to crack this blinkered approach once and for all.
      Sincerely, best of luck fella! :s_biggrin: