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A few words on Downswings

    • caltabiano
      Joined: 09.03.2007 Posts: 1,992
      What's up guys! Some of you may already know I've been experiencing a very tough moment in my poker career. Probably the hardest I've ever had. (my career has been a short one until now though). Here's my graph since the 1st of november of 2009 (NL100 SH):

      The heater in the end happened in a matter of 5 - 6 days. Now, I'm not blameless for this long period of losses. Of course there was a lot of bad play involved. I let the downwing consume me and I spent a long time not playing my best game. My game deteriorated a lot and I could've avoided that. I'm now trying to get back on track and improve my game, so that I can win again. So, I decided to make a little post to help other people avoid going through what I went, since it's not at all pleasant :f_mad: I hope everybody can take something out of it. Here it goes!

      You wake up, the sun is shining bright up in the sky, you feel the fresh air fill your lungs... What a wonderful day! You smoothly turn on your computer while eating a banana and having a glass of orange juice. It's just a regular, beautiful day just like any other. You don't know what awaits you...

      Computer on, you open your poker client and turn on HEM, auto import on, open up some tables and wait for the BB. 4th hand of the day and you get dealt cowboys on the CO, while there's a huge fish on the BB. "Wonderful day indeed", you think to yourself. BB 3bets you, you 4b, he shoves, you snap call. Standard. But he has the rockets =/ "No problem", you think, "pretty standard." You play some more hands, lose a couple of coin flips and then gets dealt AA. "Time to get the money back!" You resteal the BU from the BB, he calls and the flop comes down 732r. Dream flop for this situation. You bet, he shoves, you snap-call and he shows JJ. Standard. Except that you see a J on the river and all your chips going to your opponent. You check your results for the day and see you're 5 stacks down. "Time to quit...", you think, "just a bad day at work, no problem."

      Next day, you repeat the "Beautiful day" part, and as you start playing you lose the first coin flip, but this time you respond with "Oh come on!!", etc, etc and you end the day 3 stacks down.

      Next day, your first KK runs into AA and this time you respond with "DAMN IT ALL TO HELL MOTHER SHIT BALLS!!!!". And that's when it all begins...

      The word that makes every poker player tremble with fear, we want to hide from it, it must not be said: "DOWNSWING" What's behind the so dreaded downswing? Why does it exist? How do we fight it? Who does it happen to?

      A downswing, as stated in the pokerstrategy glossary is a "phase or period of time in which a player sustains extended losses due to bad luck." See the last couple of words? "Bad luck" Bad luck happens to everyone, and nobody can escape from it. Everybody will suffer from good fortune and bad fortune at different moments in their lives. What really matters though is how we deal with these moments. As Kipling wisely stated in his poem "If": "If you can meet with triumph and disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same." Good fortune and bad fortune are just two sides of the same coin. Someone with a mathematical background could probably make some calculations dealing with for how long a winning player can sustain losses and how likely that is to happen, but since I don't have that much mathematical background, all I can state is: "In infinite time and space, EVERY event WILL happen, even the impossible ones." (From the film "Interstate Sixty." You obviously know how to relate that to poker.

      So, the "Bad luck" part of a downswing is not worrysome at all, because luck evens out in the end. You could say that some people will be luckier than others throughout their whole lives, and I actually believe in that. Something of a karma thing. I do also believe however, that this single factor is not enough to determine if you're gonna be a winning player or not. Other much more important factors are dedication and your emotional balance for instance. So, again the "Bad luck" part of the downswing is not a problem at all. The one and only problem is: TILT. We usually have this stereotyped idea of tilt: the crazy maniac donkey style, 3betting every hand, running stupid bluffs and calling off retardedly light. But tilt is nothing more than playing differently than you would play your A game. Yep, if you're not playing your A game you're on tilt. And tilt is natural. For instance, squeezing is a very profitable play when applied in the right spots, but sometimes it just happens that we squeeze into a monster 4 or 5 times in a row. It's POSSIBLE and therefore it HAPPENS. What do we do then? We lose faith in the squeeze play (AKA tilt). We start changing our game based on recent results. By playing worse, we reduce our winrate and that = more variance, heavier losses, more tilt and thus a vivicous cycle. We start feeling unmotivated and we don't feel like we need to play our A game anymore, because we've been so unlucky lately that we're due an upswing soon and that will change things around. So we WAIT for something instead of going after it and just DOING IT. Don't wait for things, make them happen. Instead of letting your winrate drop, improve your game and make it increase! Don't wait for your "due upswing", make money out of every spot you can find at the tables, do not be afraid, go get them tiger! :evil:

      Now, no matter how sick your mindset is, variance is ALWAYS more powerful than your mindset. Variance is basically Fortune in the poker world. And Fortune is a Goddess, while we're mere men. So Variance IS more powerful than all of us. She CAN break you if you don't watch out. However, there are a few tricks to avoid that. Here are some that I know:

      - Comfortable BRM: Losing 10 stacks when you only have 30 is a lot harder to take than losing 10 stacks when you have 50. This is person dependant. You basically just need to find something you feel comfortable with. If you don't mind having to drop down limits quickly, you can go for an aggressive BRM, but if you'd don't like the crazy up and down, go for the safe side. I personally go up at 40BI usually and insta drop limits if I lose 5 stacks, leaving me with 70BI for the lower limit, which is usually pretty safe. So the key word here is "comfort".

      - Playing less tables: The obvious upside of this is that we get a higher winrate as we pay better attention to the tables. There's another upside though, which is actually more important than the higher winrate, but people don't really think about it. Let's suppose you're playing your A+ game at 12 tables. That's great, you can make loads of m00niez :f_cool: However, let's say you play about 25% of hands. That means you have a chance to make money 25% of the hands you get dealt, but of course you need many other conditions to be met so that you can atually take advantage of playing your A+ game. What I mean is, you don't get SO much out of playing your A+ game on 12 tables. On the other side, if you're playing 12 tables on your B game AND still prone to some heavier tilt due to recent losses, the consequences can be disastrous, as ANY hand is a potential hand for you to blow off a stack. ANY hand. AND you can do it at 12 tables at the same time! So THIS can lead to a dramatic blow to your winrate and even to your bankroll, whereas playing your A+ tiltless game on 12 tables won't give your bankroll a super boost, unless you're running super hot.

      - Dropping down limits: Don't wait until you reach your drop down line to move down limits. If you've been losing for the last few days and you feel like your confidence is a bit hurt, take a trip to the lower limit for 2 or 3 days. You ALWAYS plays better when playing a lower limit, because you're never scared and you KNOW you can beat the game. Get your confidence back up and recover some of your losses, and the come back to your normal limit. And don't complain if you run really good in the lower limit: "Oh man, if I had been playing NL200 instead of NL100, I'd have made $1600 instead of $800." Just because you ran good in NL100 doesn't mean you'd have run good in NL200 had you played it ;)

      - Don't drop the studying: Keep improving ALWAYS. That counts not only for when you're in a downswing obviously. There's always more to learn.

      - Take your mind off poker a bit: Don't play for a couple of days. You gotta be feeling like playing in order to play good. You gotta like the game while you play it.

      So, that's just something I'd like to share with the community. Each person can take what it feels like it should be taken from this and anybody who wants to add other stuff, feel free to =)

      Cheers and keep up the good work =D
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