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StrategyPoker Basics

Upswings and Downswings

Introduction

In this Article
  • What can you expect in the beginning of your poker career?
  • How to deal with Up- and Downswings

Foreword

This article is addressed mainly to beginners who just started their poker career. It will cover the short- and middle-term influence of luck at poker, describing of what you can expect in the next months. Furthermore I will give you advice of how to deal with up- and downswings.

Luck at No Limit Hold’em Poker

Every single hand can be played perfectly and still be lost. And this is not a rare exception – it happens quite frequently. The same procedure every day you play, again and again. On the other hand, you might play a hand really faulty and still win a huge pot. These short-run results do not depend on your skill alone. Fortune has a strong influence there. Still, it definitely pays off to play better than your opponents. Because in the long run, you will win about as much as you are better than your opponents. Of course there will be periods of hundreds or even thousands of hands you will lose – even against weak opponents. That is called a downswing. But there will also be periods where you will win significantly more than you “should”. That’s called an upswing. If those extreme events occur, it is important to act in the right way. The next two paragraphs will deal with this behavior.

Dealing with Upswings

Of course an upswing is a great experience. It’s a lot of fun to win money in a quick and rapid fashion and to watch your bankroll grow. But the possibly arising euphoria might lead to mistakes while playing. It is really important that you consider the following:

Continue to look for your weak points and always try to improve your game

Even if you’re doing well right now, it is important to improve your game constantly. Try to identify mistakes you made, post hands in the sample hands boards if you are not sure whether you played them correctly or not. Go on reading articles and/or books and use our forum, if there is anything you do not understand.

Strictly stick to the bankroll management

An upswing always refers to the past. Luck (or bad luck) in the past has absolutely no influence on your luck in the future. To make sure you do not lose your bankroll, it is absolutely necessary that you always stick to the rules and recommendations in the bankroll management article.

Dealing with Downswings

First I want to clarify what is meant with the concept “downswing”. A downswing is a phase, in which you lose more than 5 buy-ins. Smaller losses are of course annoying, too, but happen regularly and are nothing to worry about. If you get stuck in a “real” downswing and lose more than 5 buy-ins, it is very important that you do not lose your head and keep with the following:

Continue to look for your weak points and always try to improve your game

A downswing does not mean that your style of play is flawed. Maybe everything is okay and you just suffered from a streak of bad luck. But losing a lot should always be an alarm signal: Maybe your game has some leaks in one way or the other. Try to identify your mistakes and post hands in our sample hands forum, if you’re not sure about how well you played them. Go on reading articles and/or books and ask questions in the boards whenever there is something you don’t understand.

Take a break after heavy losses

For yourself, it’s never easy to notice whether you are on tilt or not. Nevertheless, you will often play differently (worse!) after you have lost a lot. So do not take the risk – just take a break. At least one day.

Strictly stick to the bankroll management

To stick to this point during a downswing is even more difficult compared to upswings. Everyone knows the urge to regain lost money as soon as possible. But it is absolutely necessary to drop down to a lower limit if your bankroll gets too small. There is no disgrace in playing lower limits during a downswing. But it would be a great disgrace to lose your bankroll because you played higher than you can afford!

Even if you keep to these recommendations, you will catch a severe downswing from time to time. And it will never be pleasant. But your bankroll will survive and you will emerge as a better player from these downswings than you were before.

Realistic expectations of profit in No Limit Holdem

The next chapter will help you to judge your results by giving a rough orientation of how large the winrates on the different limits can be expected to be.

The so called winrate is measured in big blinds per 100 hands (BB/100). So if you play 100 hands on NL (5c/10c blinds) with a winrate of 1 BB/100, you win 10 cents. 300 hands would earn you 30 cents. You will get your winrate by multiplying your win (or loss) in big bets with 100 and dividing it by the number of played hands.

Per table you will play around 65 hands per hour. That makes it easy to calculate your winrate for a particular period. As soon as you use software like PokerTracker, you can watch your winrates for different limits there. (PokerTracker presents the winrate in PTBB/100 - the so called PokerTracker big bets. Originally PokerTracker was designed for fixed limit. Therefore the program calculates in big bets which means double the big blind -> 1 PTBB = 2 BB)

But be aware of the fact that the winrate is not really significant until you have played at least 20,000 - better would be 60,000 - hands.

As a beginner, you should be content with any positive winrate: A winrate of 10BB/100 hands (or 5 PTBB, if you have a look at PokerTracker) seems to be a realistic goal. On lower limits and with a greater experience you might be able to have a winrate of 20BB/100 hands.

 

The values which are mentioned above do not mean that you will or should reach them in any case. A lower winrate is fine, too. Additionally, luck and bad luck play a significant role, especially if you just play a small number of hands on a specific limit. So your result may vary vastly from those values – in both directions. Even if you play really well.

Afterword

How fast your playing abilities and your bankroll develop, depends on:

  • the time spent with poker
  • your talent
  • your mental abilities
  • fortune


We hope that you do not underestimate this little fourth factor. If you get stuck on a limit for quite some time and even sustain some losses, don’t worry. Just keep to the recommendations in this article and continue to improve your game. Over the months, you will progress. In terms of skill as well as financially.

 

Comments (33)

#1 bender834, 19 Feb 08 11:33

i think i need this article :P

#2 batmanbg, 06 Aug 08 16:17

I needed to read this article before to lose my bankroll. Anyway nice article :)

#3 mouse89, 28 Sep 08 15:26

ok

#4 RedAirkson, 11 Oct 08 09:17

A lot of mediocre players are out there because they started their "career" on an upswing and misinterpreted the results as a sign of their "natural ability". That's the good news for those of us who make a living out of this.

When I was new to the game, I was winning MTT's for six months and feeling like a prodigy. It took me the next four years to understand and accept what was really going on during those first six months. So here I am, once a local poker prodigy, now just an above-average player working hard to improve.

#5 RedAirkson, 11 Oct 08 09:18

A lot of mediocre players are out there because they started their "career" on an upswing and misinterpreted the results as a sign of their "natural ability". That's the good news for those of us who make a living out of this.

When I was new to the game, I was winning MTT's for six months and feeling like a prodigy. It took me the next four years to understand and accept what was really going on during those first six months. So here I am, once a local poker prodigy, now just an above-average player working hard to improve.

#6 RedAirkson, 11 Oct 08 09:19

A lot of mediocre players are out there because they started their "career" on an upswing and misinterpreted the results as a sign of their "natural ability". That's the good news for those of us who make a living out of this.

When I was new to the game, I was winning MTT's for six months and feeling like a prodigy. It took me the next four years to understand and accept what was really going on during those first six months. So here I am, once a local poker prodigy, now just an above-average player working hard to improve.

#7 RedAirkson, 11 Oct 08 09:20

sorry my internet browser fudged up, can an admin please delete the duplicate posts? thanks and apologies.

#8 TheBrood, 20 Oct 08 03:53

Great article, thnx.

#9 aryangor, 07 Nov 08 08:31

i wish i would read more stuff like this - then i would have more money! people do not repeat my mistake - reading pays off!

#10 SadisticNature, 03 Jan 09 01:56

Tourneys (MTTs) are really, really swingy. A few big results make up for a whole lot of bad ones (1st place in some big ones pays out something like 100 * the entry (far more for huge ones)). There are a lot of times where you push and pray (especially with fast blinds (10 minutes or 15 minutes is typical online). Knowing what % of races you win in a tourney is a useful indicator. If you win 90% of your races and don't have a solid performance you're probably bleeding a lot of chips elsewhere, don't expect to win if your luck isn't in because even above 60% is sometimes not enough.

#11 RedSpade, 05 Feb 09 02:47

For myself, up & downswings in ring games are like loaded hand grenades. I can't let go & they usually go off in my hands. I've found that SnGs are like auto stop loss. You can only lose a set amount but can still return a decent ROI. In addition, at a single table with no player rotation you get a good read on others. SnG tables are far more profitable for me in the long run and istill gain as much or more satisfaction from them.

#12 marecrocop, 28 Feb 09 15:42

helpfull reading...thanks

#13 MarioooCZ, 09 Apr 09 11:59

good one

#14 Koshburger, 16 Jan 10 10:43

ok

#15 Rap1d007, 06 Mar 10 10:09

important

#16 mikel80ph, 20 Jul 10 03:45

good read, now i realize that i lost my money because of me not the pokersites

#18 Strongsl, 27 Sep 11 17:11

good!

#19 genia2q, 10 Jul 13 18:30

Great article and good to know this should make big difference in your playing,thank you.

#20 mamorys9, 16 Oct 13 15:29

good

#21 ferrari1f, 22 Dec 13 15:47

Simple yet great article.

#22 Marsimillion, 08 Apr 14 12:21

needed this a shot of motivation & a reminder

#23 catblank, 14 Oct 14 09:02

ok

#24 HellsHippie, 08 Dec 14 07:12

I'd actually like to see this article in one of the first ones to be read. I think it's important to understand that sometimes there's a streak of good cards coming your way, sometimes even bad decisions may bring huge winnings purely because of luck and most importantly, sometimes no matter what you do you're just gonna lose, be it a streak of awful cards or just plain bad luck in the showdowns. Understanding this can give entirelly new attitude towards the game, moving away from purely scientifical view to odds vs. luck -point of view. It may take surprisingly long time to realize that not every AA is going to be a winner.

#25 toske1, 13 Mar 15 18:31

nice

#26 TommyMcRock, 17 May 15 11:59

I'd like to see a clearer definition between Big Blinds and Big Bets. Very often they are used in close proximity and cause me a lot of confusion in understanding the article or method clearly.

#27 LyToLV, 10 Jun 15 15:13

This is what i needed.. :)

#28 Pimzon, 31 Aug 15 10:51

I like the line from Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" to describe a healthy attitude towards up- and downswings:

"If you can deal with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same"

Easier said than done, but something to strive for.

#29 MrPink578, 17 Nov 15 11:30

Managing your bankroll can be a juggling act sometimes.

#30 zetasizer, 24 Dec 15 13:21

espacially the dealing with downswings is something i need to learn...

#31 bubamarasr, 21 Jan 16 00:46

Read it. Thank you.

#32 ptpokermyth, 26 Feb 16 16:34

bank controll

#33 sedinbsng, 02 Apr 16 20:44

ok

#34 CroZoZo, 26 Apr 16 13:22

o