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Upswings and Downswings
IntroductionIn this Article
- What can you expect in the beginning of your poker career?
- How to deal with Up- and Downswings
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
How fast your playing abilities and your bankroll develop, depends on:
- the time spent with poker
- your talent
- your mental abilities
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.
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