Guest Post by Mike: Dealing with a downswing

Dealing with a downswing

Managing a large downswing is one of the most difficult things you will have to cope with as a poker player. Ideally you would be able to completely ignore downswings and keep yourself focused on your long term expected win rate but the pressure and stress of running badly for a sustained period of time is very hard to overlook. This article will discuss some mechanisms to help you deal with a downswing and protect you from losing your entire bankroll.


Over the course of your poker career there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid a downswing. Poker is full of bad beats and suck outs. That is just the nature of the beast. What you do have control over, however, is your own attitude to downswings.

You should always be prepared for a downswing before it happens. This means that when you are running well, don’t think that the good times will last indefinitely. Instead work out what a good win rate for your stakes and game is and whenever you are exceeding this rate always put this down to the luck of the cards and not your skill. Understand and accept the realities of poker before you play – you should expect and be prepared for back to back winning sessions and back to back losing sessions.

Bankroll Management

Before you even get into a downswing, indeed before you even sit down at a poker table you should work out an appropriate bankroll for yourself. Most experts recommended at least 40 buy ins for cash games and…, although professional players will have …. If your running good, then your bankroll will appear conservative but you must stick to your limits at all times.

If you cheat on your bankroll now then you will cheat on your bankroll when you are running bad and we all know that moving up limits to quickly win back losses is a destructive response to a downswing. This will result in the loss of all your poker cash. Not only are you playing over your bankroll but you are also doing it at a precious time – your confidence is low and you might be on tilt.

If your downswing is large enough, then you will need to move down limits. This is something that most poker players find very hard to do as it might appear harder to win back your losses. Good poker is not only about how you play your cards and the very best have a great mental attitude to the game and no problem moving down when they need to.

Don’t Panic

All that is happening during a downswing is you experiencing below average results due to variance but when you panic your emotional brain kicks in and you start to make decisions not on logic but based on your emotions. If your feeling emotional then stop playing and go clear your head. Come back to the tables in a few days, hours or weeks. Take however long you need to rationalise what’s going on and realise that a downswing is completely insignificant to your long term winnings.

Change your site and drop down in stakes

Some professional players, nothing to do with bankroll management, find it therapeutic to change sites, clear a new poker bonus and play way below their bankroll until their confidence improves from being back to winning ways. Try this out next time you are going through a rough patch.

Improve Your Game

Finally, running bad is a great time for you to improve your poker skills. If you eliminate what’s wrong with your game then your win rate will increase and this will get you out of your downswing quicker. Further, you will also get a confidence boost as next time you play you know that your game is better than it was before.

1 comment

  1. Hey, great post. Bankroll management has been the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Totally takes the panic out of a downswing, because you’ll always be amply bankrolled for whatever stakes you’re playing.

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