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If you’ve clicked on the webpage link to read this article, then chances are you are seeking advice on how to work through a poker downswing. Play long enough, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of one of these.

There is a LOT of content on the Internet that revolves around this topic. About how to deal with bad beats, how to keep yourself emotionally balanced, etc. In this article, I would to highlight one important aspect of working your way through the rough times in poker which isn’t covered nearly as much.

poker Downswing

Independent Thinking Is The Key To Working Through A Poker Downswing

Years ago, players who took the time to go to training sites, review hand histories with friends, and implement some pre-ordained style of poker were heftily rewarded at the online poker tables. This was due to the fact that the number of fish (defined as those who would give up massive amounts of expectation per tournament or cash game session) was constantly multiplying.

In the modern era of online poker, many of the players who used to represent “dead money” in poker games have either gone on to something else or fixed the most obvious leaks in their game.

The games online are much more “reg-heavy” and even those who routinely donate have figured out the basic gist of concepts such as Independent Chip Modeling IICM), Pot Equity, Position, Chip Stack Sizes, and so on.

While continuing to seek out resources to improve one’s game remains as important as ever, there is one action that a poker player (particularly one who is on a downswing) can do to work out of these bad runs as quickly as possible — think independently.

The information that one can find on training sites and within HUD displays is available to every online poker player on the planet. This may be less true now that poker sites are restricting HUD use, but my point is that more and more players are using the same cookie-cutter approach to improvement by studying the same resources.

jerry king poker 1

credit: Jerry King

What Gives You An Edge Over Regular Players?

Consider this for a moment. Unless you’re playing play money poker or at the lowest stakes available, a lot of your competition is going to be comprised of players that have at least a reasonable amount of experience at the tables. They’re watching the same training site videos you are, are studying the math behind Game Theory Optimal (GTO) play along with a high percentage of the player pool, and have had to work through their own downswings as they go.

If you really want to work on the symptoms of a poker downswing (lack of confidence, less motivation to play, receiving a beat down from the cards), then you need to work on the cause of these symptoms. If the downswing is prolonged, then chances are you don’t enjoy as much mathematical advantage over your opponents as you thought you did.

In order to address this, ask yourself the question the is printed in bold letters at the beginning of this section. In order to enjoy long-term success at the poker tables, you must find edges where most players do not… even if “most” players now encompasses poker pros.

Take the time to consider how the players you regularly compete against might be reacting to certain situations, and how they are exploitable. Are there any tendencies that have caught on over the last few years or months as they become more popular through training sites, coaches and forum posts? If you can think of a few, then you should also be thinking about the best way to possibly gain an edge over players who you spot these tendencies from while you’re at the poker table with them.

Remember, if all players at the table are employing the exact same strategy (no matter how “good” it is), then you’re just swapping rake in the long run. Over the long haul, the cards will treat every player the same, so you can’t depend on cards to work your way out of a poker downswing. Of course it’s awesome when cards work in your favor, but if you’re relying solely on “good runs” to cancel out “bad runs,” then you’re not properly identifying situations that can be exploited.

What I mean by this is that you can quickly work your way out of any poker downswing by pouncing on scenarios where tournament or cash game chips can be picked up without cards playing a major role. Think about this carefully, and even employ a bit of trial and error to come up with ways that can add to your stack without having to rely so much on cards, as they will provide their own situations without your assistance.

jerry king poker 2

credit: Jerry King

The “Common” Steps For Maintaining Focus During A Downswing

Provided your spending a great deal of your poker-instruction time thinking independently about how to find advantages where most regulars don’t, you can also try any combination of the most commonly published methods for working through a bad run.

These include, moving down in stakes, taking some time away from the poker tables, studying training site content and strategy-based forum discussions, focusing on your physical and mental health, playing fewer tables at a time, etc.

You should try all these more-common tips for working through a poker downswing, but the best way to ensure you’re experiencing bad runs as seldom as possible is to work on ways to find value in situations that very few or no poker players (even if they are highly skilled) have thought about. And discovering these situations for yourself requires independent thought.

Best of luck at the tables!

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David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.