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5 ways to deal with poker downswings

5 ways to deal with poker downswings

It’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter how much study you’re doing. At some point, if you play long enough, you’re going to go on a downswing.

But don’t fret. Even the best players in the world suffer months of loss. The difference? They understand it’s just a part of the game, and they know how to handle it.

Here are BBZ founder Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond’s five ways to deal with poker downswings.


STUDY

It seems simple, right? But the temptation is always to try and play your way out of a downswing, and when your confidence is already low, that’s not going to lead to the best session.

Jordan “bigbluffzinc” Drummond (a.k.a. BBZ)

Always hit the books before you play during a downswing.

“I study a lot and there’s a reason for it,” says BBZ. “The biggest thing you can do when you’ve had a horrible day and you’re going through a downswing is to go to sleep. Wake up. Study for an hour or two. Then play your next session knowing that you’re better than you were yesterday when you lost.”

Don’t become complacent if you then have a good session either. You’ve got to keep up with your study, win or lose.

“Today I am a stronger player than I was yesterday and for that reason, I deserve to win more often than I deserved to yesterday,” says BBZ. “[By studying], You’ve earned the peace of mind you get knowing you’re closer to the other side of the downswing.”

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ANCHOR

So what if you got it in with pocket aces against pocket fours and lost? There are things you can’t control. So focus on the things you can control and anchor to them.

Start with the poker.

“Focus on the number of the days you’re playing, the amount of volume you’re putting in when you play, the number of hours you’re studying, the people you’re teaming up with to go through study material,” says BBZ.

Hone in on doing those positive things more often rather than focusing on the swing itself.

“You’re losing money, that’s a part of poker,” says BBZ. “So make sure you have something in your life outside of poker that you see success in when you put in the time.

“In poker, you can be doing all the right things, tons of things to get better, but it’s just not panning out right now. There are other activities that just aren’t like that at all.

“If you do all the right things in poker you can be stuck at the end of the month and have horrible results. If you never run and you pick a distance, let’s say a mile, and you run that mile every day, at the end of the month you’ll be running it faster.”

Find what you can control, something you can anchor to, where you’ll get the desired result. That will feed into your poker performance.


OPTIMISE

You want as little to worry about as possible when you’re in a downswing. It’s stressful enough without real-world costs sneaking up on you.

So make sure you’re optimising your expenses.

“This only applies to professional players,” says BBZ. “But you’ve got to treat poker like a business.

“When you’ve got no revenue coming in, you might have to review your expenses going out. You should routinely do it when you’re on a downswing losing money.”

This not only protects your quality of life, but it also prolongs your poker career.

“If your personal life roll and the money you use to make a living are linked, it’s important to protect it, both in terms of game selection and what you choose to play, but also in terms of how often you eat out, what kind of car you drive etc.”

This is something BBZ feels a lot of poker players overlook. For years, there’s been a romantic notion about having a bankroll then losing it all, then having a bankroll and losing it all again.

Not for BBZ. “I’m not a big fan of losing all my money.”


ANALYSE

If you’re losing consistently and you’re not curious as to where and why there’s a good chance you’ll continue to lose.

Instead, go into the downswing, analyse it, and find out where you lose money.

“If I lose $100K playing four $25Ks, what significance does that have on me as a player? Basically nothing,” says BBZ. “They’re really tough games and losing in four of them doesn’t mean anything. It just means I lost $100K.

“However, if there are economic consequences to those losses which I can’t live with, I may have made a mistake in terms of managing my exposure to $25Ks. Maybe I had too much of myself.”

Four games isn’t a useful sample size. But on the flip side, if BBZ had lost $100K in $320 tournaments, that’s a large enough sample where he can see he has a serious problem.

“Now I need to start looking at why,” he says. “Do I need to do more database analysis? Do I need to analyse my win rate? Am I actually beating these games?”

You simply must analyse your game selection. Dropping down in stakes sucks, but going broke is a far worse outcome.

“Not all downswings are created equally,” BBZ continues. “Sometimes you’re only losing at the top of your buy-in curve and you need to stop playing that high.

“But don’t overreact to monetary loss if it’s over a trivial amount of games. Just analyse and get perspective on where you lost the money.”

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SUPPORT

Build relationships with others who understand what you’re going through. Then lean on each other when you need support.

“It’s not selfish,” says BBZ. “You have those relationships so you can both help each other get through to the other side.”

If you’ve lost a large sum of money from your bankroll, an amount large enough that others may have a hard time relating to it, it’s comforting to know that some people understand what that’s like. Others might find it condescending.

“For example, my wife helps me as much as anyone,” says BBZ. “She understands what I’m going through because we’ve been together so long. When I tell her I’ve lost a million dollars, she knows I’m upset I lost a million dollars. If I told someone else that, they might think I’m bragging. But I’m not, I’m just upset.”

Don’t try and do it all on your own. That’s a bad plan.


TIP: Make sure you join the BBZ Discord for support, hand reviews, the latest announcements, and more. You won’t find a more supportive network of poker players anywhere else.


“Support is massive,” says BBZ. “There’s too much ego in taking it all on yourself. It’s not sustainable. Sometimes those around you will feel hurt that you were going through something and didn’t share it with them. They want to help you.”

Ultimately, we call a downswing a swing because it goes up and down. It’s not permanent. If you do all these five things and you’re dedicated to improving, eventually you’ll get to the other side.

“It will pass,” says BBZ. “It doesn’t last forever.”

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