Overcome Poker Downswings by Asking 4 Simple Questions

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Written by: Matt E.

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A poker downswing is when you are losing more than you are winning in poker. This is usually the case for winning players who are making good decisions but are ending up on the other end of the luck spectrum for the time being.

Flipping a coin is 50/50 in terms of luck. But sometimes you will flip heads 8 times out of 10. This is how variance and luck factor into poker. You might make the right decision but even pocket Aces are only an 80/20 favorite over certain hands.

Poker downswings can be extremely hard. It's difficult to know if you're playing badly or getting unlucky. This incomplete information can be extremely frustrating. The mental game of poker is very important, if you let your emotions get in the way, you can make poor decisions.

Poor decisions at the table and poor bankroll decisions by playing out of your means to try and recoup lost buy-ins. Trust me, I've been there many many times.

There are books that help in this area specifically for poker, Jared Tendler wrote a couple of books on how to deal with running bad and poker downswings, etc. His books are called The Mental Game of Poker and they're good. That will be the advice many of these poker blogs give.

I have read them both and still struggled with tilt when running bad and when on a huge downswing in poker.

I learned to overcome it because of an author that helps in different aspects of life. It's not “woo-woo” and spiritual and all that, it's very straightforward.

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There are four questions that might help you overcome your poker downswings and help you learn what to do when you running bad for months.

You can deal with:

  • Tilt in poker
  • Running bad for months
  • Poker downswings
  • Getting sucked out on
  • Ego not letting you fold
  • Punting in poker
  • Getting coolered
  • Being card dead for hours

I have been able to do all of this by applying the work of Byron Katie to my poker life. By asking myself the 4 questions while at the table or off the table and turning them around to help me overcome stress and long poker downswings.

I used to get angry and break mouse after mouse, throw things in my house and yell out of frustration when I would get rivered by a donkey on the final table bubble of a huge tournament.

I get it. It can be so tilting.

So how do you deal with a poker downswing?

Using The Work of Byron Katie in Poker

The Work of Byron Katie has been highly documented and used to great effect for many stresses in life. She has been around for a long time. But I'll save you the life story and show you how to apply it at the poker table to deal with tilting and poker downswings.

How to use the work of Byron Katie to help you deal with the swings in poker

The 4 Questions While in a Poker Downswing

Write down all your stressful thoughts and beliefs about your poker downswing and follow the instructions below.

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Example: 1: “I suck at poker”

Example 2: “I get more unlucky than other people”

Example 3: “Poker is unfair”

Example 4: “This downswing is because I'm playing bad”

The four questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
  3. How do react/feel when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

Then you turn each thought around after you go through each of the four questions.

Example 1: “I suck at poker”

  1. Yes
  2. No, I don't know that it's true. I've been a winning player in a long-term of tournaments and know I can do it. So technically, no it's not true.
  3. I feel stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, depressed, and hopeless.
  4. I would be free, happy to play casually, and enjoy the game again even though I'm losing.

Turn the thought around to the opposite.

I don't suck at poker.

Now give yourself 3 examples of why that's a true statement.

This helps re-enforce your belief patterns, and you start to question your thoughts instead of just believing them to be true. This is actually meditation in and of itself. You are meditating on your thoughts and beliefs. Inquiring and questioning them is a positive thing to do in the long run. +EV play.

Example 2: “I get more unlucky than other people”

Go through the 4 questions. This is not true because poker is completely mathematical in terms of percentages. You will either win or lose a certain percentage of the time over the long run. It is completely fair.

Now turn it around.

I don't get more unlucky than other people.

The math completely justifies this statement. This is just reality, it's a fact. It might be the case for certain people to be luckier over a period of time, but everything comes back to the probabilities over a certain period of time, or hands played.

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If you are struggling with a downswing in poker just let me know in the comments below or hit me up with a private message and I would be happy to discuss or help you out with this process. It can help to have someone by your side walk you through the steps.

Written by

Matt E.

I've been immersed in the world of poker since 2003. Poker is hard. It has undoubtedly been a roller coaster of experiences for me over the years. My poker journey spans from playing at .01/.02 NL tables to engaging in intense sessions at $5/$10. Poker isn't just a game to me—it's a passion. Outmaneuvering opponents in this test of mental strength and strategy offers an unparalleled thrill. To deepen my understanding of the game and to assist others, I initiated this blog. It aims to elucidate the ever-evolving technologies, strategies, and legal landscapes of poker, especially in the online realm. We're now in the age of solvers, but both online and live poker continue to thrive. A quick visit to a local $1/3 game would be ample evidence of its vitality. Regardless of your proficiency level, from novice to expert, I hope my blog posts offer you valuable insights. Feel free to engage with me through messages or by commenting on my posts. Cheers!

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