Upswings and Downswings: Coping with the Poker Rollercoaster

Graph with green and red poker chips

Poker is, without any shadow of a doubt, a rollercoaster ride. Sometimes you’ll sit down at a table and the money will seemingly fly in, boosting your account balance by huge amounts. Other times, however, you seem to miss every draw and get outflopped on every hand, with the inevitable result being that you leave the table with much less money than you started with.

Amateur players shouldn’t let this rollercoaster ride dishearten them though, as even the pros have their good and bad days. For every time someone like Daniel Colman takes down over $15,000,000 at the Big One for One Drop tournament, another pro – such as Gus Hansen losing over $1.5 million in a day– takes a big hit. It’s the ability to get over these downswings and maximise the upswings that set them aside from the rest of the poker playing world.

Below you’ll see how to cope with each of these occurrences – knowing how to manage an upswing is equally important – so that you maximise your profits and don’t suffer the indignity of having to redeposit again…

The Good Times

Peter Eastgate winning tournamentAn upswing is the ultimate feeling. Your senses are heightened; you feel invincible; and the rest of the players at the table simply can’t keep up with your poker playing prowess. An upswing can last a day, a week, or even a month, and can span a number of different sites. But there is one thing that’s certain: it will end, and you need to be prepared for this.

The best way to manage an upswing is this: consider it like a saving scheme. The money you earn during this period can go straight into your account and act as a buffer, for when the downswing comes. What every professional would tell you is simple though – don’t be tempted to start risking more of your bankroll just because you’re running hot. If your upswing ends just as you start playing at higher stakes, you’ll lose far more than you just won. Plus, higher stakes lead to better players, and there’s no surer way to bring you back to earth with a bump than playing against a shark. It’s better for the moment to stick to what you know, and keep raking in the money.

Another extremely important thing to remember – although it might seem very obvious – is that luck is random, and it is never “on your side”. Don’t put your upswing down to pure luck, as there are many other factors. This means that you shouldn’t rely on Lady Luck to add even more to your stack, therefore don’t be tempted to start playing hands you wouldn’t otherwise touch. In fact, sometimes it is better to start playing tighter, therefore maximising profits from good hands and minimising losses.

Remember this though: upswings and downswings are like night and day. One will always follow the other, so when you’re “running good”, plan ahead for when things aren’t going your way…

The Bad Times

Angry man with mobile phoneDownswings suck. They really suck. A downswing will bring a frown to many a poker player’s face and it’s easy to see why. After all, nobody likes the feeling of losing constantly and watching their hard-earned bankroll get frittered away bit by bit. The fact is though that downswings happen to everyone, from the guy down the snooker club through to Daniel Negreanu. It’s about getting through them and coming out the other side still intact…

As difficult as it might be to keep smiling, a downswing will end. Some last longer than others, but at some point that flush will come in, or your pocket pair will turn into trips on the flop. Saying this now is easy though, whereas realising this in the middle of a slump is more difficult. So how do you survive a downswing?

Take a Break

The first thing to do is simple: step away from the screen and have a break. The downswing might simply be being caused by you being tired, or simply not in the right frame of mind to play. Have a nap and come back later. While away from the game, think about the hands you played: should you have shoved with that pair of aces? Was bluffing the river the best idea? Critique yourself and see if your own play caused the change of fortune, as 99% of the time it will have.

Avoid Tilt

If you can’t find a reason for your losses though, the best thing to do is keep playing as you were before. As stated earlier, luck is on no man’s side, so it will come back to you in time. While you aren’t getting much luck, you absolutely have to avoid the scourge of all poker players though: going on tilt…

“Tilt” is the term used to describe a style of play that is fuelled by frustration. Usually a player gets a bad beat and then decide to go completely over the top in their pursuits to win back their money. They start getting into hands with cards like 3-8 and find it increasingly difficult to let a hand go, regardless of the bet. This almost always leads to the same result – the player’s bankroll getting absolutely decimated, simply due to a sudden urge to play differently.

Keep Calm and Carry On…

So, the key to surviving a downswing is simple: keep calm and carry on. If that red mist descends though – and you’ll know if it’s coming – get away from the game ASAP, and wait until you are feeling a little more reasonable again before coming back. Over time you’ll learn to completely avoid going on tilt, just like the professionals have learnt to do. And that’s why they play in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, and the rest of us play at sites like PokerStars on our iPhone…

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our strategy articles right here at Droid Poker. They are written by experienced players and are designed to ensure you become the best poker player you can possibly be! It’s all part of our commitment to bringing you news, reviews and guides on every aspect of the mobile poker world!

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