When the Deck Fails to Cooperate: Surviving Long Live Losing Streaks

When the Deck Fails to Cooperate: Surviving Long Live Losing Streaks

I’ve spent a lot of time playing both live and online so I understand the joys and pains of both poker worlds. From my experience, if there is one thing that really sucks about playing live that’s dealing with a prolonged losing streak that you simply can’t avoid.

Online poker is easier in that sense because you can just put a pedal to the metal and swiftly play through a couple of hundred tournaments or play a few thousand cash game hands. When you play live, you can’t multi-table, you can only play one, maybe two tournaments a day, and those losing streaks can seem much longer than they actually are.

Dealing with the Reality

I’ve been through more losing streaks than I care to remember during some ten years I’ve been playing poker. Every time, it’s been almost the same scenario. It starts with a couple of tournaments where things fail to go your way and then everything goes downhill.

Either you keep whiffing those flops as badly as you possibly can, or every time you do hit, someone else connects better. One tournament after another, whatever you do, the end result is the same: you on the rail.

I must admit, for the first couple of years, during stretches like this I would start to seriously question my poker skills. Although it was more than obvious that I had a very solid ROI in my local games, when you bust ten (small field) tournaments in a row it’s hard to just shrug it off as bad luck.

Anyone who’s played online more seriously will know that not cashing ten, twenty, or even thirty tournaments in a particularly bad session is nothing shocking. It is just a part of your daily grind. The problem with live play is that your bad run stretches over an extended period and then it becomes hard to realistically look at the number of games played and see things for what they really are.

Proactive Approach

When cards aren’t falling your way there isn’t much you can do to change it: you will have to weather out the variance and wait for things to turn around. However, you do need to stay very careful in the meantime because you don’t want the adverse variance to start serving as an excuse for making bad plays.

It’s all too easy to get in that, “Whatever; I am going to lose anyways,” mentality. This can have seriously damaging effects on your game. Getting your chips in the middle when you know you are an underdog simply because it feels you can’t win either way could, in fact, prolong your bad run.

If you are a cash game player this can be even more costly, but being primarily a tournament player myself, I try to stick to known territory.

An upside of being able to play only a tournament or two a day is that you are left with plenty of time to reflect on what happened at the tables. Don’t allow your brain to trick you into believing that it is all just bad luck and you shouldn’t give it a second thought. There is no need to obsess about it, but do take some time to think about crucial hands.

Was there something you could have done differently?

Did you miss a good spot to pick up some uncontested chips?

Perhaps you would end up busting all the same, but reflecting on your game will give you a bigger edge once Lady Luck is back at your side. Plus, if you think through the hands you had played and realize you made no big mistakes, it will help you feel confident about your game.

Think Long-term

If you play a lot of live poker tournaments, you will run into stretches like these. If you think it can’t happen to you it just means that you haven’t been playing for long enough. It doesn’t matter how good you are; variance must claim its toll (unless you are Fedor Holz, of course).

The important thing is to keep your eyes on the ball and maintain a positive attitude whatever happens. Don’t let yourself despair about a few bad tournaments. If you know you play your hands right and the deck just won’t cooperate, don’t let it faze you.

Poker is, has always been, and will always be about the long run. As long as you play a good game, results are bound to come. Just make sure the bad run is not causing you make bad plays, and things will turn around eventually. When they do, you will be back to your winning ways, cashing and raking.

About the author

Ivan Potocki started playing poker in 2006 and played professionally from 2010-2013. He is currently the lead news writer and assistant editor at Beat The Fish.

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