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Return to Live Poker (pt. 6: The Inevitable Downswing)



Stoic Poker Downswing down swing how to handle a downswing
In this blog, Stoic Poker faces a tough downswing.

If you have been reading along so far, you know I have been doing well up to this point. Most of the pots I have lost have been my fault, because I am very much still learning. All of my wins have come from me getting it in good and holding up. Today we are going to continue the story by switching things up and getting into a downswing that came along during my return to the live felt.


I had actually been doing so well I decided to pay a few months rent out of my bankroll. Mistake! and right as I showed that level of hubris, everything seemed to magically turn around for the worse.


I remember the hand that started it. The DOOM SWITCH hand that seemed unlucky in the moment, and looking back it seemed to be the start of everything running different.


We had a young new Asian kid playing in our 1/3 game on a Friday night. I had been battling with him, and he kept talking about being from LA and how different our games were from the LA games. He and I got into a 3 bet pot where he called OOP and I had 99. The runout came 259r, he checks I bet 2/3 pot, he called. Turn came a Jack, he checked, I overbet, he called. The river came an Ace and he led out small, I jammed and he flipped over AA. He then started celebrating loudly about how he trapped me and how great he was. I turned over my hand and said "Yeah, sick trap." He immediately stopped celebrating and started apologizing for how lucky he got... That didn't matter to me, because I knew where the $1500 pot was going.


I am not going to run through all the runouts from the next 3.5 months of sessions, but lets just pretend I told 37 bad beat stories at this point. I did go back and count the set up hands and bad beats and 37 is my number.


I am proud of the fact that over this improbable run, the worst thing I ever did was roll my eyes. I told all 37 ops, "nice hand," and I respectfully tapped the table 37 times. I always knew I would go home and review the hands, and I knew the result of the review wasn't going to be a revelation that I had started playing bad. Set over set happens. Flush over flush happens. Flopping top and bottom against flopped top 2 just happens, it doesn't call for a strategic overhaul of playing style.


Okay, if I shouldn't rebuild the strategy, what should I be doing/avoiding in a situation like this.


Things TO DO:

  • Stay calm

    • After this downswing, I still want to be someone people want at their table. I don't want to ruin that image by being childish or overreacting to bad runouts.

  • Take notes during sessions

    • Once I was about a month into my downswing, I could tell I wasn't in the right headspace to review my play at the table. I just made sure to take accurate notes so I would have then after the internal tsunami of emotion was over.

  • Review hands after sessions

    • Once I am home and calm, I have much better perspective on being able to tell the difference between a cooler and a bad play.

  • Meditate

    • This is the best way for me to release the negative feelings I get from "bad luck."

  • Make any changes that my review tells me I need

    • Never make a change just because I want something to change, but see if I am making errors in my intended strategy.

  • Play through it.

    • I didn't come back to quit just because my roll gets a little short. I can study, save, get staked, any of those things is better than throwing away all the progress I've made so far.


Things to NOT DO:

  • Make crazy adjustments based off running bad

    • I am not a nit, and I don't plan on becoming one even if I run bad until I die at the table.

  • Start playing as if I assume bad runouts are going to continue

    • I was still trying to get value from top and bottom pair on the flop even if 3x in a row someone else had a set or top two.

  • Start acting like a jerk to people who just happen to be winning while I'm losing.

    • If I suck out on someone, I don't brag about it, and when someone sucks out on me, I need to tap the table and say "nice hand."

  • Start believing in curses or bad luck

    • I have read too much and dealt with too much to believe in some sort of negative magic that has attached itself to me out of nowhere.

    • I also think this is the road to making bad folds, and bad calls. I will either end up overfolding because "they always have it," or I will underfold because "this can't really be happening again."

      • Both of those options are terrible and will take me away from the strategy I came back to the felt to implement.


I wish I could say I didn't ever fall into any of those bad habits, but I did. I eventually got myself into the mindset where I was overcalling rivers (always bad in live low stakes nlh) because, "This can't really be happening again." Oh, it was... over and over and over again.


And you know what, increasing my crying calls on the river was a mistake... a weakness, and it made the downswing worse than it needed to be. I hope you enjoyed this look at a downswing and my personal do's and don'ts... and I hope you learn from the dumb mistake I admitted to in the end. See you next time.

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