How to Deal with Variance in Poker: Some Quick Tips

Poker is a great game that has many aspects to love, but also many to despise. The thrill of scooping up a big pot and the rush you get from pulling off a monster bluff is a feeling you can’t get anywhere else. This is what makes poker so amazing. But, poker does have an ugly side not often seen by the average person.

To those who don’t play poker much and only see it on TV, they think poker is all about winning millions and always running good. The makers of these shows will never dare show you a player going on a 20 buy in downswing and punching their monitor after the 50th suck out. Although, I feel that would be more interesting than most of what is shown on poker programs.

Variance as it’s called is the pimple on poker that everyone who plays, will experience at some point in their career. Since poker is a game of math and even Aces can lose sometimes, the math dictates that you will lose, there’s no running from it.

The thing that separates the good players from the bad is how they deal with variance in poker. I’ve seen many a player lose their bankroll along with their minds on a bad run of cards. Don’t let this be you!

Today were going to talk about how to deal with variance and fight through the inevitable downswings that will occur. Learning to handle these downswings will be just as important as how you play your hands.

Look at a graph of your lifetime results

When things inevitably start heading south and you just can’t shake a really sick bad run, you cannot afford to let it affect you. Stop, compose yourself, and open up a lifetime graph of your results to prove to yourself that you are a long term winner and that this is just variance.

Checking out your own lifetime graph will instil confidence in you and your game, and serve as proof to yourself that the play right now with the biggest EV is to just stick at the game you know best. Maybe take a break – perhaps even a few days off, and then start afresh in the knowledge that you’re a long term winner and that you can prove this to yourself at any time by looking at your long-term results.

Bankroll Management/Avoiding Tilt

I’m grouping these together as the two coincide with one another.

Many players will go on monkey tilt during a bad run. They blow their bankroll trying to chase losses, or just spew it away in a blind rage of tilt. There is not one professional or serious player in poker that knows they shouldn’t do this, yet it’s still such a common problem.

The best way to handle the downswings is to stick to your bankroll management.

It can be hard not to try and move up in limits to recoup some of your money faster, but you must resist any urge to do so. Conserving your bankroll during a downswing will be one of the most important things you do in your poker career. It can mean the difference between living to play another day. Or, going busto and out of the game for good.

Embrace it

The first step to dealing with variance is to pre-empt it. A lot of players are in denial and think they can never lose. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how good you are, the cards will turn on you at some point.

Knowing that variance will pop its ugly head up at some point will lessen the blow it has on your mindset.

Sure it sucks, but if you know it will happen and understand what it is, the better prepared you will be for it.

Get a fellow player to independently review your hands

Bad variance shouldn’t make you make adverse decisions, yet it inevitably does. You can’t always tell that you’re making those -EV decisions when you’re in a bad streak. Consider making a rule to yourself that if you go on a particularly bad run over at least a few thousand hands, get a fellow experienced player to do a few line-checks to make sure your head is still in the right place. Perhaps send across the complete poker hand histories of 10 of your biggest losers over the past 5k hands.

Just by being told you’re still doing the right thing from hand-to-hand will be enough to put some confidence back in your head. It’ll also ensure that you keep playing your A-game, because if you’re not, and you realise, then your poker associate will scrutinise those poor hands.

Quit Your Whining

One of the absolute worse things you can do is whine about your bad beats. For one, it’s very counterproductive and only makes you focus on the losing aspect. It can have a severe impact on the way you think and even start to slip into your daily life.

Always dwelling on the bad can become a habit. After a while you’re only focusing on the bad stuff instead of trying to improve your game.

But more importantly, don’t forget that it’s plain annoying for others around you!

For your sanity and that of your fellow peers, keep your bad beat stories to yourself. We all have our fair share of stories to look back on that we don’t need to hear about someone else’s.

There’s only so many times a friend will listen to how you lost with top set that day. Cut poker out of your non-work (non-poker) life and you will feel better for it.

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