We’ve all been there. Through the dungeon of downswings where everywhere you turn is a dead end or a scary monster called BadBeatBogeyman. You try to run in another direction where there seems to be some light, carrying with you your precious AA’s, KK’s, and AK’s, and suddenly out pops another monster called HaHaGotchaOnTheRiver.
Tupac has a word of advice for all of us, “And it’s crazy, it seems it will never let up, but please… you got to keep your head up.”
So what do we do during this defeating, demoralizing, dungeonesque time?
Here are some of my ways of breaking through to the other side:
Take Time off
“You learn more in failure than you ever do in success.” – Jay-Z
First thing you have to do is just take some time off. Just log off the poker site or go home from the poker room and spend time with friends and family. Your brain will be running through all the bad beat scenarios but try to shake it off and be in the moment. Let your subconscious sift through the hands you’ve played over the past weeks and let it figure out how you could have played better poker while you just tune out and relax your mind and body.
Accept the Fact of Variance
“It’s gonna be a long long journey, It’s gonna be an uphill climb, It’s gonna be a tough fight… But I’m ready to carry on.” - Mary J Blige
Variance is a fact that we poker players have to accept. We just have to make a plan for those days or weeks when it hits the hardest and hope that each time we go through it, we come out stronger, better players. Maybe it is the nature of the game to have us step away to take that time out to rejuvenate ourselves.
Stop the Bad Beat Stories
“Sometimes you just gotta let shit go, and say 'To hell with it’ and move on.” - Eminem
There is no point in compounding your misery by complaining about your bad beats, really. It just makes you live through the pain over and over again while you start to tend towards criminalization by thinking how you want to kill the person who called your AQs with 86o. It does no good, and keeps your brain focused on the negative outcome and associated unhealthy emotions.
“My mind on my money and my money on my mind.” – Snoop Dogg
When your brain gives you the inkling that you might be at the beginning of a downswing, first think about your money. You do not want to be playing high stakes or buying into tournaments you cannot afford when you know what the outcome is going to be. Your ego might be telling you that you can beat the downswing, turn it around, but it’s better to explore that theory using smaller amounts than usual.
Count Your Blessings
“Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been blessed, because I’m doing what I want, so I never rest.” – Beastie Boys
Try to have a positive outlook when you are going through a downswing. Think about the fact that you are getting to do what you love – play poker. Go through your records and look at all the healthy scores you had over the past few months. Remember the good things you did with the money you made – maybe you gave some to your family, bought something for somebody that needed it, made a donation to a charity. This will help you focus on the fact that this is just a phase and all you have to do is get through it.
Work Away from the Tables
“Success doesn’t just land on your lap. You have to work, work, work and work some more.” – Sean Combs
The best way to take advantage of your downswing is to work on your game away from the tables. You might think you know everything there is to know about poker but that is not the case. There is much to learn and to be the best you have to continuously improve your game. Watch videos, read articles, work on your mental game. You will come back to the game with a fresh perspective and a better chance to improve your consistency at the tables.
Rebuild Your Confidence
“And even when I was close to defeat, I rose to my feet, my life is like a soundtrack I wrote to the beat.” – Dr. Dre
Downswings give a beating to a poker player’s confidence. You end up questioning yourself, your poker skills, your intelligence, your entire being. It can overwhelm you and leave you depressed and miserable. These are the times to believe that your ability to rise up will shape your character, so no more sniveling and moping. Pull yourself together, do things you love or do something new to get your mind off the downswing. Focus on eating right, sculpting your body, enhancing your mental game and doing something nice for others. It will do wonders for your confidence and for your game.
I know it’s all easier said than done. But the next time you’re staring at the abyss try one or more of the above, I guarantee you will feel better and eventually do better. Imagine the prospect of coming back to the game after each downswing with renewed focus, a sharper game, and positive energy – what more could you ask for!
Oh yeah, and you can send me your thank you’s for giving you the best advice ever, in the form of chocolate, lollipops and ice cream. I need sugar during my downswings.