If you have played poker for a while, I bet you know it as well…
There are sessions where we run so hot that we wonder how it was ever possible to lose playing this game…
And then there are sessions where things are just not going our way. We’re either card dead, don’t hit anything on any board, and if we finally do hit something like the second nuts, one of two things plays out:
Especially if this stretch of running bad keeps on going, many players start questioning their skills.
“Am I playing bad? Or is it just a downswing?”
Fair question, and one that many people should also ask the other way around:
“Am I playing well? Or is it just an upswing?”
If you have a coach, it’s no big deal. You just reach out to him, send over some hands from your database, and can be sure that whatever feedback you’ll get will be insightful.
However, many players don’t have a coach. So in this article, I’m going to show you how you can find out if you are just on a downswing that will end or if your poker strategy needs to take the blame.
What? Did I just say that?
YES, AND I MEAN IT!
Variance is the best thing ever. Because without variance, we would not be able to make our money free from the 9to5 struggle.
Think about it this way:
If you were to play chess against Magnus Carlsen, how high are your chances of winning? Zero?
What about boxing against Mike Tyson? Zero chances too?
If you compete against world-class people in their field, your chances of beating them are literally zero.
However, what if you were to play poker against MMAsherdog?
Here things get a bit trickier. Since Doug Polk and Educapoker both ranked MMAsherdog as one of the top 10 No-Limit Hold’em players on the planet right now, you probably get crushed playing him as well. (Click to see proof)
But are you really? It depends on the number of hands you play. Throughout 50 hands, you might very well stack him and win.
But what if you play 10.000 hands? Almost impossible for you to win.
100.000 hands? You’ll lose for sure.
Why is that important? Let me take you on a little thought experiment.
Let’s imagine there would be no variance, and whoever is best just wins. Every. Single. Time.
A scenario that most poker players are dreaming about… But there is a bitter downside to it.
Imagine if every single time a fish sits down to play, he loses all his money.
How long do you think he will enjoy playing? Would you keep boxing against Mike Tyson, even though he knocked you out in the first round 11 times in a row?
The only reason a player worse than you can beat you (in the short run) is variance.
It gives them the feeling that they can win at poker, even though it often couldn’t be further from the truth.
So variance is healthy for the game. In fact, it is the factor that ultimately makes it possible that we can live a life outside of the typical job market.
Okay, so with that being said, let’s figure out how to know whether it is a downswing hitting you hard or if you’re just playing badly.
When did you tell your poker friends about sucking out the other reg when you got it in with KK against his AA pre?
Never? I don’t blame you. Our brain tends to focus a lot more on painful events, like losing even though the statistics were on your side while forgetting the spots in which you have been lucky!
Variance isn’t just to lose. It also includes the times when you won more than you should have. (Called upswing) But when things go your way, you simply see it as “normal.” (Like all of us)
In short, it is the difference between how much money you expect to win on average over the long run and the results you see in the short run.
We call it an upswing if you win more than you are supposed to be. If you win less, we call it a downswing.
The problem is when players start to use the word “downswing” to excuse their bad plays.
Let me give you a BU vs. BB spot as an example.
We’re raining the button, and the BB calls. Both are 100BB deep.
We hold 4♥4♠.
The flop comes Q♠7♠4♦
We CBet 33% flop and the BB calls.
Turn is the K♦, so the board is now:
We overbet for 125%, and villain calls again.
River comes the 2♠.
We bet 75%, and the BB shoves. We’re getting good odds, block some flushes with our combo, and end up calling.
The Big Blind shows us A♠8♠. He rivered the Nut flush.
Most players only review their biggest losing pots when reviewing their session, which is a mistake.
As you can see, in this spot, the solver is always calling 44 against a shove from the Big Bling. So most players would say:
“I made the right play! It is solver approved!”
And so they keep playing the spot like this. Even though it happens over, and over, and over again.
Why would you question the solver's output! It’s GTO! It must be right!
So why was the play in our example bad?
Again, here’s a screenshot from PIO:
We can see that the solver bluffs AJo and even turns some Top Pair with flush blockers into a bluff.
Now, if you were a robot playing perfect GTO against another robot doing the same, you should, of course, keep doing it. But the problem is that we’re not playing against bots here…
So you should ask yourself:
Based on my Mass Data Analysis//Pool Analysis, you can see that it is a highly -EV call against almost every player profile.
Here’s a screenshot from Hand2Note for this spot, based on the reg profile:
You see that the avg reg is raising at a 6.5% frequency here. More important is that you can see in the range composition that the reg is rarely bluffing (only 4%) in this spot.
You must use every possible tool to determine if you are making the “correct” play because you often won’t find the answer in GTO vs. GTO solutions.
You have to use different tools, common sense, and be honest with yourself if you want to find the truth.
If you have Mass Data Analysis available, use that. It gives you a more accurate view of the pool you are playing against and your opponents' flaws.
If you don’t, look for someone to discuss your strategy with or get a coach.
If you don’t know where to find other players as sophisticated as you, or you don’t have a coach, we have you covered.
Inside the BluffTheSpot Academy, you’ll get access to like-minded players who take their success as seriously as you do! Furthermore, you get top-level coaches to give you personalized feedback and point out the spots in which you’re bleeding money.
For a limited time, you have the chance to test the Academy for 50% off in the first month.