Downswings – tips for coping when they happen


Downswings, in poker, are prolonged periods of losing sessions. Here are some tips that should help you cope with a downswing.

Understand downswings & upswings in results are inevitable

Due to the variance involved, even a player doing everything correctly, can go on a long downswing. A skilled player may experience downswings that can last weeks or even months.

However, the same can be said for upswings! Some players have a tendency to complain or get down about downswings but are more than happy to accept the opposite. In your poker life, you will have downswings and upswings. This is inevitable due to the variance built into the game.

Thoroughly work through your hands off the table

This is the most important tip, we can give you here at You should, of course, be doing this at all times anyway. If you play live you should be taking notes about all interesting spots. Online players have the benefit of hand histories provided to them. Look at the hand from a minimally exploitative/balanced perspective. What deviations did you make, and were they the right ones to make? Use software to help you out. You should not only look at losing hands, but winning hands too – it could be the case the even though you won a hand you could have won more, or you got lucky this time (but would normally be punished). You could have lost a hand, but perhaps you should have lost less or not at all (or perhaps you could have done nothing about it). The idea is to work out if bad results are mainly due to you doing things wrong (which is good to know, as you can improve on this in your following sessions), or if it is mainly due to bad luck (which is also good to be sure of, as you won’t then make unnecessary adjustments to a winning strategy).

Don’t make the unnecessary or incorrect changes during downswings

Recreational players, and players who don’t understand poker strategy correctly, often play differently during a downswing. The may be trying to take less volatile lines, even when they are worse (in EV terms) than more volatile lines. Or, they may be chasing their losses (i.e. gambling) rather than playing a winning strategy. This is where the analysis suggested above pays off – if you are doing everything right, don’t change just because results aren’t going you way. Otherwise, your downswing will likely last longer (and it will be your fault).

Visually look at results

If you are a winning player, and have a large sample size of results, sometimes it helps to look through graphs of your results. You will then visually see that you will likely get out this downswing eventually, as you have always done – this is of course, as long as you are playing well (which is where the thorough analysis suggested above comes in).

Make sure you are properly bankrolled from the get go!

This is something to think about well before you go on a downswing, infact you should have thought about this from the time you started playing poker (but it’s never too late). The more buyins you have for your current game, the more a downswing can go on without causing you undue pain or worse bankrupting your bankroll.