Bad Cards in Poker
- Short-term variance can ruin even the best of players
- Learn how to keep your composure, even in the longest of losing streaks
- Avoid going on tilt and ride for the bad patch as smoothly as you can
In theory, we all know it has to happen sometimes; bad cards in poker. There’s an inescapable element of luck in poker, that’s what keeps the bad players in the game. A good player’s edge is never that great, and short-term variance can be extremely brutal. So in theory we all know that even the best poker player can suffer a wicked losing streak. That’s poker, and it shouldn’t be such a big deal, unless of course, it’s happening to us.
For someone who plays the game regularly, losing 30 or even 40 big bets in a session is probably inevitable. But when a big loss turns into a prolonged losing streak, that’s the real test of any poker player. When it seems like we can never make a hand no matter what we do, when we start to forget what it even feels like to win a pot, that can drain our confidence, cloud our judgement, even make us feel cursed. To be a long-term winner at this game, you must be able to keep your composure in the face of a nasty losing streak.
Here’s what you should not do; don’t chase your losses. This may seems like such obvious advice, and yet it’s amazing how many good, smart players ignore it. When losing, there are so many ways your ability to play well can suffer. Even the best players can and do go on tilt. This can take many forms, sometimes it’s betting and raising too aggressively with hands that don’t warrant it, in a desperate effort to get back to even. The worst form of this tilt is suddenly moving up in limits, just to try and win the losses back faster. This is an invitation for disaster that not only happens in poker, but also many other table games such as roulette.
Avoid going on Tilt
Sometimes tilt can be playing too weak-tight. This happens because the losing player starts expecting to lose every hand, and it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A player lets his opponents get free (or cheap) cards to draw out on him, when aggressive play might have pushed them out. But even if you do bet and raise as you should when you’re in the middle of a big losing session, you still have a problem. Because now your table image has become diminished. The other players in your game have seen you losing and losing and losing all this time, and so they’re no longer the slightest bit intimidated by you or your action.
But if a bad session is brutal then a long losing streak can be excruciating. When the losing just never seems to end, you have several alternatives. You can keep playing through it, trying your best not to chase your losses or go on tilt. You can drop down in limits until things turn around. You can quit and swear off the game for good. There is no one-size-fits-all way to cope, but probably the best advice is simply to take a break from the game. Do something else for awhile, something that takes your mind off poker. Or you can use the time to read some poker books and re-evaluate your game. Because the longer a losing steak continues, the less likely it becomes that bad luck is the only culprit. If you have been losing at poker for an extended time, you must at least consider that you have some serious leaks in your game.
No matter how hard you work and study to become a good poker player, you can never control how the cards will fall. All you can control is how you react to the cards. And when the cards get so bad that they seem to have a personal vendetta against you, it takes a very strong character to cope. But to be a winning player, you must learn how to lose sometimes.