May
13
2008

Running Below Expectation – A Tough Pill To Swallow

Poker is a game that is all about long-term positive expectation. It is so very easy to be swept up in short term cycles of winning and losing sessions and forget how lengthy the long term actually is. In general, poker players will dismiss their cycles of performing above expectation as deserved and their bad runs as horrific luck. Players will be far more willing to question the randomness cards when they are constantly being sucked out on and coolered than when they are on a heater.

Different personalities react differently to adversity, but I don’t think there are many players going around that can run bad without it affecting the way that they play. I’m going to go through some of the things that I have noticed about myself during such periods.

Generally the first thing I do when I am going through a losing period is to analyze why exactly I am losing. A great piece of software for this is PokerEV. When you load in your hand histories it will give you a rough idea of your expected profit/loss given the way that you played your hands in comparison to how much you actually won when it came to showdown. So mainly this software looks at how you have gone in showdown pots, it doesn’t really reflect how bad you have run in non-showdown pots. It does show your non-showdown winnings, but that doesn’t really indicate things like having your c-bets raised or your draws missing.

From the graphs above you can see that the red line is expected value and the blue line is actually what happened. So if you produce some graphs that look like this then you can conclude that ys you are running bad. Going beyond that though you need to look at how this is affecting your mindset and approach to poker.

I find that I am pretty quick to lose confidence, which is a really bad flaw. And when I lose confidence I get timid, and when I get timid I lose the aggression that makes me a solid winning player. The best solution I have found for this is actually to drop down a limit for a session or two and rediscover my aggressive roots and get my ‘A Game’ back.

I try and learn new things about poker everyday, and usually this is quite easily achieved by analysing hands that I play, chatting to people, watching videos and posting on forums. At the end of a poker session where you feel like you have played bad or been horribly unlucky it can be hard to find the motivation to learn or reflect. It is a kind of paradox in that your losing sessions are probably the ones you can learn the most from, yet your lust for the game is so tethered that all you want to do is forget about it and think about something else. Ink the best solution that I have found for this is to forget about the session for the rest of the day, perhaps don’t even re-visit it for a few days. Maybe when you have returned winning again, then go back to some of the horror sessions you have had and look for the reasons behind your losses and what you could have done better. Reflect on how you handled the situation emotionally and put it in the memory bank for the future. I feel that this is a great way to learn from your mistakes, go back to them when they aren’t so fresh in your mind and you’ll have a much clearer perspective.

Of course, it may help to talk to some poker friends immediately after a nightmare session/day and they will usually be more than willing to talk you through it because they have been there themselves. I think that is all I want to write for now, hopefully those reading this got something out of it. If you have anything to contribute and mention please post comments.

About the Author: Andrew Ferguson

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