When it rains, it poursI’ve heard it said many times about poker that “those who can, play; those who can’t, write.” I always like to think that I straddled both sides of that fence as I’ve been a poker fan, player, and writer for years. If my results at the table over the last year are anything to go by, however, perhaps there’s at least a kernel of truth to that opening statement. Here’s a little secret: this poker writer has unfortunately been on a pretty sick downswing for close to a full calendar year; ever since my poker trip to Las Vegas actually. But instead of admitting to something that I think is simply not true, I’m going to chalk up this last year of live poker results to bad momentum.

The Power of Bad Momentum

Strictly speaking, poker is very much a game of finite mathematics. In live poker, there’s also plenty other elements at play, namely reading players, spotting tells, etc. However well-versed you are in the mathematics of poker and even if you’re the king of noticing tells, probability dictates that you’ll still have bad runs. Very bad runs. For extended periods of time.

While this poker writer surely knows from his fair share of bad poker momentum, even the top pros of the game aren’t immune to long bad runs at the tables.

Gus downswing
Gus Hansen knows about bad poker momentum

Recent case in point is Gus Hansen. The new face of Full Tilt Poker has been on an INSANELY bad run over the last three weeks, losing over $2.5 million online. Pretty much every big-name poker player out there has surely experienced bad poker momentum over his/her career.

Unfortunately, this bad momentum carries with it tremendous psychological effects. When you’re running badly, it gets to you. When you keep running badly, it gets to you even more. You might be playing very well every time you sit down at the tables, but sometimes “bad momentum” will rule the day and rob you of your chips – over and over again, no matter what you do. It’s inhuman to not be affected by bad momentum, but when it strikes, the best things you can do are keep on playing your A-game and deal with your poker downswing as best as possible, hoping the tide will turn soon.

The Power of Good Momentum

The flip side of all that is that probability dictates you’ll also have good runs. Very good runs. And they could last for a while and make you a fortune.

Every recreational poker player out there probably knows the feeling of good poker momentum. You could literally be playing like the biggest donk in the world and yet your chip stack will keep growing by leaps and bounds. And it keeps on happening, over and over again, however many mistakes you might be making.

When the pros have good runs, the poker world takes notice. Take for example Jeffrey Lisandro’s incredible 3-bracelet run back in 2009. More recent examples include Phil Ivey’s dominant performance at last year’s WSOP when he made five Final Tables in just 12 days. There’s also Greg Raymer’s absolute “owning” of the Heartland Poker Tour last year, when he won 4 separate events.

Ivey Lisandro Raymer
Ivey, Lisandro, and Raymer are smiling for a good reason

Good poker momentum naturally has excellent psychological consequences. You begin to feel unstoppable at the poker tables, like you can literally do no wrong. Your opponents notice your “run-good” too and usually try to steer clear, often letting you bulldoze their stacks at will. Pretty much the only thing you ever have to worry about when you’ve got good poker momentum is that moment when your momentum ends…

May the Poker Momentum Be With You

Bottom line, it’s far better to be on lengthy upswings than downswings. Sure, a player who never experiences bad poker momentum can be said to not yet  fully understand and appreciate the game. Knowing the right tactics for how to survive lengthy downswings is a critical skill all poker players should possess and truly need to develop.

That said, one downswing is enough, eh? 🙂

Wishing all our readers – and myself! – that you only have good poker momentum from now on!

*Cardplayer Lifestyle would like to thank the Grosvenor Poker team for graciously sponsoring this poker blog post.

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