Top 10 Tips to Surviving Downswings at the Poker Table: Part 1

By Robbie Strazynski
August 04, 2011

With the poker world a bit light on big news as of late, it gives this poker blogger a chance to share some more unique and personal thoughts with readers. I’ve been experiencing quite a bit of a dry spell – a horrendous downswing, if you will – at the poker table; and when I say downswing, I mean 1 solitary win in at least 20 live poker sessions.

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Without further ado, and in no particular order of importance, here are some tips I think would help anyone experiencing a lengthy downswing:

1. Take a Break

It’s critical to take a step back and acknowledge a downswing is occurring. Just playing more poker to “get unstuck” is infinitely more likely to just cost you even more money. There’s no magical length of time a break from poker should be, but at the very least I’d recommend 1 week. The important thing to get here is a “mental break” from poker, whereby when you return to the table you’re back on your A-game instead of thinking about all your bad beats.

2. Have A(nother) Hobby

Since you’ll be taking a break, you’ll need something else to help fill up your time. If you play 1 or 2 sessions a week, you’ll now have plenty of free hours to do something else. Watching TV or movies, reading a book, or even getting extra sleep might be more relaxing, but it won’t give you a “break” from the physical inactivity stereotypical to poker players. I’d recommend a regular regimen of exercise like running, swimming, an aerobics class, or playing organized sports to help get those endorphins going. 


3. Study, Study, Study!

Learn Poker StrategyThere’s no shortage of great poker books and strategy articles out there that can help you improve your game. Instead of repeatedly bemoaning a bad run of cards, use your time away from the table to focus on new ideas/moves/plays. Try one new thing you’ve learned each time you play and see if it helps reverse your bad momentum. Even if you’re doing everything right, there are always new weapons to add to your poker arsenal.

4. Chalk it up to Variance

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you’re just going to run poorly at the poker table. You’ll wait patiently for nut hands and will get quartered or everyone at the table will fold to your min raise. You’ll get your money in good most of the time only to get sucked out on repeatedly with donks hitting one- or two-outers on you. Trust me; these rank right up there with passing a kidney stone as some of the most painful feelings in the world. But keep your chin up! Eventually, the math will work itself out in your favor too, making you just as likely to go on a heater at some point. Don’t despair, your time will yet come.

5. Have and Use a “Support Network” of Poker Friends

There’s only so much you can do to improve your game (and mental health) on your own. Let off steam by telling them your bad beat stories. If they’re really your friends, they won’t mind being a sounding board for you. Your poker friends are also likeliest to remind you that your losses aren’t always your fault but rather just a run of unfortunate bad luck. More importantly, a good poker friend will also give you an honest assessment of your game that could help you recognize some flaws that might be causing your downswing.

In part 2 of my surviving poker downswings series, I list 5 more great tips that are helping me get through this lengthy rough patch.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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