Five Super Tips to Help Poker Players Deal with Variance and Downswings


The folks at 888poker are back once again with more poker strategy tips, with this article focusing on the dreaded aspect of variation in poker and how to cope when the cards aren’t falling in your favour.

Ambassador Ian Simpson notes, “You just have to accept that variance is a part of the game, this is why this wonderful game exists. That’s why we can make money from it.”

stream team member Nick Eastwood points out, “Every single player, even the most winning players around, all go through bad stretches of luck in their poker careers.”

So as variance in poker is unavoidable, it would be wise to take some time to watch the video below and mentally jot down these top tips on how to deal with it.

What is Variance in Poker?

In poker, variance refers to the natural statistical fluctuations or “ups and downs” that can occur in short-term results due to luck. Variance can cause a player to experience periods of both winning and losing, even if they are playing well or poorly.

For example, a player may be dealt a strong hand like pocket aces, which is obviously the best hand they can you be dealt. However, due to variance, they may still lose the hand if their opponent gets lucky and hits a better hand on the flop, turn, or river.

In essence, variance is the difference between expected results and actual results over a certain period of time. While skilled players can make decisions that will increase their long-term win rate, in the short-term, variance can have a significant impact on their results.

Why is there variation in poker?

Variance is an inherent part of poker because the game involves a significant element of luck. Even if a player makes the best decisions possible, they can still experience positive or negative outcomes due to the randomness of the cards. The cards are dealt randomly, and even the best players can’t control which cards will come next.

Over the long run, luck will tend to even out, and skilful players who consistently make good decisions will typically come out ahead. Understanding and managing variance is an important aspect of being a successful poker player.

How to Deal with Variance in Poker

Dealing with variance in poker can be challenging, but there are several strategies that players can use to manage its effects:

  1. Focus on the long term: Variance is a natural part of poker, and it can be tempting to get frustrated or demoralized during a downswing. However, it’s important to remember that skilful players will ultimately win out in the long run. Keep your focus on making good decisions and playing solid poker, and trust that your results will improve over time.
  2. Manage your bankroll: Variance can be especially damaging to your bankroll if you’re not properly prepared. Make sure you have enough money set aside to weather a downswing, and be willing to move down in stakes if necessary.
  3. Stay disciplined: In the face of variance, it can be tempting to make impulsive decisions or to play recklessly in an attempt to make up for losses. However, this can often lead to further losses. Stick to your usual strategy, and resist the urge to make drastic changes in response to short-term results.
  4. Have a solid network: Poker can be a solitary game, but it can be helpful to seek support from other players or a poker community. Sharing your experiences and challenges with others can provide a sense of perspective and support during periods of negative variance. Reviewing your hand histories with your network can help you identify areas of your game that may contribute to negative variance. Having an extra pair of eyes to help look for patterns in your losses will allow you to better analyze whether any adjustments to your strategy are needed.
  5. Take breaks: If you’re feeling frustrated or stressed due to a run of bad luck, it can be helpful to take a break from the game. Step away from the table for a while, clear your head, and come back with a fresh perspective.

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