The Danger of the Upswing
You get into contact with Taxes Hold'em via your friends, but where they stop, you keep going. You started off by always losing in the homegames, but lately you've been winning more and more and you're starting to see I difference in skill level between you and your friends. They only play on Saturdays while having a beer, but you spend your week reading articles on PokerNews and trying to improve your game. Your friends still don't manage to lay down a flush draw while you don't even play hands like A-10 anymore because of the reversed implied odds.
Just to give it a try you deposit some money on a poker site or you look for a nice deposit bonus and start your big online poker adventure. With your $50 you start playing on the lowest limits but it doesn't take long until you start playing higher stakes. On the lower limits you only encounter donkeys and the $5 buy-ins keep rolling in. Once in a while you lose a hand because someone sucks out or because of a big cooler, but you feel that you are better than the rest. You start playing more and more and before you know it, your $50 turned into $500! Even with the dollar being weak at the moment, you still made around â‚¬300.
The world seems to too small for your skills and you keep on raking in the dollars. You keep on advancing to the higher limits and before you know it you're playing games where the big blind is $6 and you have a bankroll of a couple of thousand dollars. You are a regular on your limit and you know most of the other players from seeing them at the tables. With a smirk on your face you think back to the times when the big blind was 2 cents and you raised to 8 cents preflop.
We raise with Jacks, get re-raised and decide to go all-in. We're up against AK and a player holding pocket 10's. We win the hand and are happy, after all we were favorite. We bluff players off their hands while we're holding 8-high and completely trap them with our floped full house. Everything is going great and it seems like we can't lose.
During the homegames with your friends you are desperately trying to explain why some of the things they do are wrong and how they should be doing it. You can't help it, but every sentence you speak has at least 3 terms in them that your friends don't understand. You start by explaining things like fold equity but it doesn't seem to really get through to them and you are sensing a lack of interest on their side. It becomes obvious that you think about the game in a different way and, when being honest with yourself, the homegames are starting to lose their appeal. You just think it's irritating your friends still see it as gambling while on your poker account the money just keeps rolling in: Phil Ivey watch out!
And then it happens! You lose a couple of big pots in which you actually were behind when the money went in, but cant we just be the one to suck out for once? Our flush draws stay flush draws and our open-end straight draws remain small straights 10 times in a row and also our top pair top kicker seems to be running into sets all the time. Unbelievable, we're stuck in a downswing! The "beats-and-brags" forum seems to be our new home but going down a limit is definitely not an option. Your downswing has to end at some point, right? So we keep on losing buy-in after buy-in and before we know it our bankroll is only a fraction of what it used to be. It won't be long until we're sitting behind our 2 screens screaming: "When will the hurting stop?!"
Do you recognize yourself in this description or does it relate to one of your poker friends? Then maybe its time to get yourself under control before everything you've won in the past weeks is gone and all you have left are your frequent player points.
The worst players in the world can play a profitable session 10 times in a row with the right amount of luck and opponents that make mistakes, while the best player in the world can have periods where he loses more than he wins. Poker is a game where the long run determines the success of your game and where 1 successful session doesn't say much about your winning-expectations. That's the beauty of the game. Beginners win hands which keeps the game entertaining for them. They remember that one win and keep coming back for more, which is obviously good for the better players. If you start playing a new game and keep on losing you either give up or you improve your game so that you can be the one winning. Poker is different in that respect because you can immediately start winning. The worst player can immediately take on the best player in the world and end the confrontation positively.
Of course it's great when bad players think they're better than they really are, but this is where the danger lies. Are we ourselves actually as good as we think we are? We have to keep asking ourselves if our current downswing is actually a period of us being unlucky or if our initial success wasn't just one big upswing.
Poker is a game that is all about the long run, every advanced player will agree on this. Only after playing thousands of hands can we say how good we really are and can we measure the success. We do this by calculating how many big bets we win per 100 hands. A big bet is a term that was takes from limit poker and means as much as 2 big blinds. But even when using this system you will find that your win rate doesn't stay constant. Full Time players can sometimes play up to 40,000 hands in one month and end up breaking even, while the next month they play the same amount of hands but end up with a win rate of 20 big bets per 100 hands. 20 big bets per 100 hands is a lot and is usually the sign of an upswing, while between 7 and 10 big bets per 100 hands is a nice winrate for a good and winning player.
Many players who begin with online poker start by basically paying money to learn the game, as we can only learn by playing hands, and as a beginner this will often result in losses. So our first investment is gone and we keep on going and after some time we win back our initial investment and hopefully a little more. Sometimes this learning period in which we invest can take longer and it could be months until we finally start winning on a regular basis. Sometimes we spend a long period breaking even until we figure out how we can actually win. When we start by losing or breaking even, we become critical of our own game and start to read up on theory. We will then do everything we can to became a better player and win back our initial investment
But what if we start by winning like the example above? It isn't hard to imagine that this "false-start" will result in a bitter period when things stop going well. This is when it becomes harder to find the reason in out own game as it started off so well and we were doing everything right. Because it started off so well, we are now sitting on higher limits where the beats hurt even more. We are now paying the investment that other players pay at the beginning, and because we're sitting on higher limits, this payment could end up being pretty high.
Many players who start off with a great upswing often need a long time to realize what has happened and keep on losing money during this period. Sometimes they just don't want to realize it and they get stuck in a game that isn't profitable and poker has suddenly started to cost money, rather than it making money as it was in the beginning.
Always be honest with yourself and always examine your own game in a critical manner, even more critical than others might. Analyze your own sessions and pick out the big pots to see whether or not you will be making money with your style of playing in the long run. Do this in the periods when it's not going good, but also during times when you're playing successfully. A good player will continuously analyze his game and is always looking to improve. Don't just write everything off as a bad beat, a cooler, or just part of downswing. Ask yourself if you could've played that hand differently or maybe could have avoided that irritating situation on the river.
Upswings exist, and as there are periods where everything is going well, there will be times where nothing seems to work out. This article isn't aimed at identifying these periods, but at players who use the excuse of a downswing to explain them losing at poker, while some of the losses could have been avoided by better play. Starting ones poker career with an upswing can be very dangerous, because before you know it you stop focusing on your own game as everything is going good anyway. Think about this before making your next forum post about how bad you are running at the moment and try to find the answer in your own game.