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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Grinding Online - When You’re Losing

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There will come a time, if there hasn’t already, when you will lose at the poker table no mater what you do.  If you play premium hands, they will be mercilessly run down and crushed.  If you are aggressive, you will get trapped.  If you are passive, you will get caught.  If you are ahead, you will be rivered.  If you are behind, you will never catch up.  You will begin to predict just how your 99 percent certain, all-in winner, will be runner-runnered at the end. You will flop sets of aces against a 2-3 that hits a 4-5 on the last two cards, and a one-outer against you will seem like an odds-on proposition.  You will even begin to take a perverse delight in seeing just how unfair the poker gods can be, as you sit in stunned silence after yet another drubbing.

It is in these times that your true mettle as a poker player will be most severely tested.  It is easy, when caught in this type of pattern, to fling your chips and money about wildly, as if daring the universe to do it to you again.  Believe me, it will, if you are so arrogant as to think that you are owed anything by virtue of your previous suffering.  The cosmic Wheel of Fortune spins, and who knows why we become its darling or its whipping boy?  But just as Doyle Brunson once advised players to always “play the rush,” meaning to milk a streak of good luck for all it was worth, we must be equally respectful of its evil twin.

The first piece of advice I would give is just to get away from the tables for a while.  If you are grinding day after day without a break, give it a rest for a week to 10 days, and do something completely different, just to refresh yourself.  In particular, pay attention to your body and physical health.  Get outside and get some exercise.  Fully hydrate by drinking tons of water and eating water-rich foods, which will cleanse not only the chemical toxins from your body, but also some of the emotional toxicity as well.  A wise teacher of mine once said, “If you are feeling that you can’t afford to take a vacation, that is a sure sign that you’d better take a vacation."  Doing something completely different than what you normally do creates a pattern interrupt in your nervous system, allowing it to reset in a healthier space.  This in itself may be enough to fully break the trend, and allow you to return to playing refreshed and ready to win once more.

If you decide to stay and play your way through it, keep a few important ideas in mind.  First, make absolutely certain that you are not allowing your frustrations to create a general weakening of your game.  If you are a high-low stud player, for example, don’t suddenly start playing split middle pairs with six players still to act behind you, hoping to hit your set.  Don’t chase hands, thinking that you are bound to get lucky one of these times.  When you are in a streak like this, you won’t, and that’s all there is to it.  The more you chase, the more frustrated you will become, which will then put you on tilt, leading to even worse play on your part.  If you find yourself in this state online, just hit the “sit out next hand” button, take a walk, and come back after your mind is cleared and you are ready to play at as close to your best as you can.

Next, don’t be embarrassed to book a small profit.  Sometimes, it just takes one small win to break the cycle and get you going again.  Don’t try and make back all that you have lost in one sitting.  Begin to chip away at it.  You’ll be amazed at how good you can feel about the tiniest victory when you have been getting hammered time after time.  If you are in the midst of one of these trends, get yourself any win and count yourself fortunate.  Surprisingly, it can help bring back your natural confidence much more quickly, leading to bigger wins down the line.

keep yourself in a positive state of mind as much as possible.  This is the most difficult task of all.  The little monkey inside your head loves to talk trash to you, especially when you are losing.  Thoughts like “Here it comes again,” or “And now, of course, he hits the miracle on the river,” somehow wind up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.  The more negative thinking you engage in, the more negativity you create, both at the tables and in your life.  Keep looking for positive internal states and statements to guide you back to the winning path.

Fourth, don’t let a small loss turn into a big one.  I recently sat down at a hi-lo table, where I was dealt 20 unplayable hands in a row.  A few of them were marginal, and I “could” have played them.  But in the midst of a losing stretch, that is a recipe for disaster.  You play one of them, and convince yourself that a mediocre hand can at least split the pot.  Then, after you’ve lost that one, you play another one to try and get back to even, and find yourself further in the hole.  And on it goes.  I paid the antes, saw the writing on the wall, and walked away.

Finally, if you are in this type of streak, but feel you must feed your need to play, find ways to do it without endangering your bankroll.  Use frequent player points to enter tournaments, sign up for some freerolls, or drop way down in stakes until you have ridden out the bad luck.  As you do this, notice your patterns of play, and work hard to fix any leaks that you can see in your game.  In the end, hard work will lead you back, and one day, you will find yourself back on track, fully engaged, and ready to be the winning player that you know you are.

See you at the tables!

*Enjoy ClearSpine's blog*

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