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Surviving Bad Runs

Surviving Bad Runs
by Hank Cashman of

We all have them. It is how we handle them that makes the difference. I’m talking about our slumps, bad runs or bad luck.

I once heard Daniel Negreanu say that he sometimes questioned his ability to play poker. In 2004 he was “Player of the Year”. In 2005 he didn’t win one tournament. Now that is a bad run.

John D’Agostino said that after he has had a few losing sessions in a row that he starts questioning his ability to play.

Last September, I had a great streak. While in the casinos I would play 4-6 hours and take a break. Then I would come back for another 4-6 hours. I played for 10 days straight and had only one losing session. After that, I told my wife to be ready, October was probably going to be rough. I was right. In the first half of October I couldn’t buy a hand.

It happens to all of us. We just have to learn from it. We have to learn to handle it.


Look at other sports. In baseball, a great hitter has a 300 bating average. That means he is out 70% of the time. In basketball, a good scoring average is about the same. As poker players, we’re no better.

When you are having a bad run you need to find out whether it is just a bad run of cards or does your play need to be adjusted. I hate to say this but sometime we are not realistic in our self image. I think, we think, we are playing better than we are.

Another side of this is that it has a tendency to snowball. Bad luck will make us make bad decisions. We will begin to play more loosely. We will begin to raise when we shouldn’t push. This just costs us more.

This also effects our table image. It is harder to play against a confident player. It is easy to call down a player that already sees themselves as a loser. When your table image is weak bluffing is not even possible.

Scared money never wins. Scared, defeated players don’t ether. If you are in a bad run you begin to make bad decisions on bad information. We put a defeatist slant on our read of the table.

How do you turn this tough run around? It’s up to you. Some players will take some time off. A week a way from the table can help you reevaluate and come back refreshed. I have seen some players ask for help in observing their play. They will ask someone they trust to help find ways that they may have played better.

Some players will find a way to get a win. They may change the place or players they play. They may drop the level of their play. In this way they are helping to put themselves in a position to win.

How ever you get out of your tough run, remember, you first have to be honest with yourself. Take a tough look at how well you are playing. Screw your head back on straight and get back to winning.

The cards will come and go. We all have the tough times. What matters is how we handle them.

Keep the cards and chips flying.

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