We Can’t Win Every Time: How to Handle Losing In Poker

Losing money in poker is inevitable, and no one can win consistently forever. For long-term survival as a poker player, it is crucial to learn how to handle losing sessions and develop mental strength. 

Regardless of the poker variant, whether it’s tournaments or cash games like hold’em or razz, everyone will experience losing sessions. Their ability to cope with losing days, weeks, or even months sets good players apart from bad ones. Here are some ways to understand why you’re losing, and ways to know how to handle loss either at the poker table or playing poker online

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Maybe You’re Not a Master at Poker Fundamentals Yet

Now that you have analyzed your gameplay and identified your weaknesses, it is essential to study the specific areas of the game that led to your significant losses. 

By dedicating time and effort to learning and improving away from the poker tables, you can approach your sessions with increased confidence and a higher potential for winning. This process also enhances your capacity to handle unfavorable variance and unfortunate bad beats.

When you have a solid understanding of the game and have worked to make correct decisions, you become less affected by losing sessions. Even when the outcomes are unfavorable, you can maintain a sense of confidence knowing that your choices are sound. 

This ability to navigate situations where good decisions don’t yield desired results is a valuable form of personal resilience that extends beyond poker. It is a skill that can be applied effectively in various aspects of life.

Negative variance can create a harmful feedback loop

Being sucked out can lead to subconscious negative expected value plays, resulting in further chip losses. It’s essential to take a break from poker to break this cycle, even if it’s just for a few minutes or days.

Taking breaks during and between sessions is vital. Playing daily without rest can lead to burnout and worsen your overall well-being, especially during a downswing. It’s essential to prioritize self-care and prevent tilt from accumulating.

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences losses, and it’s unrealistic to expect continual wins, especially when money or livelihood is at stake.

When facing a downswing due to variance, ensure it doesn’t significantly impact your future sessions. Maintain a resilient mindset and continue to improve your game through analysis and learning from past experiences.

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Having Self-Awareness as a Player is Key

Self-awareness is crucial for winning poker players. By analyzing losing sessions, you can determine whether your play is affected by variance or your abilities. Even professionals remain self-critical and study their decision-making. Use hands in which you lost significant chips as opportunities to analyze your skills.

Tilt, lack of knowledge, and variance are common culprits for a bad game, but only tilt and lack of knowledge can be controlled. Identify the area of the game you struggle with and develop a plan to address it. Controlling tilt is a skill that improves with experience. Recognize when you are becoming tilted and take a break to restore emotional balance.

Bankroll Management is Super Fundamental, Especially with Handling Poker Losses

The importance of practicing effective bankroll management cannot be overstated. Countless forum posts and poker players’ blogs are cautionary tales of individuals going broke due to poor management of their bankrolls. There is simply no excuse for such negligence.

Playing with a substantial bankroll, which refers to funds exclusively designated for the poker room, can alleviate some of the anxieties associated with losing. Some players prefer an even larger bankroll as it gives me greater comfort. This approach may extend the time it takes to progress to higher stake levels, but it also ensures that players have stayed strong throughout my nine years of engaging in this exhilarating game.

  • Adopt a Different Perspective on Your Bankroll

Continuing with the principle of practicing sound bankroll management, avoiding associating your bankroll with its monetary value is beneficial. While this concept may seem unconventional to some, refraining from dwelling on the actual dollar amount of your bankroll during winning and losing periods can enhance your resilience in handling the ups and downs of poker.

Losing ten buy-ins is far more manageable when viewed independently from the monetary implications it may have in other aspects of your life. For instance, it is easier to accept losing ten buy-ins than sacrificing a week’s worth of groceries.

By separating the value of your bankroll from everyday expenses, you can mitigate the emotional impact of fluctuations in your poker journey. This shift in perspective allows you to maintain a more evident mindset and approach each session with a focus on making optimal decisions rather than being preoccupied with financial outcomes.

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It’s a journey, not just a game

When engaging in poker, whether it’s cash games or tournaments, avoid categorizing each instance as an individual “session.” This mindset can create a negative outlook, particularly if you have experienced a series of losing sessions, potentially leading to a downward spiral that is challenging to overcome. 

Instead, adopt the perspective that all your gameplay is interconnected, forming one extensive game. Doing so will make you less prone to being excessively influenced by the positive or negative outcomes of a single night’s play.

By perceiving poker as an ongoing journey rather than distinct sessions, you shift your focus away from short-term results. This broader viewpoint helps mitigate individual sessions’ emotional impact and allows you to approach the game with a more balanced mindset. 

Whether you encounter wins or losses on a particular night, you can maintain a sense of perspective, understanding that they are just segments within the larger context of your poker cards and other endeavors.

At the End of the Day, You Should Evaluate Your Performance for a Better Play

Rather than solely celebrating or lamenting your results at the end of each playing session, take the time to review your hand history files thoroughly. This analysis allows you to identify areas where you could have made better decisions. 

Often, you will recognize situations where folding would have saved your chips and instances where the more aggressive play could have accumulated additional chips. With this knowledge, you can improve your game’s specific aspects during future sessions.

Consistently reviewing your poker game play is a surefire way to enhance your poker skills and minimize mistakes, leading to fewer losing sessions. By actively seeking opportunities for growth and learning from your past performance, you can steadily improve your gameplay and increase your chances of success.

Sometimes, when faced with a series of unfavorable outcomes at the tables, it may be beneficial to take a break. However, gaining more experience is also a valuable strategy for developing the resilience needed to cope with losses. The more hands you play, the greater exposure you have to both winning and losing situations, which, in turn, strengthens your ability to bounce back from setbacks more quickly.