How to Handle Bad Beats and Downswings in Poker: Expert Tips for Staying Focused and Positive

Do you ever feel like the gods are against you? Like no matter how well you play, you just can't seem to catch a break? If so, you're not alone. Every poker player experiences bad beats and downswings at some point, and learning how to handle them is a crucial part of becoming a successful player.

Understanding Bad Beats and Downswings is the first step to learning how to handle them. Bad beats are when you have a strong hand but lose to a weaker one due to luck. Downswings are when you go through a prolonged period of losses. Both can be frustrating and demoralizing, but they are an inevitable part of the game.

Psychological Aspects are also important to consider when dealing with bad beats and downswings. It's easy to get angry or upset when things aren't going your way, but staying calm and focused is essential. By learning to manage your emotions and maintain a positive attitude, you can minimize the impact of bad luck and improve your chances of success.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the nature of bad beats and downswings is crucial to being able to handle them effectively.
  • Managing your emotions and maintaining a positive attitude can help you stay focused and minimize the impact of bad luck.
  • By developing solid bankroll management strategies, studying and reviewing your gameplay, seeking professional advice, and using recovery strategies when necessary, you can overcome bad beats and downswings and become a more successful poker player.

Understanding Bad Beats and Downswings

As a poker player, you know that losing is an inevitable part of the game. However, bad beats and downswings can be particularly frustrating and demoralizing. Understanding what they are and how to handle them is crucial to your success at the tables.

Bad Beats

A bad beat occurs when you have a strong hand that is beaten by a weaker hand that gets lucky on the river. For example, you might have pocket aces and your opponent has 7-2 offsuit. The flop comes 7-7-2, giving your opponent trips. You bet, your opponent calls. The turn is a blank. You bet again, your opponent calls. The river is a 2, giving your opponent a full house and beating your aces. This is a classic bad beat.

It's important to remember that bad beats are a natural part of the game. Every player experiences them, and they can happen to anyone at any time. It's easy to get angry or upset when you suffer a bad beat, but it's important to stay calm and focused. Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment or affect your play.


A downswing is a period of extended losing. It can be caused by bad luck, poor play, or a combination of both. Downswings can be frustrating, demoralizing, and can even lead to tilt. It's important to recognize when you're in a downswing and take steps to minimize your losses.

One way to do this is to adjust your play. If you're on a downswing, it might be a good idea to tighten up your starting hand selection and be more selective about the hands you play. You might also want to lower your stakes or take a break from the game altogether.

Another way to handle a downswing is to focus on your mental game. Meditation, visualization, and positive self-talk can all help you stay calm and focused during a downswing. It's important to stay confident in your abilities and remember that downswings are a natural part of the game.

In conclusion, bad beats and downswings are an inevitable part of poker. Understanding what they are and how to handle them is crucial to your success at the tables. Stay calm, stay focused, and stay confident in your abilities. With the right mindset and approach, you can overcome any bad beat or downswing and come out ahead in the long run.

Psychological Aspects

When it comes to poker, the psychological aspects are just as important as the technical aspects. In fact, many experienced players would argue that the psychological aspects are even more important. In this section, we will cover three key areas of that are crucial to your success in poker: maintaining focus, handling emotions, and building confidence.

Maintaining Focus

One of the biggest challenges in poker is maintaining focus for long periods of time. It's easy to get distracted by outside factors, such as other players, noise, or even your own thoughts. To maintain focus, it's important to have a clear game plan and stick to it. This means staying disciplined and avoiding unnecessary risks.

Another way to maintain focus is to take breaks. If you feel yourself getting tired or distracted, take a short break to clear your mind. This will help you stay sharp and focused throughout your poker session.

Handling Emotions

Emotions can play a big role in poker, and it's important to learn how to handle them effectively. One of the most common emotions in poker is frustration, which can arise from bad beats or downswings. It's important to recognize when you're feeling frustrated and take steps to manage it. This might mean taking a break, talking to a friend, or simply taking a deep breath.

Another important emotion to manage is fear. Fear can cause you to play too conservatively or make bad decisions. To overcome fear, it's important to have confidence in your abilities and trust your instincts. Remember, poker is a game of skill and luck, and there will always be ups and downs.

Building Confidence

Confidence is a key ingredient for success in poker. When you're confident, you're more likely to make good decisions and take calculated risks. One way to build confidence is to focus on your strengths and play to them. If you're good at reading other players, for example, focus on that aspect of the game.

Another way to build confidence is to practice. The more you play, the more comfortable you'll become with the game and the more confident you'll feel. It's also important to surround yourself with positive influences, such as supportive friends or mentors who can offer guidance and encouragement.

In summary, the psychological aspects of poker are just as important as the technical aspects. To be successful in poker, you need to maintain focus, handle your emotions effectively, and build confidence in your abilities. By mastering these key areas of psychology, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful poker player.

Bankroll Management

When it comes to poker, bankroll management is crucial. It's important to determine your buy-ins and manage your big blinds to ensure that you don't go broke during downswings. In this section, we'll cover the basics of bankroll management.

Determining Buy-Ins

Before you sit down at a poker table, you need to determine your buy-in. The general rule of thumb is to buy-in for no more than 5% of your total bankroll. For example, if you have a bankroll of $1,000, you should buy-in for no more than $50.

It's important to stick to this rule, even if you're feeling confident and want to take a shot at a higher-stakes game. Going above your buy-in limit can quickly lead to a depleted bankroll and put you in a difficult position.

Managing Big Blinds

In addition to determining your buy-ins, you also need to manage your big blinds. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 20 big blinds in your bankroll at all times. For example, if you're playing in a game with a $1 big blind, you should have at least $20 in your bankroll.

If your bankroll drops below this threshold, it's time to move down to a lower-stakes game. It's important to be disciplined and not let your ego get in the way. Moving down in stakes can be frustrating, but it's better than going broke and having to start over from scratch.

By following these basic rules of bankroll management, you can help ensure that you don't go broke during downswings. Remember, poker is a game of skill and luck, and even the best players experience losing streaks. By managing your bankroll properly, you can weather the storm and come out on top in the long run.

Gameplay Strategies

When it comes to handling bad beats and downswings in poker, it's important to have solid gameplay strategies in place. Here are some key strategies to keep in mind:

Choosing the Right Hands

One of the most important aspects of successful poker gameplay is choosing the right hands to play. This means being disciplined and not playing every hand that comes your way. Instead, focus on playing hands that have a high probability of winning and that fit well with the community cards. This will help you to maintain a strong hand and avoid losing chips unnecessarily.

Controlling the Pot Size

Another important is to control the size of the pot. This means being strategic about when to raise or call, and when to fold. By controlling the pot size, you can limit your losses and avoid getting into situations where you are forced to make risky moves.

Playing Against Different Opponents

Different opponents require different strategies. For example, playing against a loose player requires a different approach than playing against a tight player. When playing against a loose player, you should be more aggressive and look for opportunities to exploit their weak play. When playing against a tight player, you should be more patient and wait for strong hands to play.

Overall, successful poker gameplay requires a combination of discipline, strategy, and a thorough understanding of the game. By choosing the right hands, controlling the pot size, and adjusting your gameplay to different opponents, you can increase your chances of success and weather any bad beats or downswings that come your way.

Study and Review

To improve your game and handle bad beats and downswings, you need to study and review your hands. Here are some sub-sections to help you with this process:

Reviewing Hands

Reviewing your hands is one of the most effective ways to improve your poker game. It helps you identify mistakes, leaks, and areas where you can improve. You can review your hands by using software like or Hold'em Manager, or by simply going through your hand history.

When reviewing your hands, focus on the following:

  • Identify your mistakes: Look for spots where you made mistakes or could have played better. For example, did you bet too much or too little? Did you call when you should have folded? Did you fold when you should have called?
  • Analyze your opponents: Try to understand your opponents' tendencies and how they played their hands. This will help you make better decisions in future hands.
  • Look for patterns: Look for patterns in your play and your opponents' play. For example, do you always bet when you have a strong hand? Do your opponents always check when they have a weak hand?

Understanding Variance

Variance is an inherent part of poker. It refers to the natural fluctuations in your results due to luck. Understanding variance is important because it helps you manage your emotions and avoid tilt.

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to variance:

  • Variance can be brutal: You can play your best and still lose due to bad luck. This is why it's important to focus on the process and not just the results.
  • Don't blame variance for everything: While variance can be a factor in your results, it's not an excuse for bad play. Make sure you're playing your best and making good decisions.
  • Keep track of your results: Track your results over a large sample size to get a better understanding of your win rate and variance.

Using a Variance Calculator

A variance calculator can help you understand the impact of variance on your results. It can also help you manage your bankroll and avoid going broke.

Here are some ways to use a variance calculator:

  • Calculate your bankroll requirements: Use a variance calculator to determine how much bankroll you need to play at a certain level. This will help you avoid going broke due to bad luck.
  • Understand your win rate: A variance calculator can help you understand your expected win rate over a large sample size. This will help you manage your expectations and avoid tilt.
  • Analyze your results: Use a variance calculator to analyze your results and see how much of your win rate is due to skill and how much is due to luck.

By studying and reviewing your hands, understanding variance, and using a variance calculator, you can improve your game and handle bad beats and downswings in poker.

Professional Advice

When it comes to handling bad beats and downswings in poker, seeking professional advice can be a great way to improve your game and mental fortitude. There are two main avenues for receiving professional advice: hiring a coach and learning from pros.

Hiring a Coach

Hiring a coach can be a great way to receive personalized advice and guidance. A coach can help you identify and correct weaknesses in your game, as well as provide emotional support during tough times. When looking for a coach, it's important to find someone who is experienced, knowledgeable, and compatible with your learning style. You want someone who will challenge you to improve, but also be patient and supportive.

Some benefits of hiring a coach include:

  • Personalized attention and feedback
  • Accountability and motivation
  • Improved technical skills and strategy
  • Emotional support and guidance

Of course, hiring a coach can be expensive, so it's important to weigh the potential benefits against the cost. You may also want to consider group coaching or online coaching as more affordable options.

Learning from Pros

Another way to receive professional advice is to learn from pros. This can include watching training videos, reading books, or attending seminars and workshops. Learning from pros can be a more affordable and flexible option than hiring a coach, but it may not provide the same level of personalized attention and feedback.

Some benefits of learning from pros include:

  • Access to expert knowledge and strategies
  • Exposure to different playing styles and perspectives
  • Flexibility and convenience
  • More affordable than hiring a coach

When learning from pros, it's important to seek out reputable sources and to be selective about the information you take in. Not all pros are created equal, and some may offer advice that is not applicable to your game or situation.

In summary, seeking professional advice can be a valuable tool for improving your game and handling bad beats and downswings. Whether you choose to hire a coach or learn from pros, be sure to do your research and find someone who can provide the guidance and support you need.

Recovery Strategies

When you're experiencing a downswing or a bad beat, it's important to have a plan in place to help you recover. Here are some strategies you can use to get back on track:

Taking Breaks

One of the best things you can do when you're struggling is to take a break. This could mean stepping away from the table for a few minutes, or it could mean taking an extended break from the game altogether. The goal is to give yourself some time to clear your head and recharge your batteries.

During your break, do something that helps you relax and unwind. This could be anything from taking a walk outside to reading a book to listening to music. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something that helps you feel refreshed and renewed.

Moving Down in Stakes

Another strategy you can use to recover from a downswing is to move down in stakes. This may not be the most appealing option, but it can be a smart move if you're struggling to win at your current level.

When you move down in stakes, you'll be playing against weaker opponents who are more likely to make mistakes. This can give you a better chance of winning and help you rebuild your bankroll.

If you do decide to move down in stakes, make sure you adjust your strategy accordingly. You may need to play more conservatively and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Remember, recovering from a downswing takes time and patience. Don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results. Stick to your plan and keep working on your game, and you'll eventually start to see improvement.


In conclusion, bad beats and downswings are an inevitable part of playing poker. It's important to remember that you can't control the cards that are dealt to you, but you can control how you react to them.

One of the most important things to remember is to stay calm and composed. Losing a big hand can be frustrating, but it's important to keep your emotions in check and not let them affect your future decisions.

Another key factor in handling bad beats and downswings is to focus on winning the long-term game. Poker is a game of skill and strategy, and the most successful players are those who make the best decisions over a large sample size of hands. Don't get too caught up in individual hands or sessions, but rather focus on making the best decisions possible over the long run.

It's also important to remember that winning at poker isn't just about the cards you are dealt. Your mindset and approach to the game can be just as important as the cards themselves. Stay disciplined, stay focused, and stay committed to improving your game.

In summary, bad beats and downswings are a natural part of playing poker. By staying calm, focusing on the long-term game, and maintaining a disciplined approach, you can continue to improve your game and increase your chances of winning in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a poker downswing last?

Poker downswings can last anywhere from a few days to several months. It depends on a variety of factors, including the player's skill level, the stakes they are playing, and the amount of variance in the game. It's important to remember that downswings are a normal part of playing poker, and they can happen to anyone, regardless of how skilled they are.

What are some strategies for managing a poker bankroll?

Managing your bankroll is crucial to your success as a poker player. Some strategies for managing your bankroll include setting aside a certain amount of money specifically for poker, playing at stakes that are appropriate for your bankroll, and avoiding playing at stakes that are too high for your skill level. It's also important to have a stop-loss limit in place so that you don't lose more money than you can afford.

What is the definition of a bad beat in poker?

A bad beat is when a player has a very strong hand and loses to a weaker hand that gets lucky on the river. For example, if a player has pocket aces and their opponent has pocket twos, but the board comes out 2-2-5-7-9, the player with pocket aces would have suffered a bad beat.

How can I deal with the emotional impact of bad beats in poker?

Dealing with the emotional impact of bad beats in poker can be challenging, but there are some strategies that can help. One strategy is to take a break from playing for a while to clear your head. Another strategy is to focus on the long-term and remember that bad beats are just a part of the game. It's also important to avoid tilting and making emotional decisions that can lead to further losses.

Are there any tools or resources to help calculate poker variance?

Yes, there are several tools and resources available to help calculate poker variance. One popular tool is the Variance Calculator, which can help you estimate your expected win rate, as well as your and variance. There are also several books and articles available that discuss the concept of variance in poker.

What are some common causes of a poker downswing?

There are several common causes of a poker downswing, including bad luck, poor bankroll management, and playing against tougher opponents. It's important to identify the cause of your downswing so that you can take steps to address it. This might involve taking a break from playing, working on your game, or adjusting your bankroll management strategy.