Phil Galfond talks about how he fights downswings

Phil Galfond talks about how he fights downswings

Downswings (downstreaks) are familiar to any professional poker player both in MTT and in any other type of game. Today we invite you to find out how one of the strongest omash players, Phil Galfond, copes with downswings.

Why is downswing so moral?

Over the course of my long career, I have been asked a lot about how I deal with bad stretches. I had a lot of them, including public ones, when I was destroyed for a long time. (talking about the challenge against Venividi, where Phil was losing € 900K and eventually won)… In fact, I am an ordinary person and it also hurts me very much to lose.

It is more painful for a professional poker player to lose, because we are talking about a career and what plans you had for the next month / year / decade. You thought that you would earn about $ X in a year, but instead lost $ Y and now you don’t understand – what to do? “Am I not hitting this limit? Need to go down below? It turns out that I will earn only a quarter of the plan “… It turns out that it is not only about the money you lost, but also about the money that you planned to earn in the future.

To better experience downswings in the first place need practice… Each time they are experienced easier. And then I’ll tell you what I do when times are tough in poker.

Tip # 1 – Take a Break

This is the first thing I always do. It happens for a day, it happens for a week. Everything, of course, depends on your situation – maybe you need to finish off a certain amount of rake to get rakeback, and a break is not an option at all.

A pause helps us to look at ourselves from the outside and understand in which area we are giving up the slack. When everything goes like clockwork, it seems to us that it will always be so. And when problems arise, self-confidence suffers first.

At such moments, it is important to find additional motivation to work on yourself, and not to waste time. It so happens that after working in programs your game improves literally by 0.5%, but when you return to the rink, you have confidence in your actions, you even continue to lose.

Tip # 2 – Know and understand yourself

To understand yourself, you need to be aware of what motivates you to play poker. Often during a downswing, you begin to notice that your actions are not at all consistent with your goals.

Unfortunately, I do not have a clear solution to this problem, since we will still periodically make emotional decisions and go astray. My advice is to put a reminder on the calendar and ask yourself questions every couple of months:

  • Are my goals and priorities still relevant? – Usually the answer is yes.
  • Am I doing something to achieve them? – From my experience, the answer is often negative.

Tip # 3 – Check if you’re really out of luck?

You go to the primedope website, look for a variance calculator and enter the data: EV winrate, current winrate, number of hands played and standard deviation for your game (search in Google).

The algorithm will calculate how likely your current downswing is. Maybe you find out that the probability of what happened was, conventionally, 25% – then it is not so “abnormal” as, conventionally, 2%. And this brings us to the question: are we really unlucky? Or are we overestimating our EV?

It is difficult to deal with variance outliers, but remember that this is an integral part of poker, as no one knows for sure how good it is in relation to other players. If poker were chess, people would stop playing big money against each other.

Tip # 4 – Connect with people

Head to a poker forum, discord or telegram channel, or try to find a group of poker like-minded people. You can also hire a coach. Either option will work, although the coach is the most reliable.

You need to figure out if you are as good at poker as you think. To do this, you can show the played hands to other people – preferably to those who play above you. Thus, you can receive either confirmation of your thoughts about the distribution, or, on the contrary, they will lower you from heaven to earth and point out gross mistakes. This is the easiest way to understand if you are the favorite at your limits and you are simply unlucky, or if you are the underdog at your limits and your losses are natural.

Tip # 5 – Take a Break

Yes, this is directly related to the first tip, but I would like to add that sometimes it is important to postpone the game of poker and do something else. For example, spending time with other people and remembering that there is a lot in life besides cards. When you play 10 hours every day and get up from the tables in the red for a month in a row, it may seem that you are “losing your life”.

It is important to get rid of this thinking and think of poker as one of the aspects in life. And remember that there are others. Yes, poker is about career and money, but it’s not all life.

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