The Eternal Downswing
Published: February 3, 2020
Updated: February 3, 2020
Long downswings are psychologically brutal — especially when you are trying to play poker professionally.
When you are losing day after day, hour after hour, hand after hand, you inevitably get angry and frustrated. You may even start to doubt yourself.
- How long can your downswing last?
- Are you even a winning player?
- When are you going to start to climb out of this hole?
- Do you have enough money to outlast your bad luck?
These doubts, frustrations, and angers often lead to tilt or to needing to step away from the game to recover. All of which cost you money in addition to making you miserable.
But if you knew that your downswing had a deadline, a date that it would end by, you would be less frustrated and angry, more content and happy. You would make more money and have more fun.
We already know that you can extend a downswing for as long as you want by being flexible about what counts as bad luck.
But even if you are very rigorous about what you consider a downswing, that is still no guarantee that it will end. Your downswing can go on literally forever.
The math behind it
Let’s define a downswing as consecutive hours of losing poker. And for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are an amazingly good poker player who loses, on average, in only 10% of the hours you play.
And because you are absolutely unflappable, a losing hour does not affect you or your results in any other hour. In math terms, your results are independent from each other. So the probability of losing your next two hours is 10% of 10%, exactly 1%.
The probability of
No matter how large `n` gets `(1/10)^n` is always more than zero. That means, for any number you can name (and many more that you cannot) there is a non-zero probability that you will lose that many consecutive hours.
This means nothing
We’ve proven that you could lose your next `n` hours no matter how good of a poker player you are or how large of a number `n` is.
But if you are a winning player and `n` is “large”, that’s very unlikely.
If you know your win rate and standard deviation you can find out exactly how unlikely. The formulas in The Definitive Guide to Minimum Poker Bankroll Requirements for Poker can show you how to calculate your win rate and standard deviation. Or you can sign up for Neverbust and have us do it for you.
But it doesn’t matter.
Does it matter if you are going to lose the next 100 hours before you win one?
What if you lost $1 in each of the losing hours but won $10,000 in the winning hour?
It matters if your bankroll is less than $100. You won’t make it to hour number 101 and you won’t win the $10,000.
It matters if you get frustrated and quit after 100 consecutive losing hours. You won’t make it to hour number 101 and you won’t win the $10,000.
The things that matter
Long losing streaks can be psychological torture causing frustration and anger.
But if you know with confidence that you are a winning player and that you have a large enough bankroll to ride them out, then you can continue to play being content and happy. You’ll make more money and have more fun.
Neverbust can track your play and tell you your win rate with 95% confidence, and exactly how large of a bankroll you will need to ride out your downswings.
And if you have any questions, send me a note.