There are plenty of great things about micro stakes poker, but there is no doubting that it has its downsides as well. If you are in the micro stakes, the odds are that you lack the experience of most other online players. Online poker experience can go many miles in ways that most players would never think to consider. Sure, you are going to understand dynamics, plays, and other game play elements more thoroughly, but experience will also teach you some intangibles, like how to properly deal with variance. Variance is going to happen in any form of poker, but luckily for you, the micro stakes tend to have the fewest big swings. Even though the micro stakes will have less overall variance than their small stakes and mid stakes counterparts, even the games within the micro stakes limits will vary wildly in their consistency.
Heads up, 6-max, and full ring games are hardly the same thing, even if they all exist within the realm of the micro stakes. A heads up player is going to experience infinitely more variance than a 6-max player. Even 6-max players, though, will have more roller coasters to deal with than full ring players. The complete counter punch to this is that the higher variance games also tend to carry the highest win rates. In the end, it is the players who control their mind and emotions the best who come out on top. It isn’t always about knowing the right play that wins you the real money in poker.
Your First Real Downswing
A downswing can be difficult to define. For most people, anything over 5-10 buy-ins, in any game, is large enough to be considered a downswing. In fact, anything over 10 buy-ins at the micro stakes would be a relatively large loss. Most players won’t encounter anything that breaches 20 buy-ins through the course of their entire micro stakes career, though it is hardly impossible. In the end, the truth is that a downswing for one person is another day at the office for someone else.
When you finally do hit that first downswing, however large that may be, you are going to be feeling a number of things. There isn’t any doubt that your confidence will be shattered. No poker player can honestly say that their confidence at the tables was not affected after the first time that they went on a sustained bad run. Recovering from this first downswing is pivotal to your success in the future.
How to Recover
One of the first things you can do to rebuild some confidence in your skills is to analyze your game. While you are going to naturally associate a bad run with some unfortunate luck, there is a good shot that a bit of bad play was mixed in as well. The only way to tell whether it was purely bad luck or also some sub-par play is to check your hands and how you have been performing. You might be surprised to see how many mistakes were also made amidst your unlucky hands. When you lose a few big pots with good hands, it becomes much easier to play sloppily. You could lose focus, want to try and get your money back, or simply stop caring. No matter what the reason, you need to build the self-discipline to control yourself. Admitting that you were at least partially at fault will give you confidence because it allows you to realize that you truly are in control.
A time tested method of recovering, both mentally and financially, from a downswing is to simply reduce. Reduce your limits, the amount of tables you are playing, a combination of the two, or something else that is just too much of a distraction. When you are winning and things are going well, it is easy to lose focus and concentration on the matter at hand: poker. Players who regularly sit at 16 tables would benefit greatly from a reduction to even 8 tables, if only for a little bit of time. You would be very, very surprised how easy it is to think clearly with 8 tables when you used to attempt the same thing with double the amount of work. Plus, it is much better to win $20 an hour than it is to lose $5 an hour. Running yourself past the point of profitability is a every dangerous mistake in online poker, but it is also relatively easy to fix.
If you are already playing just a few tables at a time, the next best idea is to move down in limits. A lower limit game will reduce your pent up stress that is inevitably tailing you as you ride the downward spiral of a downswing. In addition to this, you won’t be afraid to try new things out in an attempt to fix some previously gaping holes. A lot of players avoid moving down in limits during a downswing because their ego will be damaged, but you need to be able to put this to the side. If you are unable or unwilling to move down in limits for the sake of rebuilding your bankroll, be prepared to go broke.
There is no shortage whatsoever of poker players who complain about their downswings, while in reality they are just not winning players. It is hardly realistic to complain about losing when your play does not cater to profitability. This is one of the hardest and harshest realizations for the majority of poker players to make. In fact, if it wasn’t for the complete and total denial that a lot of players put themselves in, the games would be a fair amount more dead than they are. Delusion is a wonderful thing in poker because it allows bad players to think that they are unlucky or that things will turn around.
Take an ample sample size of your play and determine whether you are a winning player who is on a downswing as opposed to a losing player who is still losing. A winning player can definitely lose, but a losing player does not go on intermittent downswings. A generally accepted sample size for online poker is 50,000-100,000 hands. This may or may not take awhile for you to reach, but it will allow you to accurately gauge whether this downswing will pass or if it is inevitably permanent.