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Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I Had My Share

In poker, it doesn’t matter how good you are (or how good you think you are), you are going to run into some bad streaks, and sometimes these bad streaks can last a very long time. In a game where fortunes are dictated by the turn of a card, each player is going to experience unbelievably good and bad luck during short periods of time.

I know I’ve had my share of each, and lately it seems I’ve had more of the latter. That’s just the way poker goes sometimes. If you want to stay in the game, you’ve got to come up with methods for dealing with the bad times. There are a few ways of handling a bad run if you are experiencing a cold deck yourself. Here are some things I would recommend you try:

Play lower limits — This is usually the first thing people tell you to do and it is good advice. The unfortunate thing about slumps is that players tend to go on tilt and play worse out of frustration. If you are playing smaller limits your tilting won’t hurt as much. Players are also generally weaker as you move down in limits so the competition should be easier to beat. If you usually play $2-$5 blinds No-Limit Hold’em, drop down to $1-$2. If you’re a $10-$20 limit player, try $5-$10. If you are able to access online poker, you can play what are known as “micro stakes” where the blinds are mere pennies. Once you start winning consistently again, you can move back up.

Focus on study — I admit, I have never put as much time into studying poker as I did playing it, although some of the game’s best teachers often espouse a 50/50 split between playing hands and studying them. So if you’re taking it on the chin at the tables, spend less time there and more time watching training videos, reading instructional books, or discussing hands on online forums.

Use better game selection — Do your best to find games in which the players are easier to beat. If the competition at the table is known to be tough, try finding another game. Or if you only have the choice of one table in your favorite card room, target the weaker players at your table. In an iffy situation you might be better off folding against a strong player and raising against a weak player. It’s not easy to break out of a slump playing against trickier players. When you’re online, look for games where a higher percentage of the players see the flop and the average pot size is greater than at other tables. This is a good indication that the players are too loose and the games are easier to beat.

Try playing different poker games — Online you have numerous options for different types of poker to play. If you’re tired of the bad beats in Hold’em, you can try Stud, Stud Hi-Lo, Pot-Limit Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo, Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, HORSE, etc. As your poker game develops you should try learning the new games because you may find one in which you have a bigger edge over your opponents. If you read this column regularly you know I’m a big advocate of Omaha Hi-Lo. Greg Vail, who has played primarily Big O – the version of that game in which you get five cards instead of four – professionally for years, recently said on the Red Chip Poker podcast that he thinks Big O games today are as easy to beat as No-Limit Hold’em games were in 2004 when every Tom, Dick, and Harry was jumping into that game for the first time.

Try playing different poker formats — Here I am talking about playing sit-n-go’s (SNGs) and multi-table tournaments versus playing only cash games, or full tables instead of short-handed games. Here’s a short list of other formats… heads-up SNGs, satellites, four-handed SNGs, 180-player tournaments, 90-player tournaments.… There are a lot of things you can try to break up your unlucky streak.

Just take a break for a while — And then there are times that no matter what you do, it seems you can’t break out of the slump. If that’s the case, take a day or two off — or a week or two — enjoy the sunshine and come back feeling refreshed with a positive outlook about the game. Now, if I can just take my own advice…

Johnny Kampis is author of  Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros.

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