As the final events of the Spring Championship of Online Poker 2020 draw to a close, there’s a good chance your bankroll will look different than it did pre-SCOOP.
Sometimes the amount in your PokerStars account has increased at the end of a big tournament series, as is most likely the case for most of our SCOOP 2020 champions.
But sometimes, regardless of how much study you did prior and the countless hours you played during, the cards simply don’t fall your way, and neither does profit.
Don’t fret. Things don’t always go as planned in poker, but it’s not what has happened in the past but how you learn from it and move forward that’s now important.
When it comes to coping with downswings, Elliot Roe — one of the game’s leading mindset coaches whose clients include Fedor Holz and Phil Galfond — told us: “Often when a downswing hits, the player will start playing differently even if they’re not aware of it.
“They’ll start to lose confidence in their game…and that then extends the downswing. So it usually starts with bad luck but continues with bad play.”
We asked some of our SCOOP 2020 champions how they approach the game when things haven’t been going as well.
Here’s what we learned.
After weeks of battling in huge tournaments with enormous fields and mouthwatering prize pools, you’ve earned a break. That’s particularly true if things didn’t go the way you wanted them to.
“When I need to unwind and prepare for a new game of poker, I take a few days to distance myself from the game,” says Latvia’s “Vpisjak”, winner of #103-L: $11 PLO8 6-Max for $5,645. “I spend time exercising, catching up on sleep, and spending time with my dear friends, family and my amazing girlfriend.”
It’s a method shared by Brazil’s “KKAArdoso”, who took down #101-L: $11 NLHE for $11,167. “I talk to my friends and chill, that’s the recipe.”
Taking time away from the tables not only lets you regroup mentally. For Canada’s Troy “Teckidtq” Quenneville, winner of the #95-H: $1,050 NLHE 8-Max PKO Sunday Warm-Up SE for a massive $141,965 score, it can enrich you spiritually.
“Connecting with nature allows me to put into perspective how much reason I have to be grateful,” Quenneville says. “I’m an avid golfer and I’m lucky enough to live in some of the most biodiverse land known to man, but you could do something as simple as stargazing.”
Once you’ve taken a breather, it’s time to get your head back in the game. But how can you lift your spirits up when you’ve taken hit after hit?
“I don´t really try to lift my spirits up,” says Fredrik “Xthewall” Wallen, champion of #104-L $5.50 NLHE 8-Max Turbo PKO for $6,262. “Instead, I just study more and become more determined.”
Your confidence might be rattled after a series of bad beats but working to improve your game will always give you some assurance that you’re doing the right things.
“Poker is about trusting what you’re doing, but downswings make you lose trust,” says Victor “victorbco” Hugo, winner of #85-L: $11 NLHE 8-Max PKO for $13,169. “For me to be ready to play my best I must do things that make me feel more confident in my game, like studying more.”
“Renemastermi”, winner of #91-L: $11 NLHE Progressive KO for $20,062, suggests watching some final table replays on PokerStars to watch how the best players in the world tackle tournaments.
“I watch and try to learn from them,” he says. “That motivates me to be better, as does my daughter when she smiles at me!”
Arguably the best way to handle a downswing is to minimize the impact that downswings can have on you beforehand, not afterwards, as SCOOP 2020 champ “pingu2k4” points out.
“Play within your means. Before putting money into a tournament, or onto a table, mentally imagine having lost it all. Think about how that would make you feel. If it has little to no impact on you, that’s a good sign. If you feel like it would be quite the hit to take, that’s a sign that you shouldn’t do it. This is something I have used in the pat to prevent bad decisions.”
“pingu2k4” was victorious in #92-M: $55 HORSE, overcoming a field of 1,173 entries to win $10,323.
“When you’re having a bad run and you find it’s affecting you, just try and think pragmatically about it. The feeling of being “due a win” or something isn’t really right. Future events have no memory of the past, so your current situation on a graph is where your new base point is.”
Like“pingu2k4”, this is a mentality Elliot Roe teaches his clients. “Poker players say: ‘I’m in a downswing’. No. In previous sessions, you were losing, but right now it’s just a present game of poker, and you’ll either win or lose,” he said. “The results aren’t connected in some way. There’s no one month or one year, it’s just how you play today with the cards you’re dealt.”
If you’ve been playing good poker and you’re playing at limits you’re comfortable with, then it’s just a matter of trusting the process: study, apply, execute, repeat.
Of course, the experience of having had many downswings will help you with this.
“I think spending time with family and friends and daily routine helps. But mostly experience, because you cannot avoid them,” says Xiaoxiao “W.Leung” Niao, #86-L: $22 NLHE/PLO 6-Max champion ($14,724).
“Over time it just becomes part of the game. You win some, you lose some.”
Naturally, it’s much harder for a less experienced player to handle a significant spell of losing. But even winning players can feel the pain.
“I realise downswings are part of the game,” says “Will Eye Amm”, champion of #89-M: $109 NLHE 8-Max Turbo PKO for $42,228. “But I am only human. It gets to me at times, especially in a prolonged downswing, but you have to play through it and try to minimise the damage.”
Playing your way out of a downswing requires real mental toughness. Bad beats are inevitable and unavoidable, but if you can continue to play your best despite them there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Croatia’s Branimir “ThoNapalm” Barać, who took the top spot in #94-H: $530 NLHE for a healthy $73,388 score, says: “Downswings are a part of the game, and they’re down to variance more than anything. You have to stay positive, envision where you want to be, and act positively in that direction.”
One SCOOP 2020 champion who really knows what it means to be mentally strong is former Premier League and Bundesliga player Tore Pederson.
The retired Norwegian international, who played for Wimbledon, Blackburn Rovers, Oldham Athletic and St. Pauli throughout his career, now channels his competitiveness through online poker under the screen name “eagletore69”. It’s going rather well for him as this year he took down #87-M: $55 NLHE for $48,285, outlasting 8,782 entries.
“As a former footballer, I am used to playing under pressure,” he says. “Poker is a mental game. To survive you need to be mentally strong because downswings will come.”
But what does it take to stay strong in the face of adversity? We’ll let one of the biggest winners of SCOOP 2020 answer that.
“Keep your focus on making the right decisions,” suggests Brazil’s Fábio “LFFF22” Freitas, who won the #96-M: $530 NLHE 8-Max 2nd Chance Main Event for an incredible $348,642 payday. “In poker, you’ll experience ups and downs. Only time can provide you with a shell to withstand the variance.
“But if you continue to improve and you take great care with every decision, in the end, you can win.”