Playing through a Losing Streak

Just like going on a 'rush', where you see nothing but great cards, and everything seems to go your way, the poker gods can switch things on you, and they can go bad just as easily! You play a lot, and for a long stretch, you seem to get nothing but crap hands. THEN, you get a couple good hands, only to be beat by a hand that is JUST a little better. You get pockets, and flop a set, only to get beat by a bigger set. You play great hands, where you make the correct read, and get your chips in with the best hand, only to get rivered, time after time.

If this sounds familiar, you probably play poker a lot! The nature of poker is such that you will have ups and downs. To play poker seriously, you must face the fact that theses will occur. That does not make it any easier to face, its just a fact of the game.

The first think you have to evaluate, when you get into a playing funk like this, is if YOU are playing poorly!

Are you making good decisions on hands to play?
Playing the right starting hands has a lot to do with the success you will have in any poker game, but especially in Texas Holdem. There are 'set' hands that you should look to start with, then there are hands that are marginal, but maybe calling hands if you can limp in and see a flop cheap.
The danger here, is that if you catch a piece of the flop, but NOT a great or made hand, it can cost you a lot to chase down a card or two to REALLY make the nuts! This can be an expensive process, EVEN if you have a big chip stack. Those chips that you give away chasing hands can better be utilized later in the game when you DO make a hand.
Lets look at what cards you face decisions on playing.
Large Pairs - Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks. Play them aggressively PRE-FLOP.
Pairs of tens and nines and eights are high quality starting hands but you have to be able to release them on the flop if they do not hit.
Aces with suited High Cards - When you get an Ace with a K,Q,J, or even a ten, many good things can happen. You already have high card. If a flush comes, you'll have the best possible one because of your ace. High straights, and even a straight flush is possible with these cards. Play them to see a flop, but if your suit does not hit, or the board does not make the straight possible without hitting runner-runner, it can be expensive to play these to the river.
Suited Faces Cards and Tens - While it's nicer to have an ace in the hole, suited face cards CAN BE playable hands. They hold a lot of potential including high pair with a strong kicker, straights, and flushes. Remember though, if they DO NOT HIT on the FLOP, DUMP THEM.
Aces with unsuited High Cards - Aces with an unsuited partner can still give you top pair with a high kicker, or a high straight. Because other players may also have an ace, the strength of the second card in your hand is important. If two players tie, that second card, or 'kicker' will decide the winner. This is why A-10 is a playable hand, and A-6 is not. (A-10 can also turn into a high straight). So while aces are highly sought after, do not feel the need to play every hand in which you are dealt an ace. King with Face Card - A King with a Queen, or with a Jack LOOKS LIKE a playable hand, But, it is not as strong as you may think. Still, two face cards rank high enough that seeing the flop if the price is cheap, but they depend HIGHLY ON THE FLOP!

Is the 'read' you make on players the right one?
Are you paying attention to how players at your table react and bet in certain situations? Knowing your opponents betting habits can be crucial to your decision making process. Is the player prone to make a 3X bet on a drawing hand? Does he always make a 3X bet ONLY when he has a top hand? Is the player one that will push a lot and try to bluff his way into stealing blinds?
Paying attention to HOW your opponents play situations, and how they bet IN those situations is a critical factor in your future decision making process. Knowing how they play and bet will help you in future hands when you face them. DONT just pay attention to them when YOU are involved in a hand! You have too much going on in your head during a hand to deal with that. Pay attention to players when you are NOT involved in a hand. You can do a LOT better analysis of what is going on, when you are emotionally detached from a hand. See what they do, say, bet, and react on hands when you can be a cool third party observer, and STORE that information in your memory!

Are you playing TOO many hands trying to force something to happen? Poker is a game of patience! You will muck FAR more hands than you will play! DEAL WITH IT! You can not get involved in every hand that is played simply because you MIGHT catch something. Over the long haul, this is strategy is a chip bleeder that costs you far more calls and raises than it merits. Save your chips for when you REALLY need them to put pressure on an opponent.

Are you making calls when the board shows cards that say you should fold?
Time and time again, a weak player will call a bet or a raise down to the river because his hand has 'potential' to hit. THINK about the odds! How many outs do you have? Are the odds really good enough for you to risk your chips to see a couple cards, if all you have is a two outer to a straight? Odds dictate that the bettor has a made hand that will crush you if you dont get extremely lucky and hit that one or two outer.

Are you NOT being aggressive enough when you DO have a hand?
A common mistake that players make, is NOT betting aggressively enough when they have a top hand pre-flop! Limping in with a High Pair may seem like a good way of building up the pot, but how many times has doing that allowed other players with drawing hands to suck you out? If you have a top pair, you NEED to make it expensive for other players to stay in and play with you. By making a strong bet, in the neighborhood of 3X or 4X, you will put a serious decision on players with weak hands. In most cases, players with marginal drawing hands will CORRECTLY decide that the cost is more than the odds dictate.
Yes, employing this strategy will only allow you to take down blinds ( and ante's ) in a lot of cases. But, every set of blinds that you take down free, keeps you playing longer and AT NO COST. If you could take down a set of blinds and antes every round of hands, you play FREE until you get a hand that can pay off HUGE.

Are you allowing testosterone to dictate your play?
Ego plays a huge part in poker. Ego is also a huge way to get broke quickly. It's irritating as hell to watch some guy bluff and steal hands, and push a big stack around. IF you can emotionally detach yourself and play logical poker, you will end up far ahead over the long run.
Many a player has gone bust in a game trying to crack that SOB that took you for a big hand earlier, by playing marginal hands. EVEN big bluffer's get hands on occasion!

If you want to seriously analyze what is happening to your game, you MUST honestly answer these questions to yourself. If you are not aware of any of those things going on in your game, ask someone you play with a lot, and see what THEY think of your recent play.

If you answer these questions honestly, and you determine that you really are not playing poorly, you still have a serious challenge! You have to keep your spirit and determination up so that you can play through the slump! Being able to keep up a positive attitude and patience for the game is vital to overcome a losing streak. Cards WILL turn, but you can not force them. If you continue to play smart, you will minimize your loses, and be ready when the cards start favoring you once again.

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