Tadas “Poker Coach” Peckaitis
Variance, which frustrates many poker players, can be thought of as “the difference between the earnings you expect to have long term and the money you win in the short term.” And, despite the complaints you might hear, variance is really a good thing; it’s what keeps weaker players at the poker tables with dreams of winning big. Obviously, they wouldn’t be playing at all without believing they have a chance to get lucky and win in the short term, so we need to understand that and use it to our advantage.
Your win rate is by far the most important factor when determining your variance and the higher it is, the lower your variance will be. Of course, these days we have much smaller edges than before and naturally encounter bigger down swings. Your opponents get tougher and tougher as well, so it’s important to keep learning, studying and improving your game to stay ahead of the curve and improve your win rate. Nevertheless, there are also some common sense tips to reduce your variance.
For example, table selection is a critical factor that is overlooked by many. Finding good cash game tables or carefully selecting your tournaments, whether live or online, could dramatically increase your win rate, and I am sure you agree that winning is fun!
Obviously, I am not saying you should be chasing around weak players and playing only against them. Nevertheless, playing in the games where you can barely win is not very reasonable either. Do yourself a favor and, for the most part, select good games – it is the only way to win in the long run!
Another tip is to try to play your “A” game, regardless of the skill level of the other players. Of course, no one can play their “A” game all the time, and it is unrealistic to expect that. Nevertheless, you should do all you can to play it as often as possible because the difference in results you have playing “A” vs. “C” games is enormous.
It inevitably requires some off-the-table work and generally correlates with your ability to control your emotions, prepare for your sessions and keep your concentration for an extended period. It is an essential part of reducing variance and winning more. However, it is a broad topic, and if you want to learn more, I highly recommend getting my free poker book on self-management and improve your awareness with it.
A third tip is to quit playing at the right time. Everyone has been in a spot where they won money just to lose it back later. It is frustrating, but part of the game. However, if you start making poor decisions because of other distractions, or your emotions, it’s probably time to stop playing.
So, if you start losing your ability to concentrate, or you’re on tilt because of a bad beat and can’t focus your attention on playing – you should take a break. This way you will save a lot of valuable buy-ins and surely increase your win rate.
If you follow these tips and incorporate them into your approach to poker, you will probably increase your win rate and reduce your variance at the same time.
In the meantime, you must study your game, keep learning and analyzing your mistakes and improving, maybe even get some poker coaching to skyrocket your results. I will be back soon to share more strategy tips with you!