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Top 10 ways to reduce your poker variance

28 Aug 2017

By Tadas Peckaitis
Many players do not consider how poker variance can be affected by their own actions. Variance will not go away. Weaker players can win just because of its existence, so it can sometimes be a good thing. However, many players feel frustrated when running bad, so today I will explain how you can gain better results and even increase your win rate, despite the threat of variance.

To put it as simply as I can, you can reduce variance by increasing your win rate. If you are a big winner, you will have way smaller swings compared to another player who is barely beating the same game. Therefore, increasing the win rate will naturally reduce your variance, and you should be looking to do that in every possible way.

To understand what variance is and how it works, I encourage you to read the full article about poker variance.

10. Find good games
If I had to choose one factor, this would be it. That being said, it is probably the most overlooked area. Playing in random games without doing some preparation can cost you a lot of money, so try to avoid it.

Obviously, playing against tough competition is an excellent way to improve your game, but it is not the best way to make money. If you keep playing better players, you will eventually go broke, and I am sure that this is not something you want to do.

Therefore, try to select the games where you have an edge or can find a huge "whale" participating. You will be naturally increasing your win rate and reducing poker variance at the same time.

Keep these 10 tips in mind.

Keep these 10 tips in mind.

9. Prepare for your session
Taking a few minutes before your session to prepare yourself mentally and remind yourself of the most important strategies is crucial for your game. It is even more so when you are trying to learn something new, be it Spin and Go strategy, continuation betting spots, MTT big blind play or anything else.

Quickly repeating the strategy for that particular spot or going over some hand histories before you play allows you concentrate on making better decisions and recognizing these spots in the game. This is a proven and extremely effective strategy. I highly recommend taking few minutes to prepare before playing for every student that I coach, and you cannot go wrong with it.

8. Turn off all distractions
When playing online, you should turn off all distractions such as messengers, browsers, phone ringtones, TV or anything else that can grab your attention when playing.

At first, it will be tough. And you can even find yourself bored if you are not used to concentrating on your decisions. But when you see the results it can bring, you will never look back.

7. Do not start playing if you are tired
Even if you did everything we already covered, you should not start playing when feeling bad, tired or sick. Believe me, I tried it many times and the end result is usually the same, and it's not a positive one.

Therefore, if you do not feel like playing, don’t, or you will regret it later. It is much better to play fewer hours with your full concentration than when you are tired and making random decisions.

6. Recognize your emotions in-game
Even if you start playing in the best condition, you will face some distractions or negative emotions later on. It is inevitable until you master your mental game. Everyone faces this. Thus, you should not be hard on yourself; it is part of the game. Instead, learn to stop playing when you cannot make the right decisions and take a break.

Quitting on time can be one of the most important factors for reducing your variance, and you should not take it lightly.

5. Stop playing if you start tilting
It should not come as a surprise, but many keep playing when they are on tilt and inevitably end up losing even more. When you start tilting, you are not able to play at your best and make educated decisions. A lot of the time, you are just chasing losses, and that never leads to anything good.

4. Quit playing if you lose your concentration
When you catch yourself thinking about anything else, you should quit. If in the middle of the hand you think about what you should get for dinner instead of putting your opponent on a range, it is a clear sight that you should not be playing anymore.

Playing in such state will only cause trouble, and you will end up making bad decisions and losing money.

Reducing variance is key.

Reducing variance is key.

3. Quit playing if you start taking it personally
Another bad habit that many players develop is taking the game personally. If your opponent hit that two-outer on the river or made a bad call, you should not be looking to get revenge. Instead, concentrate on making good decisions, and everything will sort out on its own.

Poker is a game of the long run, and if you lose today, you will win tomorrow if you keep making right decisions. It does not matter where that money will come from, same player or another one. Thus, whatever you do – do not take it personally.

2. Quit playing if you feel angry
Continuing playing when you feel angry is never an option. Therefore, if you feel like that after losing few big pots in a row or being caught on a bluff, take a break.

I've seen many good players spew money just because they cannot deal with this state and it can quickly turn into huge tilt, which can cost all your previous winnings. So be smart and learn when to quit.

1. Most importantly, quit if you are not able to keep up your "A" game
Overall, your main goal is to play your “A” game and make as many good decisions as possible. Whenever you feel that something is interfering with your game, just quit playing. Poker is not going anywhere, and you will always be able to find another game. It is the best way to reduce your variance, increase your win rate and most importantly – win more money!
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