Cold Streaks

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Phillip Liou is an instructor for CardRunners.com, a site that takes a hands-on approach to teaching success in online poker. His screen name on UltimateBet is plush luxy.


Definition of Cold Streak

I define a cold streak as losing a lot of money in a period of time due to either horrible luck or horrible play.

Intro to Cold Streaks

Until recently, I never believed in cold runs. I always felt that even if I got terrible cards, at worst, I would lose a nominal amount. In reality, it was only because I couldn’t properly identify a bad run of cards. Every time I had a horrible streak of cards, I’d unconsciously play very poorly. I would blame my play rather than my cards for my losing ways. This caused me to lose a lot more money than I should have lost. Whether you blame the cards you are being dealt or your play during a bad run doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are likely not properly identifying when you are running poorly. I think the most important remedy for this terrible but inevitable part of poker is to identify when you’re on a cold streak and really focus on playing your A game.

Identifying Cold Streaks

I’ve had two huge cold streaks in my poker career. Both times came after a huge rush. At the beginning of each rush, I was playing well and winning money because of it. However, after a few sessions, my cards were running so well that I let my cards play for me. I began to fail to put the proper thought into each hand. I only thought about how good the rush was, and I focused on the money rather than playing my A game.

Strangely enough, I started to question why I was winning so much. I started to expect the rush to stop, and I consequently started losing. However, I was enjoying the moment too much and didn’t stop to analyze my play and watch others play. My vision on the table felt very blurry, but I couldn’t stop playing. As I had expected, I started to lose, and before I knew it, I was on a bad run.

I know the feeling of these cold streaks very well. The first time I was on a cold streak, I thought everyone was bluffing me. It was impossible for me to lay down hands, because I thought of that small possibility of getting bluffed out. I always thought people were stealing from me if I got raised on the flop, and thus I always reraised. On the river, I’d make excuses for myself and call any bet if I had a pair. It was disastrous. I took the game very personally.

However, during my second cold streak, every time I got raised, I wanted to fold. If I raised preflop, I prayed that everyone with position on me would fold. If they called, I had no idea what to do. I felt paralyzed just by people calling my preflop bets. After an extended period of this mindset, I finally realized how weak I was playing. This awareness allowed me to evaluate my play, and I started playing well again. Not much later, a hand came up where I flopped second pair and got raised on the flop. I KNEW my opponent was on either the straight or the flush draw, so I pushed all in to make him pay for his draw. Then I thought to myself, “Wow, I actually had a read on my opponent.” I was out of the cold streak and it seemed like my vision became clearer.

Getting out of a cold streak

After identifying a cold streak, the next important thing is to work to end it. I suggest taking a break. Take a break from anything related to poker to clear up your head and forget those bad habits that you’ve been developing. After that, I would suggest watching a few of your friends play. You should watch players who are either on your level or a little better. Have them explain their every move to you and review those important concepts that you’ve forgotten. Or you could go to www.cardrunners.com and watch the videos that the pros have time preparing for their members. Another good idea is to take yourself when you think you are playing A+ game and either save hand histories or record yourself playing. That will give you something to reference when you feel you are no longer playing your A game.

If you’re playing well but just have horrible luck, switch to another site for a while. It doesn’t hurt to do that. Sometimes playing at different sites will teach you different things too. Be sure to be honest with yourself though. It is very easy to convince yourself you are playing your A game when you aren’t playing anywhere near your best.

Conclusion

Due to the luck factor in poker, it is a game where it is very hard to evaluate how well you’re playing. It’s very important to understand and evaluate your short term results with accuracy. Playing your A game all the time is one of the most important aspects to being a successful poker player.