Variance in No Limit Hold Em

Variance, by definition, is the difference between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen. As any player of No Limit Hold Em knows, the nature of the game is very “swingy”. Sometimes, there is a stretch of playing sessions where a player feels like he is on top of the world. The player is winning lots of money, his confidence is through the roof, and it feels like no matter what he does, it is the right decision. Simply, the player feels like he cannot lose. Then, there are times when that same player feels like he hit rock bottom. No matter what he does, no matter what decision he makes, he loses. He starts to second-guess everything about his game and starts to search for leaks that may or may not exist. He feels like no matter what, he just cannot. Looking at that player, it may seem like two completely different people. We know that all players go through this a few times in their poker career, so what is the culprit that is making these players seem like schizophrenics? The culprit is variance.

How to Deal With Variance

10 tournaments in a row, a player busts when he gets all in with AK against QJ. Although it is unlikely, that scenario is going to happen. The more tournaments a player plays, the more he is going to see it happen. Mathematically and statistically, it is actually expected to happen. Other times, the AK is going to win all 10 times and other times it is going to be more even. This is variance, and No Limit Hold em is the poker game with the most of it. It can be very disheartening to a player when he goes through a downswing in variance, so players have to learn how to deal when they are on the bad side of variance:

1) If you are constantly losing on one site, try playing on a different site. Not that it is going to make a player play any better or worse, but a fresh start never hurts.

2) Try playing tournaments with less people. Even if it means lower buy-ins, try playing smaller-field tournaments. After all, it is easier to win a tournament with 100 people than it is to win one with 3000 people. This will mathematically reduce variance.

3) Jump down a few levels so if you lose, the money will not bother you as much. When you start to win again, get back up.

Variance can be very dejecting, but learning to handle it can make it that much more bearable.