How to Deal With Poker Variance (Pro’s Guide 2021)

How to Deal With Poker Variance

This
article
was
written
by
blackrain79.com
contributor
Fran
Ferlan.

Handling
the
inevitable
swings
in
poker
is
one
of
the
biggest
obstacles
to
success
for
any
aspiring
poker
player.
Doing
everything
right
and
seemingly
getting
punished
for
it
over
and
over
again
is
so
incongruent
to
the
human
experience
and
preconceived
notions
of
justice
and
fairness
that
most
people
will
eventually
just
throw
their
hands
up
in
desperation
and
find
a
less
stressful
endeavour
or
play
a
couple
of
hours
on
weekends
to
unwind
after
a
long
week.
And
there
is
nothing
wrong
with
that.
However,
for
others
who
are
more
serious
about
the
game
and
put
in
bigger
volume,
lengthy
downswings
are
basically
inevitable,
so
approaching
them
with
a
right
mindset
is
one
of
the
most
important
skills
to
master
on
your
way
to
poker
greatness.
Like
any
skill,
you
get
better
at
it
with
practice.
It
is
a
long
and
arduous
process
though,
but
so
is
everything
else
that
is
actually
worth
doing.
This
article
will
hopefully
provide
some
insights
into
a
phenomenon
that
presents
a
big
problem
for
many
players.
By
understanding
variance
better,
you’ll
be
better
equipped
to
deal
with
it
better,
and
by
doing
that
you
get
a
huge
leg
up
on
the
competition.


What
is
Variance
in
Poker?

Before
we
get
into
the
details,
let’s
define
what
we
actually
mean
by
variance
in
poker
terms.
Without
getting
too
sciency,
we
can
say
that
variance
measures
how
much
data
points
are
spread
from
the
average.
In
plain
English,
it
means
that
how
much
you
expect
to
earn
and
how
much
you
actually
earn
will
differ
over
a
small
sample.
The
bigger
the
variance,
the
bigger
the
difference
between
the
two,
and
conversely,
the
smaller
the
variance,
the
closer
your
expected
results
and
your
actual
results.
This
means
that
in
poker,
your
short
term
results
will
always
be
all
over
the
place.
Some
game
formats
inherently
have
more
variance
built
into
it
than
others,
for
example,
there
is
more
variance
in
tournaments
than
in
cash
games,
and
more
variance
in
a
6-max
game
than
full-ring
game.
This
article
is
written
with
cash
games
in
mind,
but
most
of
the
concepts
apply
to
other
formats
(such
as
tournaments
and
sit-and-gos)
to
a
certain
extent
as
well.
With
all
that
in
mind,
let’s
get
into
the
actual
tips…


1.
Accept
It
and
Expect
It

The
first
step
to
deal
with
variance
better
is
to
internally
accept
that
it
is
an
integral
part
of
the
game.
Without
it,
poker
wouldn’t
be
poker.
Variance
is
what
actually
makes
the
game
profitable
in
the
first
place,
so
you
have
to
learn
to
take
the
bad
with
the
good.
Without
it,
bad
players
would
quickly
get
overwhelmed
by
superior
competition
and
eventually
stop
playing
altogether,
leaving
just
a
bunch
of
sharks
cannibalizing
each
other
and
shuffling
money
around,
while
the
house
takes
their
cut.
If
you
can’t
accept
variance
for
what
it
is,
you
can
try
a
zero
variance
game,
like
chess.
In
chess
a
superior
player
will
win
close
to
a
100
%
of
the
time,
and
that’s
why
there’s
really
no
money
wagered
that
way.
Think
of
it
this
way:
would
you
bet
a
100
bucks
that
you
could
beat
a
chess
grandmaster?
If
you
weren’t
a
world
class
expert
yourself,
you
wouldn’t.
But
would
you
bet
a
100
bucks
to
play
a
heads-up
session
with
Phil
Ivey?
You
just
might.
You
can
get
lucky
and
beat
the
best
in
the
world
(and
get
bragging
rights
for
life).
That
is
why

Phil
Ivey
is
able
to
make
bank.
He
knows
his
superior
skills
will
prevail,
no
matter
how
many
times
someone
“gets
lucky”
against
him.
That
is
why
poker
is
so
profitable.

Everyone
can
play,
and
everyone
can
win,
but
over
the
long
run,
skill
prevails.
Over
the
short
run,
luck
prevails.
So
accept
a
few
bumps
in
the
road,
embrace
them
and
prepare
for
them.
So
how
can
you
actually
prepare
for
it
better
and
diminish
the
negative
effects
of
it?
This
brings
us
to
number
two
on
the
list…


2.
Have
a
Big
Bankroll

In
order
to
succeed
in
poker
it
is
necessary
to
allow
and
endure
all
the
neverending
swings
of
fortune,
and
the
only
way
to
do
so
successfully
without
going
broke
in
the
process
is
to
have
a
sufficient
bankroll.
However,
in
order
to
not
only
survive
the
inevitable
swings,
but
also
not
be
negatively
affected
by
them
it
might
be
prudent
to
have
more
money
than
would
be
considered
the
norm
for
the
limits
you’re
playing.
I’m
not
going
to
go
in
full
details
about
bankroll
management
here,
as
it
is
a
topic
deserving
of
its
own
article,
but
suffice
it
to
say
that
it
is
better
to
be
overrolled
than
underrolled,
for
obvious
reasons.
For
example,
let’s
say
that
you
are
playing
10NL
and
have
a
300$
bankroll.
If
you
are
a
winning
player
at
your
limit,
30
buyins
is
certainly
enough
to
handle
basic
variance.
However,
if
you
play
long
enough,
there
is
certainly
a
chance
that
you
could
encounter
a
10
buyin
downswing,
even
through
no
particular
fault
of
your
own.
Now
your
bankroll
is
33%
smaller,
and
every
other
session
puts
an
additional
pressure
to
cut
your
bankroll
in
half.
Then
you’d
have
to
grind
the
lower
stakes
again
to
get
it
back,
or
even
reload
to
feel
comfortable
playing
your
current
limit
again.
Winning
players
should
never
need
to
reload.
They
should
be
taking
money
out
of
the
site,
not
the
other
way
around.
Now
let’s
compare
it
to
say,
a
500$
bankroll
for
the
same
limit.
A
totally
standard
downswing
of
10
buyins
is
only
20%
of
your
total
bankroll
and
won’t
hurt
as
much.
If
you
keep
playing
well,
you
might
as
well
not
even
notice
that
you
were
down
10
buyins
at
some
point.
A
peace
of
mind
is
not
to
be
underestimated,
especially
in
today’s
competitive
environment.
Get
a
fat
bankroll
and
save
yourself
the
trouble
of
fretting
about
variance
in
the
first
place,
and
focus
on
playing
to
the
best
of
your
abilities.
Make
sure
you
check
out
the
BlackRain79
complete
guide
to

poker
bankroll
management
for
today’s
small
stakes
games.


3.
Don’t
Look
at
the
Cashier

One
of
the
advantages
of
having
a
big
bankroll
is
not
having
to
focus
on
short-term
results
at
all.
If
you
know
you
are
beating
your
current
limit,
there
is
absolutely
no
reason
to
fret
about
how
you
are
running
session
to
session.
Sometimes
you
get
on
an
insane
heater
and
seem
to
hit
every
draw
in
the
best
possible
time,
sometimes
you
get
dealt
garbage
hands
for
hours
on
end,
and
when
you
finally
do
get
a
decent
hand,
some
idiot
donkey
catches
a
backdoor
flush
draw
with
92s,
or
you
get
set
over
set,
or
any
other
horrible
string
of
never-ending
disasters
that
keep
coming
your
way.
That’s
poker.
But
focusing
on
how
you
are
running
instead
of
focusing
on
making
the
most
+EV
decisions
is
only
going
to
exacerbate
the
problem
either
way.
If
you
check
the
cashier
to
see
that
you
are
behind,
you
might
start
to
get
the
feeling
that
you
need
to
win
it
back”,
start
chasing,
forcing
the
action,
pile
up
even
more
losses,
get
more
frustrated,
until
you
inevitably
rage-quit
and
break
your
mouse.
Hopefully
it
doesn’t
get
that
bad,
but
you
get
the
picture.
On
the
other
hand,
if
you
see
that
you
are
ahead
a
couple
of
buyins,
you
might
want
to
“protect
your
winnings”,
tighten
up
too
much,
not
pulling
the
trigger
on
a
big
bluff
you
think
might
be
profitable,
and
overall
stop
playing
great
poker
that
made
you
money
in
the
first
place.
Don’t
look
at
the
cashier.
Hide
it,
or
better
yet,
put
a
post-it
over
it
on
your
monitor
with
some
kind
of
inspirational
message
or
a
smiley
face.
You
won’t
feel
the
compulsion
to
check
your
results,
which
will
make
you
focus
more
on
making
better
decisions,
which
will
improve
your
results,
which
will
make
you
less
likely
to
feel
the
need
to
check
your
results.
Break
the
negative
feedback
loops,
and
your
bankroll
will
be
better
off
for
it.


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4.
Take
a
Break

Just
because
variance
is
unavoidable
and
an
integral
part
of
the
game,
it
doesn’t
necessarily
mean
you
should
play
through
it
no
matter
what
and
wait
for
your
“luck
to
turn
around”.
Sure,
it’s
important
to
put
in
volume,
but
that
volume
should
be
filled
with
your
A
game
or
a
solid
B
game
at
least.
Players
who
run
bad
tend
to
play
worse,
and
conversely,
they
play
their
best
when
cards
are
falling
their
way.
This
is
no
big
surprise
by
any
means.
A
professional
poker
player
will
play
his
best,
or
close
to
it,
no
matter
how
he’s
running,
but
for
us
mere
mortals,
short
term
results
do
tend
to
affect
our
performance
to
some
extent.
If
during
a
session
you
feel
that’s
the
case,
ask
yourself:
can
I
still
play
to
the
best
of
my
abilities?
If
the
answer
is
a
resounding
no,
quit.
There’s
no
shame
in
it.
It
takes
some
honest
self-reflection
to
realise
your
limitations.
That’s
the
only
way
to
overcome
them.
If
it
goes
from
bad
to
worse,
live
to
fight
another
day.


5.
Study
More

When
cards
don’t
fall
your
way
for
an
extended
period
of
time,
use
it
as
an
opportunity
to

study
and
improve
your
game.
It
might
be
that
your
“bad
luck”
is
actually
just
bad
play.

Everybody
has
leaks
in
their
game,
and
taking
some
time
to
reflect
on
ways
you
may
be
bleeding
money
is
going
to
pay
dividends.
Improving
your
technical
knowledge
of
the
game
will
undoubtedly
improve
your
results
over
time.
Bigger
winrate
means
less
variance.

Reviewing
your
hands
is
one
of
the
most
effective
ways
to
study.
If
you
conclude
that
you
played
perfectly,
great,
but
more
often
than
not,
you
will
realize
that
you
made
a
mistake
and
should
have
taken
a
different
line
in
a
certain
spot.

For
example,
you
get
set
over
set
and
lose
the
whole
stack.
Definitely
unlucky,
but
you
review
your
hand
and
realize
that
you
were
set
mining
with
incorrect
implied
odds.
Or
you
flop
a
straight
in
a
multiway
pot,
get
all
the
money
in,
and
some
whale
catches
a
backdoor
flush
draw
with
84s.
You
could
have
squeezed
preflop
and
he
might
have
folded.
Sometimes
you
win,
sometimes
you
learn.


6.
Flip
the
Script

There’s
three
ways
to
go
about
this.
First,
recognize
there
is
also
positive
variance.
Sometimes
you
actually
win
more
than
you
normally
would.
Humans
are
naturally
prone
to
focusing
on
the
negative
outcomes
and
conveniently
forgetting
all
the
times
we
got
lucky,
or
our
hand
actually
held
up.
It’s
easy
to
attribute
negative
variance
to
bad
luck,
and
positive
variance
to
our
great
play,
but
that
kind
of
thinking
is
detrimental
to
our
improvement
as
players.
Secondly,
recognize
that
a
player
sucking
out
on
you
is
actually
a
good
thing.
You
put
your
money
in
with
a
mathematical
edge.
Just
because
that
edge
didn’t
manifest
in
that
particular
hand,
or
two
hands,
or
ten,
means
nothing.
Over
a
large
enough
sample,
you
win
more
than
you
lose.
Third
common
situation
that
tilts
a
lot
of
people
are
coolers
and
setups.
While
not
as
clear-cut
as
a
suckout
example
above,
it
might
help
to
think
what
would
happen
if
the
roles
were
reversed.
For
example,
if
you
put
all
your
money
in
preflop
with
pocket
kings,
and
you
run
into
pocket
aces,
think
what
would
happen
if
the
cards
were
reversed.
The
money
would
go
in
either
way,
except
this
time
you’d
be
the
81%
favorite.
Sometimes
you’re
lucky,
sometimes
you’re
not.


7.
Think
in
Sklansky
Dollars

Having
your
aces
cracked
3
times
in
a
row
is
a
frustrating
experience.
However,
from
a
mathematical
standpoint,
it’s
hardly
an
anomaly.
It
can
and
it
will
happen.
Human
brain
is
not
equipped
to
deal
with
math,
odds
and
outs,
percentages
and
equity
and
what
have
you.
Its
primary
language
is
emotion.
So
when
you
get
the
best
possible
starting
hand
and
lose
with
it
over
and
over,
it
doesn’t
seem
fair.
You
feel
slighted
and
cheated,
and
start
to
create
narratives
like
“This
ALWAYS
happens
to
me”,
or
“I
NEVER
get
my
fair
share
of
luck”
etc.
By
the
way,
check
out
this
recent

BlackRain79
YouTube
video
for
a
deeper
discussion
of
how
to
react
better
when
you
receive
a
bad
beat:

This
kind
of
thinking
isn’t
helpful
(or
true),
but
it’s
completely
understandable
in
the
heat
of
the
moment.
But
if
we
take
a
step
back,
we’ll
see
that
there
is
nothing
particularly
unfair
about
it.
If
it
can
happen,
it
will
happen
sometimes.
Our
opponents
almost
always
have
some
portion
of
equity
in
hand,
and
that
equity
will
manifest
against
us
sometimes.
To
accept
it,
it
might
be
helpful
to
think
in
Sklansky
bucks,
a
term
coined
by
legendary
David
Sklansky.
To
put
it
simply,
Sklansky
bucks
tell
us
not
how
much
money
we
actually
won
or
lost
in
one
particular
hand,
but
how
much
money
we
earn
on
average
in
that
situation
when
considering
our
equity.
For
example,
we
go
all-in
with
Aces
versus
Kings
and
we
lose
10$.
We
know
our
equity
in
this
spot
is
81%,
which
means
that
on
average
we
will
lose
every
fifth
time.
So
on
average,
we
made
8.1
Sklansky
bucks,
even
though
in
reality
we
lost
10$.
In
the
long
run,
Sklansky
dollars
earned
and
real
dollars
earned
will
be
about
the
same.
Even
though
Sklansky
bucks
are
imaginary,
thinking
in
these
terms
helps
us
to
focus
on
the
long
run
and
making
the
best
decisions,
no
matter
the
current
bad
outcome.


8.
Think
in
Business
Terms

If
you
are
serious
about
playing
poker
and
want
to
make
it
a
lucrative
and
sustainable
endeavour,
you
need
to
approach
it
differently
than
the
vast
majority
of
people.
Most
people
treat
it
as
a
hobby,
they
play
here
and
there,
and
if
they
lose,
they
can
always
reload.
All
hobbies
cost
money,
so
why
should
poker
be
any
different?
But
if
you
want
to
make
money
consistently,
you
should
look
at
it
more
like
a
business.
You
are
the
CEO,
you
decide
when
you
play,
how
long
you
play,
what
stakes
you
play,
and
ultimately,
you
decide
how
profitable
you
want
your
business
to
be.
Every
business
has
income
and
expenses,
and
the
difference
between
the
two
is
profit.
If
you
look
at
poker
this
way,
you
see
that
the
pots
you
won
can
be
considered
income,
and
the
pots
you
lose
are
the
expenses.
The
problem
is
you
don’t
know
how
much
you
will
earn
or
spend
in
any
given
time,
so
you
have
to
look
at
your
skills
as
an
investment
that
will
earn
you
money
over
time.
When
you
look
at
it
this
way,
you
don’t
have
to
worry
about
the
constant
ups
and
downs
that
come
with
it.
There
is
always
risk
when
doing
business,
and
poker
is
no
exception.
What’s
important
is
that
your
business
is
profitable
over
the
long
run.
As
long
as
you’re
making
good
decisions
and
work
to

improve
your
game,
your
business
will
thrive.
It
might
take
a
while,
but
it’s
important
that
you
get
there
eventually.


9.
Play
Tighter

While
most
of
these
tips
are
about
handling
variance
better,
this
one
can
actually
reduce
variance
altogether,
albeit
at
the
cost
of
also
reducing
your
potential
earnings.
If
you
are
more
risk-averse
and
don’t
mind
slightly
worse,
but
less
volatile
results,
you
might
benefit
from
being
more
selective
with
hands
you
play
and
avoid
marginal
spots
that
you’re
not
quite
comfortable
playing.
Poker
is
a
game
of
incomplete
information,
and
a
lot
of
variables
determine
if
a
play
is
+EV
or
not.
Since
we
don’t
have
all
the
information,
a
lot
of
times
we
are
forced
to
go
with
our
gut
and
often
find
ourselves
in
those
“either
way
ahead
or
way
behind”
situations
when
we
have
to
make
a
decision
for
our
whole
stack.
But
you
can
choose
not
to
get
into
those
situations
in
the
first
place
by
folding
marginal
holdings
preflop,
and
save
yourself
the
mental
strain
of
having
to
make
big
decisions
too
often.
While
highly
skilled
players
will
opt
to
play
in
marginal
spots
and
look
for
small
edges,
they
do
so
in
accordance
with
their
skill
edge.
If
you
are
struggling
in
certain
situations,
make
a
note
of
it,
study
off
the
felt
and
try
to
improve,
but
do
so
at
your
own
pace.
You
don’t
HAVE
TO
do
anything.
Play
tight,
pick
your
spots,
and
the
results
will
follow.
If
you
are
in
doubt
about
what
hands
to
actually
play,
just
pick
up
a
copy
of
the

free
BlackRain79
poker
guide,
which
includes
charts
telling
you
exactly
what
hands
to
play
in
Zoom,
6max
etc.


10.
Take
Responsibility

Finally,
something
that
was
touched
upon
briefly
in
previous
points,
but
so
important
that
it
deserves
to
be
emphasized
again,
take
responsibility.
You
cannot
control
the
cards
and
you
cannot
control
variance,
but
what
you
can
and
definitely
should
control
is
how
you
react
to
it.
Bad
things
happen,
in
poker
and
in
life
in
general.
How
we
deal
with
it
is
what
matters.
If
you
play
perfectly,
there
is
only
so
much
you
can
win,
but
if
you
play
badly,
there
is
no
limit
to
how
much
you
can
lose.
It
takes
a
thousand
steps
to
success,
but
only
one
to
ruin.
Be
mindful
of
that,
and
remember
that
no
matter
how
bad
things
are
going,
we
can
always
make
it
a
hundred
times
worse.
Everybody
loses
sometimes,
but
in
the
end
the
big
winners
are
the
ones
that
make
sure
they
lose
no
more
than
is
necessary.


Summary

Dealing
with
variance
is
hard,
and
being
negatively
affected
by
the
never-ending
swings
is
normal.
You
can
study
all
the

advanced
poker
theory
in
the
world
and
this
will
still
not
change.

However,
in
order
to
have
long-term
success
in
this
game
you
need
to
be
prepared
for
variance
and
be
willing
to
tackle
it
head
on.
To
do
so,
make
sure
you
are
sufficiently
bankrolled
for
the
stakes
you
play.
Expect
obstacles
along
the
way
and
make
peace
with
them.
Learn
to
take
bad
with
the
good.
Sometimes
you’re
lucky,
sometimes
you’re
not.
Don’t
focus
on
the
short-term
results
and
focus
on
playing
to
the
best
of
your
abilities.
If
it
gets
too
bad,
take
a
break
and
use
it
as
an
opportunity
to
study
and
improve
your
game.
And
most
importantly,
take
responsibility
not
for
the
cards
you
are
dealt,
but
for
the
way
you
react
to
them.
Do
all
these,
and
poker
greatness
will
come.
In
due
time.
Lastly,
if
you
want
to
learn
the
complete
strategy
to
crush
the
micros
online
for
$500+
per
month,
make
sure
you
gran
a
copy
of
the

free
BlackRain79
poker
cheat
sheet.

How to Deal With Poker Variance

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