How Great Poker Players Handle Losses

Once you understand that losing is a natural and inevitable part of being a poker player, tremendous growth can take place. There’s no escaping from losing. But people are very bad at taking losses. They take it as a blow to their ego when, in fact, they should view it as a learning experience.

“I really believe that people underestimate the importance of learning how to lose and how to deal with losses. It is very important to always remember that losing is part of the game, and the ability to deal with losses is a key aspect of the game.” – Fedor Holz

Here are a few tips that, if you apply them, will help you to develop your resilience, to deal with losses and downswings, and to bounce back more quickly. Enjoy!

Develop positive beliefs around losses

Accept that losses are a natural part of poker, and that downswings and challenges are a part of achieving any challenging goal. Tiger Woods said, “I smile at obstacles”. Embrace the challenges!

Understand, that poker is not about those big fat winning sessions. It’s about the hundreds and thousands of inevitable losing ones that you have to deal with, at the same time keeping faith and confidence in your strategy.

Keep perspective

Imagine the number of hands that you play in one year and put a single loss into the context of the total number of hands. Imagine someone playing 500 hands a day, 3.500 a week, 15.000 per month, and 180.000 a year; each losing hand, as a percentage of those hands is less than 0.001%!

Learn from your losses

Know that every hand, every loss, every mistake, every downswing has something valuable in it… LEARNING! Ask yourself, what have I learnt from this experience? How will I use it to make me a better poker player? There is no failure, only feedback, and feedback is the breakfast of champions. Learning from losses and downswings helps you release the emotional attachment to that event – you have acted on the feedback, and now you can move forward more easily. See the implementation of the learning from the loss as an investment in your future poker career!

Take a third person perspective when evaluating your losses

Imagine watching yourself playing poker, or imagine standing behind yourself as you replay and analyze your losing hands. This helps you to evaluate and identify the key areas for improvement, whilst at the same time removing the emotions.

Don’t let a losing hand become ‘I am a loser’

Refuse to let your poker losses define you as a person. Separate out the behavior from you, the person. Separate a bad hand from a losing hand. What is the difference? A losing hand is one in which you played your strategy, stuck to your rules and were disciplined, and yet had a negative outcome. A bad hand is a hand that was a non-strategy hand, and is a bad hand regardless of whether you won or lost money!

Top 15 Quotes About Poker Losses

“If you are losing at poker, the solution is not to play more poker, the solution is to study a ton.” – Jonathan Little

“It is not always going well. Poker can be brutal. Sometimes we missplay hands, mistakes happen and variance can f*** us hard.” – Bencb

“When I run bad, I simply imagine some pokergods sitting somewhere in the universe, drunk or stoned, randomly distributing stupid coolers and laughing about me. And the more serious I take it the more they are laughing about me. Always makes me smile a little bit and stay cool.” – Bencb

“Why would you get upset if you lose? Losing happens so much more often. You basically lose, lose, lose all the time… then you win.” – Dominik Nitsche on the swings of tournament poker

“You have to be able to handle adversity without going off the deep end. If you don’t know how to handle losses, you’re in the wrong game.” – Doyle Brunson

“I deeply believe this one thing that players should work on more: Losing. You have to understand that this is natural part of poker. Learning how to lose is not easy, but one has to do it, to be successful. Proper mindset is fundamental. When I lose I have my routine – I apply logic and keep playing.” – Fedor Holz

“Understand that sometimes the right decision loses you money.” – Doug Polk

“Running bad is something that happens to all of us and it happens a lot more than you think. Variance is a beast. it’s not to be underestimated but it always is underestimated. I remember early in my poker career a wise man told me: “You will once run worse than you ever thought possible.” – Phil Galfond

“I’m in one of the more brutal downswings of my career this year. This week I’m gonna make some sacrifices on stream time to do what is best when downswings happen. Work my ass off and study. Confirm good plays. Fix bad ones. Sleep. Work out. Start fresh and hungry.” – Lex Veldhuis

“The most difficult thing about an extended downswing isn’t the loss of money – it’s the loss of hope. It’s the gap between the result and your expectations, and how it changes your vision of your poker future. For example, I’ve lost €900k, but when comparing my expectation for how this year would go to my new expectations, I’ve lost much more. For some people, they question whether or not they’ll be able to ever win again.” – Phil Galfond

“I think one of the most important qualities to be a top poker player is learning how to lose. When you get into a game and you get behind, you just feel like you got to get even that day, and it’s a very desperate, terrible feeling. It takes a long time to get over that and some guys never get over it.” – Chip Reese

“Simply accepting that we sometimes get dealt bad cards, and not start complaining about it, is considered as one of the biggest strength of a very successful poker player.” – Bencb

“There are tons of mistakes every session, even for me. What separates me from a lot of the other players is that I recognize the mistakes when I make them… I just practice, I think about the game all the time and I am continually trying to get better.” – Phil Ivey

“People just get upset over bad beats because they heavily underestimate variance.” – Daniel Cates

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.” – Doyle Brunson

Note: Do you want to improve your poker mindset and learn how to handle poker lossses? Check out Elliot Roe’s course: A-Game Poker Masterclass. Learn more now!