A lot of literature on poker psychology focuses on how players should handle themselves when they are losing. Whether it is a downswing, tilt, or other factors, people tend to only focus on their play/mentality when things aren’t going their way. Few players/writers ever focus on a player’s mindset when he/she is winning.
Just like in other sports/games, when things go their way, poker players assume they’re playing great. However, a lot can be gained from understanding what happens before, during, and after a winning streak. Players who are able to pinpoint these factors may be able to replicate them in the future, leading to sustained periods of good play and profit. It is important to note what is happening during these streaks. Did you prepare differently for these sessions? Did your attitude change from other losing periods? Perhaps you changed the number of tables or time of day you’re playing. Whatever the reasons, pinpointing and implementing them in the future will be beneficial to your bottom line.
One of the great side affects of winning is players tend to be much more positive, or optimistic, through out their sessions. Compare this to players who constantly lose, or even worse those who expect to lose. These pessimists are defeated before they even begin, which is no way to approach the game. Having a positive mindset is the key, being open to different approaches and ideas will help to grow your game. When players are on a hot streak they feel like good things are going to happen, which frees them up to make plays they might not have had the nerve to make in the past. Be careful not to feel too invincible, as poker has a funny way of bringing even the best players back down to earth. Trying out new ideas is a great way to expand your arsenal; however, tend to follow basic guidelines such as not bluffing calling stations. No matter how good you’re running, they still never fold.
Players on downswings tend to move up in stakes, attempting to recoup losses from previous sessions. This ultimately leads to busting their accounts, as players at higher stakes tend to be much better. Combine this with a poor mentality and you have a recipe for huge losses. Strangely enough, when players are winning they tend to shut down and lock up their win, an action commonly referred to as “reverse tilt”. When players reverse tilt, they play much tighter than in the past. Typically the fear of losing their winnings takes over and they begin to find reasons to fold and move on to the next hand. This irrational thinking is certainly reversed, as those on hot streaks should look to press their luck, while those running bad can certainly benefit from some time off.
Realistically this is the best time to take a shot at higher levels. During a hot streak players are typically performing at their best. The positive thinking which comes along with an upswing should help those compete against better players, resulting in a more productive shot. Remember, proper bankroll management still trumps all, therefore even if you are on a big hot streak, if you don’t have enough in your roll to take a shot (and move down if you were to lose) then you should just continue at your current stakes.
Poker is much more fun when you’re winning, to guarantee it happens more often, be sure to take a step back and realize what changed in your game and/or mindset. Whether it was optimistic thinking, improvements in your play, or something as simple as playing fewer tables, identifying these positive changes to you game will be great when things aren’t going your way.