Embracing Variance & Bad Beats

Any poker player who is serious about the game and plays with consistency will always go through a losing streak, there’s just no way around it.

What’s evil is, these losing streaks can kick in when the player is making all the right decisions and sitting in the right games. In the world of poker, it’s generally referred as bad variance and it’s a terrible spot to be in when it comes.

Variance is Poker

Many poker players refer variance as the part of the game, but that’s not complete – variance is poker. Poker is a game of infinite possibilities, where every situation is different. In every hand, the variables, that define the game, change (board cards, stack size, hole cards etc).

In chess, where the starting and the end point of each game is the same, poker is not beholden to any structure as such. Moreover, there are infinite number of variants of poker with complicated rule sets – chips and cards being the only common things between them.

When people think of variance they thing of alternate subjects like coin flips, bad beats, all-in scenarios and probably big suckouts, while is reality variance is quite broad. It encompasses everything that happens on a poker table – variations of cards being dealt, how people play, the random cases of dealer mistakes or even outside influences affecting the hand and basically, anything you can think of.  

One can measure variance in a plethora of ways, the bottom line is there’s no avoiding variance unless you avoid the game altogether. Even the world outside poker is full of variance in its own way.

The 3 Phases of Variance

Variance falls into three different sections, which can be defined as the phases of variance.


This consists of the surface level variance like coin flips, coolers, pre-flop all ins, backdoor flush draws hitting on the river etc. These instances are generally the ones people complain about because these situations are most evident and easy to remember. The effect being, they get stuck in your memory when you lose, if your mental game is weak.

Phase -2

Phase two marks the understanding of player ranges in specific spots, because it generally comes down to part of our opponents range we run into each spot.

When it favours us, we might also be in a situation when the top of our range runs into the bottom of our opponents calling range, and we win a huge pot – when it doesn’t favour us, the opposite happens and we lose. The interaction of ranges between us and our opponents runs overtime and the edges we create with the decisions we make, are exactly what helps us to profit in the long run.

Phase -3

This happens over multiple hands. Let’s say you win a big pot one hand, and that creates a situation of a double up through a big stack for a massive pot the next hand. Or you lose a big flip and that leads you busting out of the tournament next hand, for instance TT vs JJ.

Embrace Variance

Removing the fear of variance and embracing fluctuations in the game, one can additionally create profitable situations that wouldn’t exist otherwise. We all agree to the fact that it’s hard to create a big tournament stack without a little help from variance

It affects all poker players and there’s an extent to which each player is affected. A few run hot their entire careers, while a few run cold. We might end up in either category. No one really control that.


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