"I have seen many a losing player blame it on form, even ones who used to be winners but have now caught the losing habit," he says. "It's a lot to do with confidence. It takes a lot of self-belief and inner strength, as well as the strongest understanding of your own emotions, to make sure that you get off that losing streak as quick as you can. Most people go two or three stops further than they should before they get off.
"Don't miss your stop!"
Who said poker players are soulless?
Sometimes, when you are running bad, the hardest thing to find is an encouraging word. As Rich Corbin, a former high-stakes player and now a PokerStars executive, so succinctly puts it (see "Into the Abyss, Part I"), "When I tell 10 people how bad I'm running, nine don't care, and the 10th wishes I was losing more."
But then there's Ashley Adams, the author of "Winning 7-Card Stud." Adams has seen his share of losing streaks -- he once lost a third of his bankroll (about $5,000) during a vicious run of $20-40 stud sessions -- but he's never lost his ability to empathize (a quality which is vital to his "day job," union organizing). After he read "Into the Abyss, Part II" last week, he sent me the following e-mail, a touching, generous and wise display of support at a time when I really needed it:
Hi, Jay. Have you ever seen Niagara Falls? How come it never runs dry? All that water pouring down constantly. Amazing.
You've lived in the North. Ever been to Syracuse, New York, or nearby? It's amazing that anyone lives there -- 90 percent-plus of their days are overcast. It's cold and snowy in the winter. How the hell do people keep believing that spring will actually come (and often be magnificent)?
Moses and our ancestors at the Red Sea. Mountains on one side, ocean on another, and Pharoah's army roaring up behind them. Some guy hears a voice that says, "Fear not -- walk into the sea." And they DID!?!? Unbelievable. What a lesson.
I had a friend who was convinced that there were little people who would actually steal things and then put them back in the places they stole them from. That was her only explanation for how she could leave her hairbrush in the bathroom, but then, 10 minutes later, go back to the bathroom, not find it -- then search the entire house, not find it, only to return to the bathroom and find it back where she thought it was in the first place. You don't believe in little people, do you?
If there's a hole in your game, you'll find it. Have a friend look at your play, or hire someone. Note close decisions. Bad streaks happen. If you play well, you'll win again.
All that water. And it NEVER runs dry. Amazing.
Taking the long view
Here's a calming and preternaturally rosy view of losing streaks from Russell Rosenblum, who finished fifth in the 2004 WPT Championship. In Rosenblum's view, losing streaks are not only natural (of course, so is cyanide), but a sign of growth.
"I have a theory, kind of hard to explain," Rosenblum says. "People's games go in bell curves. You start at the bottom and head towards the top, and once you reach a kind of peak, you decline again towards a valley. Not as deep a valley as when you started, but a decline from the most recent peak. Then you improve to a new and higher peak, then a new but not-as-low low.