Managing Poker Variance: Dealing with Ups and Downs in Online Play

Poker is a game of skill, strategy and, most importantly, luck. Everyone who plays poker is faced with a variation of periods of good and bad luck. Variation management is a key skill for a poker player who wants to stay in the black in the long run.

about poker

What is variance in poker?

Variance is the natural fluctuation in your poker results. Even the most professional players go through periods of wins and losses. The reason for the variation is that the outcome of a single hand in poker is often determined by random factors.

Reasons for variation:

“Bad beats” when your strong hand loses to a less strong one due to an unexpected drop of cards.

Mistakes in Decisions Sometimes we make mistakes that lead to loss.

Behavior of Opponents Sometimes your opponents can make non-standard decisions that can affect the outcome of the hand.

How to manage variation:

Bankroll Management: Set strict rules for yourself as to how much you are willing to lose in a single session or betting level. This will help you avoid draining your entire bankroll during prolonged bad luck.

  • Analyze your play: Constantly analyze your hands and decisions to see if you are making mistakes. Use hand analysis programs and view your sessions.
  • Mental Resilience: Teach yourself to remain calm no matter what the outcome of the hand is. Don’t let your emotions control your decisions.
  • Variety of playstyles: Sometimes changing your playstyle can help confuse your opponent and cut down on variation.
  • Training your mental state

Just as players train their poker skills, it’s important to work on your mental state. Athletes use psychologists to deal with the stress of competition, and poker players also have the resources to work on the mental aspect of the game. Meditation, reading books on poker psychology, or consulting with a professional psychologist can help you improve your mental state.

  • Technology on your side

Modern technology provides poker players with many tools to analyze and improve their game. Stat tracking software such as PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager can help players analyze their mistakes as well as track their progress.

  • Avoid tilt

“Tilt” is an emotional state when a player starts making bad decisions due to irritation or stress. One of the main tasks of a poker player is to avoid tilt. When you feel like you’re starting to lose control of your emotions, it’s best to take a break. Return to the game only when you feel that your emotions have stabilized.

  • Community and learning

Joining the poker community can be an invaluable resource. Discussing hands, strategies, and experimenting with new ideas with other players can help you see the game from different angles and improve your skills.

Effect of poker game type on variance

Yes, the type of poker game you play can make a big difference in variance. Variance refers to the statistical measure of how your results will deviate from the expected norm over a given period of time. In poker, this essentially means how much your short term results can differ from your expected long term results due to luck.

Different games and poker formats have different levels of variance. Here’s a breakdown of how different games and formats can affect variance:

Cash games and tournaments:

Cash games: usually have lower variance than tournaments. This is because the blinds stay constant and you can usually play tighter and avoid marginal situations.

Tournaments: Especially multi-table tournaments (MTTs) have a much higher variance. This is because you are often forced to make more risky decisions as the blinds increase or get closer to the bubble (the point at which players start getting paid).

Incomplete line-up vs full ring:

Incomplete table (6-max or less): usually has higher variance than a full table because you are involved in more hands, often with weaker hands, resulting in more post-flop play and a larger pot compared to blinds.

Full Ring (9 or 10 players): Lower variance because you can play tighter and avoid marginal situations.

Game type:

  1. No Limit Hold’em: Higher variance than limit games due to the possibility of winning or losing the entire stack in one hand.
  2. Limit Hold’em: Lower variance because the amount you can bet and lose in any given hand is limited.
  3. Pot-limit Omaha (PLO): usually has even higher variance than no-limit hold’em because players often have a lot of equity in their hands, resulting in bigger pots and bigger swings.
  4. Mixed Games: The variance can be highly dependent on the specific games and skill levels of the players.
  1. Skills playera: A more experienced player tends to experience less variance than a less experienced player. However, even the best players in the world cannot avoid variance.

It is very important to understand variance in the context of your chosen game type and be mentally and financially prepared for it. Proper bankroll management is critical to overcome the inevitable downturns that come with high variance games or formats.

live poker


Success in poker requires a multifaceted approach. Whether you are a beginner or a professional player, constant learning and development is the key to success. Variation is an inevitable part of the game, but with the right skills and tools, you can minimize its impact and increase your chances of success.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Journey Blog by Crimson Themes.