Every now and then you have one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong. You go to the store, they don't have what you wanted to get. You drive home, your tire's flat. You're in a hurry and this weird figure with a cap, a gun and a police badge pulls you over for no reason whatsoever except that you were ignoring the speed limit just a teensie weensie bit on account of being in a hurry.
"But officer - this big poker tournament starts in 10 minutes and I have to be home by then...."
With any luck you can pay the fine from the winnings you'll receive once you finally sit down behind your computer half an hour after the tourney started.

Well, sometimes it's just one of those days. In poker, we call it variance. Usually, you win your fair share of races. Usually, when you have the best hand on the flop, it holds up. And every now and then, you lose the race and the best hand on the turn isn't able to fade the dreaded two-outer on the river. But variance isn't completely random. If you play badly, you'll see it swings to the side of you losing. If you play very well, it'll swing to the side of you winning. But you can't discard it completely as dumb luck is always a part of the game. And if you can't stand the opponent hitting his miracle ace on the river, you shouldn't be sitting down at a poker table.

But every now and then, through no fault of your own, several of those moments where you're on the wrong side of a race will come together like a Trekkies do when the Star Trek Convention comes to town. And suddenly, losses and wins don't seem to balance out anymore, but suddenly you start losing every hand. Every big pair gets cracked, every time you flop a set, the other guy flops the straight, or a better set. Every less-than-10-percent-on-the-turn hand gets there on the river. We're running bad, as we say. It sucks. And there's nothing you can do but play your best.

At times like that, it's nice to have a place where you can put up a number of hands for review by others. See what they have to say - did you play the hands correctly, and was it out of your reach do fix, or did you screw it up somewhere along the line? Learning moments like those are important. And since I don't know anyone who plays poker, it's nice to have a site like pokerschoolonline.com. There, people are willing to help me figure out that it wasn't my fault the three hands in a row with pocket pairs turned into a massive loss of chips instead of a massive win. I could have played two other hands differently, but in the end, it's Lady Luck that turned my monster-stack-on-the-bubble to out-on-the-bubble in three hands.

It happens, and I usually tend to step away for a while. Superstition I suppose, because losing a few big hands in a row has absolutely no influence on the next hand to come. None at all. Except the psychological effect - you think you're running bad, and suddenly you start losing more and more hands. Either because you don't see the hands you win, or because you really start playing bad. You start playing too many hands, including the ones that you should not be playing at all. All in the hope to recoup your losses. And playing bad doesn't lead to winning your money back, it leads to losing even more.

So when you get to that point, the point between running bad and tilting, step away. Do something else. Have fun. Watch some TV, listen to some music (as long as it's not Justin Bieber). Come back tomorrow, and start fresh. And remember, if you play well, for every time you're running bad and missing every draw, there's also a time when you're running good and you're hitting every miracle card on the river. Because in the end, good play will shift the odds in your favor, and luck has nothing to do with that...