Variance......  that famous poker no no word.

I knew that I would hit variance or downswing sooner or later as I've been having good results for a while now. We all know that variance exists in poker and when it hits you like it's hitting me now, it's no fun. But if you have a good grasp of the theory of poker and advanced concepts, then you also know that not only does variance exist, but it is a necessary part of poker.

Why? Simply because if it were not for the "donks" getting lucky or sucking out on you, then why would they play? The best hand at the start of a hand does not always win and that's what makes poker so great. So since I'm in a downswing, I decided to do a bit of research and share it with all of you.


Really having knowledge of what variance is and how it effects the game of poker - can make a good player great. There is not a top-level, winning poker player in the world that does not understand variance.

This does not mean that they don't let it get to them. Some people are definitely more tilt-prone than others, but there is no doubt that to be a really outstanding poker player, understanding the variance concept is a must.

Variance is a measure of how far off we are from expected value. And now listen carefully to this statistical truth: there is no limit to how large variance can be at a given point in time. In other words if you are in a losing streak, there is no way to tell if it will continue or reverse. But boy do we hope it comes to an end very soon, like I'm wishing right now.

To transfer this to poker, let's look at everyone's favourite hand, Ace-Ace. If you could get AA all in pre-flop every single time you had it, would you do it? The immediate answer is yes, of course! However, haven't we all seen someone who say's that AA "always" gets sucked-out on and they might as well just fold it. These players don't understand variance and wear a tin foil hat.

Yes, AA is a great hand and if given the opportunity, should always get all in pre-flop. But the reality is that any random hand has about a 15% chance to win against AA before the flop. Versus a somewhat coordinated hand, like a suited connector, the chance to win rises to about 20%. However, there will be times when you have the opportunity to get AA all in pre-flop and lose. Sometimes your Aces will get cracked two, three, or more times in a row, causing some people to think it must be rigged, big stacks always win, PokerStars wants to make money or something similar.


Poker is a game that cannot be measured in short stretches. Even 10,000 hands will not give you a good idea of whether or not you can be a successful, winning player over the long haul. It takes hundreds of thousands of hands for the variance to play out, at least somewhat, before you can determine if you are a long term winning player or not.

Having an understanding of variance in poker is extremely important. Often times, players will confuse playing great/poorly with running great/poorly. This can affect your confidence for better or for worse. However, if you know you are playing well but the cards aren't going your way, you can chalk up your losses to simply running bad, or vice versa, and move on.

Also, once you realize that variance is more about the short-term, you will then also realize that the best way to get past stints of variance is to play more. Putting more volume in will get you past the variance and on your way to your well-deserved long-term results.

What does this all mean? It means that if you are a poker player, you must be prepared to deal with variance. If the variance is favourable, and you experience a winning streak, it is no problem. However, if the variance is unfavourable, and causes a losing streak, its impact can be profound. This is why you must have a proper bankroll in order to stay in action. It is protection against unfavourable variance.

If you experience unfavourable variance, you can do one of two things. First, you can ignore it and play your way through it. You can be confident that in the long run you will encounter favourable variance that will offset the current unfavourable variance you have been experiencing. This is your best option, provided your bankroll is large enough. Your second option is to attempt to mitigate unfavourable variance through risk management. This means that you avoid marginally profitable situations if they are too risky, so long as you are on short money. Be forewarned, this strategy will have a negative impact on your expectation. It should only be used to protect a short bankroll.

So when is MY variance going to end?