Dealing with a losing streak

My poker buddy Chris sent this advice for how to deal with a poker losing streak.  I thought it was thoughtful of him to write it up and so I’ve reproduced it here with his permission.  Thought I continue to have overall net losses uncharacteristic of me, I’m playing a low enough stakes that I’m simply redoubling study time to work through it.

Thanks Chris, you’re a good friend.

From Chris:

I have three pieces of advice for when you are on a
downswing.  To most people, I would recommend dropping limits, but I do not
think that is appropriate in your situation.  You are comfortable at your
current limits.  Moreover, you have talked about how much low-limit variance
frustrates you, and changing your game to beat $2/4 will not cure what ails you
at middle limits. 

1) Mixed games.  Few things help me
to reevaluate my hold ’em game so much as mixed games.  I do not know how
readily available they are in California, but they are increasingly common at
online sites.  HORSE and similar variants force you to concentrate on your
strategies for each game.  For me, the advantage is that I return to hold ’em
and play less reflexively.  I become accustomed to thinking about strategy and
the appropriate plays for each game, so I can critique my own hold ’em play with
greater clarity. 

2) Tournaments.  For me, tournaments are
like poker tourniquets.  They will not necessarily replenish your bankroll, and,
in many cases, they will even be -EV.  They can, however, slow down the
bleeding.  When you are on a losing streak, a tournament gives you table time
against quality opponents at a fixed cost.  It is easier to distance oneself
emotionally from a tourney buy-in than from cash game chips.  If you actually go
deep, you feel as though you are freerolling.  You can import the blind
structure to Poker Academy, simulate a few tourneys, and head into the poker
room with a strategy already in place.  Plus, in your case, you really enjoy
tournaments.  Stay away from the cash games for a few sessions and return with a
fresh prospective, especially if you cash.  Online tournaments are a substitute
because you could play more times for less money, but the experience is not the

3) Consider externalities.  Is anything outside of
poker affecting your play?  Work, family, money, health, and any number of other
real-life problems can hamper our ability to focus.  Normally, poker is an
opportunity for me to concentrate wholly on one goal and thus park my other
stresses at the door.  When I cannot leave those problems behind for a couple
hours, however, it negatively impacts my play. 

I have read other advice
about breaking losing streaks — changing venues, leaving early to book small
wins — but I think those are bunk in your situation, because I doubt that
you’re dealing with a confidence problem. 

Those are just a few
thoughts.  They may or may not be helpful.  Losing can be frustrating, so please
feel free to bounce thoughts in my direction. 

Have a good