How to Handle Hot Streaks

The question of whether or not you should change your strategy when you’re winning. What’s a hot streak? Is it something that should affect the way you play?

Well, if you’re sitting there winning many hands no matter what mediocre cards you started with, your straights fill in and your flushes come to fruition, and your opponents are seeing your chips pile up it seems to everyone like either you’re a poker genius or that a good fairy is hovering over, waving her wand at you you’re on a streak. A rush. A hot string of cards.

The thing you should understand is that it’s random. Normal variation has brought it about, but the fact that you got your lucky card on the river the last 3 hands running does NOT mean it is statistically any more likely to happen on your next hand. Cards are neutral, not divinely drawn to you. Don’t count on luck continuing.

What you can count on is your psychology, and that of other people. Luck has a good effect on you and your confidence level. It has an influence on how the others at the table play back at you. They will react to the lucky events that surrounded you up to now: They will be cowed to some extent. This may be a bit of superstition on their part, if they happen to have a very good idea that your wins are due to luck because you’re not a perfect player. But it’s natural for them to still act as if it were you doing it yourself.

Now, you have to truly know your own skill level. If you’re not good, being on a rush may cause you to become worse. A cautious, tight player might be led to make some sudden moves when he sees the cards are coming to him, poor moves; but he happens to win anyway. Then he does it again.

But if you know you’re a good poker player and know good starting hands and how hand values change according to the action, your position, and what cards you’re probably playing against; then winning and the resulting confidence from winning can help you play even better. You can play some hands you ordinarily wouldn’t, because you know when to drop these when they aren’t improving. You feel now you can afford to because of the win. You know they might pay off very well indeed, you just didn’t want to chance it before. But now your betting comfort zone has increased just a little, temporarily. That comfort zone will go back to what it was before, but that’s okay. We’re talking about the phenomenon of the hot streak.

The reaction of other players to you while you’re winning is extremely advantageous. They will start respecting your raises and folding more often, even when they shouldn’t fold. They will do it when they have invested amounts in the pot that actually called for them to stay the course. And they’ll call or just check instead of raising you allowing you a chance to catch your card at the end. If you have a made hand already, then their calling is that much worse for them. And they’re doing it, really, out of superstition. Our psychology is a great thing.