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Is run bad linked to bad play?


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Is there a link between running badly i.e. under EV and playing badly? My understanding of EV is that the two are unrelated but my results are not changing. I know that luck owes nobody nothing but is there, at the fundamental level, a link between bad play and bad EV?

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Mathematically speaking, no there is no link. Your expected value is just a function of how well you play. If you play worse it is lower, if you play better it is higher. But realising your EV is completely separate. Compare it to a roulette wheel, suppose you bet on red and lose 8 times in a row. Yes, that is unlucky and you are running under EV (you should've lost a small amount long term, not 8 bets). But that changes nothing for the next spin, still 18/37 chance of red.

That said, in practise there of course can be a correlation. We are only human and running under EV wears us done and that could change your play.

I think it starts with figuring out where you stand. Am I better than my opponents over a sample of x hands/tournaments? How likely is it that this is just luck and me running under EV or am I losing because the level of my opponents is higher? These are not simple questions to answer, but imo it all starts with knowing where you stand and if/what you want (out of) this game.

Hope this helps:)

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On 8/23/2023 at 11:46 PM, slothmandan said:

Is there a link between running badly i.e. under EV and playing badly?

20 hours ago, DailyQuads said:

Mathematically speaking, no there is no link. Your expected value is just a function of how well you play.

9 hours ago, P0kerM0nk said:

No but bad play is linked to running bad.


   An interesting question. I agree there is no mathematical link but there can be a huge mental one.

A very simple score chart.

Run good play good:        100

Run good play bad:            50

Run bad play good:            50

Run bad play bad:              25

I can start a session playing well and running well (rare) but a couple of bad beats could often send me spiralling, in the past sometimes out of control. Some coaches or trainers hammer home the mental side of poker as being the number 1 trait to becoming a winner. I used to almost dismiss this concept but have been coming to realise it is an absolute must to be mentally strong enough to withstand the inevitable downswings, whether on the table or inside the head.

So bad results can definitely cause bad play and bad play absolutely can cause bad results, by how much who knows. I'm not so sure if running good can breed confidence enough to make someone play all that much better, and playing well can still lead to bad results, but I'm sure there are some links somewhere. It seems to me that the downward slope can easily be compounded, the upward curve is a little harder to correlate.



"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

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A wonderful question and I agree with all the answers.  I don’t know the reasons nor the math but I absolutely know for myself that if I’m running bad I am playing bad.   I can sit and fold for hours if the cards and the table is not working for me.  Fold and accept and use the time to think about my game.  But if I start to play cards for the sake of playing, start thinking I’m a better player than anyone at the table, or even worse start cursing the gods I know I’m playing bad.  Stop, walk away, or read a basic poker book.  I can fix me playing badly as long as first I see that it’s me.

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Well if you play badly you often play more hands, and the more hands you play the more marginal spots you will get in, and so I would say yes if you play badly you could experience more run bad simply because you are playing more cards so the opportunity for instances you can be running bad is increased, and also the spots are less polarised, you might think oh it’s so unlucky he just had me beat by one kicker rank for example, but if you played well you likely wouldn’t have even been in that particular hand. 

great question and interesting replies!

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