Anatomy of a Downswing
For this thread, I'm going to make the very incorrect assumption that a player will play the exact same whether they have just finished a week winning at an amazing rate or losing horribly. Basically we're assuming you don't tilt, which is flawed.
So let's say you're a winning player, and whatever it means you have a 60-40 edge. So let's use a coin, after all coins don't tilt. So it's a rigged coin so that heads comes up 60% of the time. Now good players sometimes expect to win every time, but obviously they will not. One of the biggest concepts people usually don't realize is that good players will usually be in hands with the best of it. This means they will get sucked out on yet will suck out relatively few times. But that's because our mind simply classifies hands as the "favorite" and "underdog". If the best hand held up every time, it would also be rigged. How many vent threads do you see with a "finally, about time a hand held up as it should"?
So I'm going to convince you that when your AA beats KK, it was a suck-out. You're thinking I'm crazy right? AA is SUPPOSED to beat KK you'll tell me. Ah, but not 100% of the time. Your equity with AA vs. KK is approximately 20%. So when you win a pot, you are taking 20% of the pot that you shouldn't have won. So when the best hand held up, you just got lucky. It wasn't a neutral result as many treat it as, you just sucked out on your opponent.
ok that was a side tangent but very important point that I had to get out of the way before the rest of this, because that principle is very important. So back to the 60-40 coin. Now obviously your expected value
is to have a heads 60% of the time on the next flip and tails 40% of the time. But the coin is not going to come up some heads and some tails. It has 2 discrete possibilities, heads or tails. One person must "suck out", as explained above. So now that you have the terms "rightful outcome" and "suck out" out of your system, we can look at this objectively. Because a coin flip is an independent event (and without tilt each poker hand is), the probability of each flip coming up heads or tails is the same on each flip. Yet if you flip the coin 500 times you'll notice that approximately 300 of them were heads and 200 were tails. Yet despite it being 60-40 distributed, I'm going to bet that you saw streaks of up to 5-10 tails in a row and even more runs of heads in a row.
I think most people understand up to here, and realize that the tails runs are downswings and heads runs are hot runs. But there is one important concept that a lot of people seem to miss. And that is the concept of a downswing. A downswing can be seen and identified after the fact by looking at the entire sample. Yet at ANY POINT, the probability of an upswing is actually more probable than a downswing. After 5 tails in a row, you're not in a downswing, you had a downswing. It's past tense. You are at the same state (minus tilt, again this emphasizes why we must avoid tilt during downswings especially) as you were when you started flipping this coin. You are also at the same state as you are at the peak of your hot run.
So I think the term "in a downswing" inherently makes no sense. At any point in time, your odds
of having a winning day is the same, and if you are a winning player it is higher than the odds of having a losing day. Go ahead and try it. It works with a fair coin too, you'll just have worse downswings and not as good hot runs (they'll be equal, this is not true for a winning player). Start flipping it assuming heads is a good day and tails is a bad day. Now pick times when you would claim you are in a downswing if it were poker. Track the next 10 flips. Do this also for the winning sessions. Do it until you have a decent number of series' after cold and hot runs. Compare them, any glaring differences? If you didn't already realize it, this should re-inforce that the odds of a downswing in the future is the same regardless of if you have been hot, cold, or neutral in the past. So although after having all the data you will see upswings and downswings in poker, it has absolutely no impact on the future. So if you are "on a downswing", it doesn't mean your hands hold up less than they're supposed to, it doesn't mean something intrinsically changed. It means that in the past, there was some variance.
If you can eliminate tilt, the past can not indicate the present or the future in poker, because each deal, flop, turn, and river are all independent (all of them combined, the flop is obviously dependent on the deal, as if you are dealt the Ah the odds of a flop containing the Ah has obviously decreased heavily).
What follows directly from this is that thinking about the past will not help you one bit in poker, and being of the mentality that you are in a downswing will hurt your game because it will cause you to play differently than you would in a normal situation. Once you have a sample of 50k hands, feel free to examine them as a whole, feel free to look for leaks in your game and use it to estimate a win-rate. But don't look at the last 2k hands and adjust your play or use the fact that you are in a downswing as part of any decisions. Cold and hot runs are artificially created by our brains. A person or certain probability cannot be "hot" or "cold". Being hot or cold in the past is possible, but today and tomorrow, my luck is the same as your luck is the same as Phil Ivey's luck. It doesn't matter who is hot or cold or due, that set still has the same odds of hitting for all of us every single time.