The apestyles guide: Downswings and confidence

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Jonathan “apestyles” Van Fleet has always had a knack for finding solutions to problems. It’s one of the reasons he’s been able to remain at the top of the high-stakes poker tournament world for more than a decade.

So when he goes on a downswing–yep, even the best players in the world have downswings (and you will too)–he knows there’s a problem.

“My system is: ‘Something is wrong, how do we fix it?’. That’s how I treat downswings,” he says in a video from the Apestyles Bundle.

It seems simple, right?

Well, it might seem that way, but it’s certainly not easy to do when you’re getting whacked by a cold deck time and time again in huge spots.

“I know some people are like: “Ahh I’m running so bad, this guy plays so bad and wins, I don’t know why…”, all of those different stories. Sometimes I want to curl up into a ball after a bad session, for sure.”

Even though he works incredibly hard away from the tables, a long run of bad luck can have a massive impact on your mental mindset.

“I always try to not blame my poker results on external factors, but it’s true that there’s a shit load of luck involved in MTTs,” says apestyles. “Downswings are super common.

“But I also know that it’s useless to say I’m so unlucky. That’s beyond useless.”

So what can you do?

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The answer probably isn’t what you want to hear. There’s no magic switch you can flip to change your luck. There’s no special secret that winning grinders know that you couldn’t also find out.

The answer is simply to keep working, both on and off the tables. For one thing, you’ve got to keep studying. It’s the only way to give you confidence on the felt.

“I study a lot and there’s a reason for it,” says BBZ Poker founder Jordan ‘bigbluffzinc’ Drummond. “The biggest thing you can do when you’ve had a horrible day and you’re going through a downswing is to go to sleep. Wake up. Study for an hour or two. Then play your next session knowing that you’re better than you were yesterday when you lost.”

Don’t become complacent if you then have a good session either. You’ve got to keep up with your study, win or lose.

“Today I am a stronger player than I was yesterday and for that reason, I deserve to win more often than I deserved to yesterday,” says BBZ. “[By studying], You’ve earned the peace of mind you get knowing you’re closer to the other side of the downswing.”


Check out: 5 ways to deal with poker downswings


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The BBZ Bundle is packed with a diverse selection of some of the most commonly misplayed and overlooked spots in MTT Poker. Head Coach Jordan Drummond systematically guides you through specific, interactive lectures, giving you an inside perspective on how the top pros at BBZ Poker are plugging their leaks and boosting their win-rate.

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You’ve also got to make sure you’re utilising good game selection and playing within your bankroll. Chasing your losses during a downswing by bigger games is a slippery slope.

Another thing you should try and do is change your mental mindset. This is something that apestyles discusses with BBZ Poker’s Performance Coach, Frank Hamel, in the Apestyles Bundle.

“In-game, if you’re thinking about how unlucky you are, it’s just not something you should spend your time on,” he says. “It’s not good energy. I try to be like, ‘I run good, sorry!’

“Whether or not it has any effect on reality, I don’t know, but I think it’s a better way to be. To believe in good things for yourself.”

There’s no denying, however, that getting unlucky over a long stretch of time can put a serious dent in your confidence. Even a player as experienced and successful as apestyles sees negative thoughts creep into his thought process while playing.

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“Usually, I feel like an unstoppable force,” he says. “In a funny way, I feel bad for other people when I’m in the zone because I feel like the chips just come to me. But this thing has been hitting me recently.

“Every time I get a big stack in tournaments I’m like: ‘How are you going to fuck this up? How are you going to get sucked out on?’ It’s a crushing weight.”

Do those thoughts impact his play?

“Who knows. But probably,” he says. “Can you really run a really thin bluff with the right combos when you’re feeling like you’re going to fuck up?

When apestyles contemplates why he has this feeling of dread, he realizes it’s because he’s always seeking approval, despite already being one of the best in the game and a very popular Twitch streamer.

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apestyles Bootcamp

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The apestyles Bootcamp brings together some of the biggest names in poker for 4 days of poker training and entertainment! Each day our panel of coaches and guest speakers methodically goes through different aspects of NL Holdem MTT poker, inluding preflop, flop, turn, river, ICM, mental game.  Guest speakers include apestyles, Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross, Ben Spragg, Fintan Hand, Jordan Drummond, and more!

“I thought that would give me that solid ego, that belief in what I stand for, and I’m getting there, but I still at times feel all over the place. I’m realizing I shouldn’t need validation, I have it all.

“I don’t think it makes much sense. I know my beliefs. I know what I stand for. I don’t think I have a reason to lack confidence [in life], and I don’t think I have a reason to lack confidence in poker either. I think I have millions of reasons to be confident in poker.”

Hamel then asks apestyles what some of those reasons are.

What brings confidence and how can we focus on these things more?

“Well, what brings me confidence is just 20 years of studying,” says apestyles. “Trusting my process.

Apestyles also cites his past results beating the best players in the world, as well as financial results and win rates over years of playing.

But it’s that first one that applies to all of us.

We get our confidence at the tables through studying. And it’s only with confidence that we can break out of a downswing.

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