Many times during the normal course of a poker players career, things aren't going that well. This is inevitable. It can be the result of bad beats, bad cards, or other factors in life causing you to not play your best game. I wanted to talk today about what to focus on when you are going through a time like this. I feel it is very important to consider these things as sometimes to be a winning player its more important to minimize your losses than to just try to maximize your wins.
The first thing to focus on is pretty obvious, but it still should be mentioned. Tighten up the cards you are playing. When I am playing poorly, it is usuall a result of a combination of two things. Usually I am playing too loose, and also not catching any flops with these cards. Because of this, my table image suffers as I am in a ton of pots and am not showing down great cards. The only way to remedy this situation is to start showing down some big hands. However, since my table image is not good, I will not be able to pick up many pots unless I have a good hand. This takes away a lot of the value of playing these cards because I have to hit my hand in order to win a pot. Because of these reasons, playing tighter is necessary when things aren't going well at the table. Once you start winning a few hands, you can start to loosen up again. I would recommend throwing away any hands except for pairs, AK, AQ and maybe something like JTs.
You should also focus on playing in position more. This is something you should always do, but you should focus on it more when you are having a bad stretch of cards. Don't be afraid to fold a hand like AQ or AJ even if its unraised to you and you are in middle position. If you have a loose image, someone is liable to call from the button with anything and try to 'take the pot away' from you. However, if you have this hand on the button or cutoff, you should still be agressive with it.
Finally, I think it is important to take some time away from the game. Lloyd mentioned this the other day, and I agree with it. If you are having a terrible session, just quit for the day. I've talked about this before but I think some people lose sight of it. If you find yourself unwilling or unable to quit, it's probably a sign you have a gambling problem and poker probably isn't the best thing for you to be doing. Next time you are having a terrible session, make yourself stop before you really want to. If you can't stop, you should seriously consider if you have might have a gambling problem.