Poker Strategy: Winning in a High Variance Game


A high variance game gives players a good opportunity to make large amounts of cash quickly. Variance refers to the swings (or volatility) in a poker player's bankroll. Games with high variance refer to those that can cause big swings in your bankroll. Some of the poker games with high variance are Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) cash games, multi-table tournaments, and 'Sit and Go's'.

Reading the Situation

To be able to win in high variance games, you will need exceptional skill when it comes to reading a game situation. As a high variance game player, you will often get into situations where a large proportion of your bankroll would be at stake. The ability to read a situation, assessing your hand against what the opponents are likely to have, will serve you well in such situations. This ability will help you decide to stick with your guns, or conserve your bankroll and fight for the next round.

Changing Gears

As a high variance game player, you also need to be able to change gears quickly. This is because the complexion of high variance games can change rapidly. You could have a huge number of chips at stake and your chances of continuing in the game will depend on your ability to quickly adapt to a new scenario. That is why you should be able to change gears as the game changes. You should be able to modify your playing style to counteract with other players on the table who might start being aggressive when the game enters these make or break moments.

Play with a Big Bankroll

Typically, games with high variance require big bankrolls, which will allow a player to stay in a game even when he experiences a downward swing. One of the benefits of playing in a high variance games, is that you can earn huge sums when you go through an upward swing. This can help tide over losses incurred during downward swings. Since bankroll plays an important role in letting you stay in a game and win, you should employ a few strategies that will help you manage the money.

  • PLO Cash Games. Retain a sum that will allow you to pay for a minimum of 30 buy-ins. This will help ensure that less than 4% of your bankroll is at risk at any given point in a session. This will enable you to play so you can win in the long run. In long-term, high variance games, a player’s skill and chances of winning emerge.
  • 'Sit and Go' Tournaments (Omaha). One of the most volatile and high variance forms of poker are 'Sit and Go' tournaments. In these tournaments, players can go through long spells of wining and losing. To have sufficient bankroll to fund your games, it is important to maintain at least 50 times the buy-in in their accounts. If you experience a big loss at the beginning of the game, avoid cashing in more than the buy-in. This will give you a chance to stay in the game longer and increase your chances of winning.

Modify Your Style of Playing

Your style of play should be well suited for high variance game play. Blinds can be stolen and chips added to your stack quite early in a high variance game. While stealing the blinds in tournaments can be beneficial, it is not so much the case in cash games. So avoid playing for the blinds in the latter.

A loose aggressive style of playing can be quite effective in games with opponents who are tight players. A loose aggressive player will enter more pots. He will also play more hands than his opponents. This exposes him to many opportunities to win in a high variance game. It gives you the chance to build the pot if you open with a raise. Playing this way is best suited for tournaments, because it helps build big stacks in a short time. In the bubble stage of events, you will have power if you use this playing style.

Be Mentally Prepared for Swings

When playing in high variance games, there is a strong possibility that your bankroll will see significant downward swings. A player should be prepared mentally for this volatility. If you have been on a losing streak and want to stop it, you may also want to leave the session. You can return to it later. In case you come across too many bad beats, fold a few not-so-good hands after that and take a break. You need to be strong both mentally and tactically if you want to win at high variance games.

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