Tilt in Poker
written by: John
Poker is full of ups, downs, twists and turns. Everyone has witnessed miracles such as needing a 2 outer on the river only for it to magically appear in midst of you screaming, 'yes, yes, yes,' only to hear your opponent curse you, the cards and the dealer. You are smiling sheepishly knowing that this time, you were very, very lucky.
Of course, variance is a part of poker's ugly downs, twists and turns and likes to poke its head in your business when you least want it to. Perfect examples of this would be holding the nut straight on the flop and pushing all in with an opponent calling only to hit a backdoor flush on the river. Not to mention that you have not been playing poker long if you have yet to have pocket Aces cracked by an opponent's pocket Kings.
Now, in both circumstances it is very easy for a player to feel overwhelmed and excited, both in a good and bad way. If things are going a player's way, they may feel like they are really good and decide to move up in stakes or maybe play their current session longer then they normally would. If things were not going so hot, then this could result in a player spewing their bankroll trying to earn back their losses, not moving down in stakes when their bankroll tells them to or just playing in a bad mood which does not allow anyone to play their 'A' game. And although both of these feelings are quite different, they actually have something very similar in common.
What is Poker Tilt?
What do these feelings have in common? Well, aside from spewing money needlessly, which we will cover soon, both of these feelings are a result of Tilt.
Now, when a player is referred to as 'tilting' or on 'tilt,' it is being implied that this player is emotionally unbalanced. As we mentioned above, this can be good or bad, but most commonly tilt is experienced when a player faces a bad beat, is card dead or has been running bad.
Generally, when a player is on tilt they just simply do not play their 'A' game. This is because they have let their previous emotions interfere with their decisions making capabilities which hinder their ability to play rationally. As it can be imagined, not playing rationally of course would eventually lead to a player going further downhill and being further tilted or on tilt longer.
Repercussions of Tilt
There are several consequences of being tilted with all of these consequences resulting in losing money in the long run.
In the case of being tilted after running well or having series of hands go your way, generally players will think they are much better than what they really are (in most cases). So, these players feel like they can handle anything and decide to move up in stakes well before their bankroll is ready to handle the variances that come along with moving up. Other scenarios include players being a bit too cocky at the table or going as far as trying their luck with less than par hands.
On the other hand, players who are tilting from a bad beat or similar loss will tend to try to chase and recuperate their losses. This of course is dangerous simply because they are not playing their best and are playing angry and with revenge in mind. Another form of tilt would also include not moving down in stakes because a player may feel as if they faced a bad beat and their loss was not due to skill, but just luck.
However, the absolute worst form of tilt is to continue playing which will only aggravate the player and further tilt them.
Learning how to avoid tilt simply needs a book all for itself. Since every player is different, each player will experience and handle tilt in his or her own way. However, here are a few steps that players can take to help them cope with this ugly beast when playing poker.
1. Stop Playing: Yes, that is right. Just stop playing poker. If you are already in the wrong frame of mind, what do you really hope to accomplish? Even if you were to manage to make your money back after a loss, it is a good possibility that you are so tilted that you lose it again shortly afterward. Hmm, and what do you suppose that will do to your feelings?
It is also important to keep in mind that the game will be there for you to play tomorrow, the next day or even a year from now. There is absolutely no sense in playing if you cannot play rationally and play to win.
2. Play One Hand at a Time: Treat each hand that you play as an individual hand with its own individual decisions and consequences. The sooner you forget about 'that one hand' several hundred hands ago, the better off you will be.
3. Make Solid Plays: If you are making solid plays, what are you upset about? Making solid positive expected value plays will prove to be profitable in the long run. Remind yourself that the next time the donkey across the table from you decided to call your all-in and crack your aces with 7-2 off suit.
4. Realize You're Tilting: This is probably the most important tip. Knowing that you are tilting will allow you to analyze your play and make a decision on whether or not you should continue playing. Some players can work through tilt fairly well while others cannot. Know which player you are, realize when you are tilting and focus on making the best decision for you.
5. Separate Yourself from Your Money: You obviously understand the risks associated with taking your money and buying chips. That is why it is called gambling. Sure, poker of course requires skill to be a long-term winner but like any casino game, it is possible to lose. Always separate yourself from your bankroll. This will not only prevent you from tilting, but you will play much better poker.
Tilting in Poker
The most important thing for players to understand about tilt is what tilt is, how they react to tilt as an individual and how they to go about addressing it. Not having a grasp on any of these will only result in money lost, never money gained. As we mentioned above, poker is full of ups, downs, twists and turns and around each of these twists and turns will lurk Tilt. Just be sure you are prepared for this psychological beast.