Playing Poker: How to Prevent Tilt

As you are probably well aware, there are few things more dangerous than being on tilt while playing poker or online poker. Tilt is death. Remember that poker people. When you go on tilt (and you will occasionally go on tilt… even Buddha would go on tilt after enough bad beats in a row) you trade the cold calculating power of your mind for the primitive monkey anger of your heart. Your inner monkey might be raging in its cage but you must be disciplined. You must not let the monkey out or it will cost you money. And a poker player who doesn’t take care of their bankroll is not a poker player for long.

So what do you do if have a great poker mind but you’re so passionate that it is routinely clouded by emotion? First of all, admit you have a problem.

Seriously though, so many poker players feel they aren’t as affected by tilt as they actually are simply because they don’t take time recognize when they are tilting. Everybody thinks they are better than they actually are. It’s so true and tilt is possibly the best example of how poker players tend to overestimate their abilities.

Think of it like the concept of sinning to Catholics. You’re born a sinner and you’ll die a sinner so the best you can do is to try your best to keep the sinning to a minimum. Now just replace the word “sin” with “tilt” and “Catholic” with “poker player” and you get the idea. We all tilt once in a while so make sure you watch for it. Sometimes it sneaks up on you like say… your neighbor’s attractive wife. One moment you’re watering the begonias and chatting with her while she sunbathes and the next moment you’re coveting that which is very naughty to covet. Once you recognize the coveting… I mean tilting, then you need to identify what caused it.

There are two basic causes of tilt: getting steamed at a person and getting steamed at the Universe. The former tends to happen when someone talks trash and baits you. When coupled with them taking pots off of you this can torment even the most level-headed poker player. The latter happens when you’re running cold and the deck has been treating you badly for what seems like way too long. Identify what it is that’s making you tilt and then deal with it appropriately.

When it’s Personal
So you’re angry at some chump across the table. He’s grinning like an idiot after sucking out on the river and all you can think about is how you absolutely have to take every last penny of his, watch him die of a heart attack and then urinate on his grave. Whoa there tiger! You’re on tilt!

Take a deep breath and count backwards from 20. Then stand up and walk away from the table. Seriously, if you’re this angry you should not be playing poker. You need to accept that sometimes the jerks win and as long as you continue to play smart you’ll be in the black and that’s all that matters.

There’s no way to play smart when you want to pull someone’s arms out of their sockets so just walk away for now.

When it’s the Universe
If you catch yourself ever thinking, “Damn, I’m pushing here because I have to get lucky sooner or later,” you are officially on tilt with the Universe. If Lady Luck continues to rain bad beat after bad beat on you for days and even weeks or months, you need to be very careful that you don’t start assuming that “luck” will eventually balance out by letting you catch that runner-runner-straight draw.

A good player knows that in the long run, you make your own luck. Walk away from the table if you find you’re throwing your money around in ways you normally wouldn’t, and remember that variance has its brutal periods and that in order to weather it you need to keep playing smart.