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Old 10-19-2009, 03:43 AM   #1
SwAyWithSkill
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COTW: Tilt Management

So, what exactly is tilt? Wikipedia says...

"Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive. This term is closely associated with steam and some consider the terms equivalent, but 'steam' typically carries more anger and intensity."

That definition may sound familiar to anyone who has ever played a fair amount of poker. You have experienced tilt. I have experienced tilt. Everyone has experienced tilt. It sucks. It can allow to you make poor decisions in some situations, like calling an all-in with aces on a board with an opponent that you know has hit harder than yours, or calling a shortstackers (I hope they all die) all-in with the suited connectors you tried to isolate other limpers with from the button. Bottom line is, tilt can lead to poor decisions, which lowers our profit margin when we play poker.

If we can get a better understanding of tilt, and how we can minimize the effects it has on our game, that means more money for me and you!


In my opinion, different things tilt different people.

When I first started playing, I used to tilt whenever I was "sucked out" on a few times in a row. I would think I am the unluckiest person in the world, and that I would need to find a way to make back everything that I had just lost. This eventually led to putting my entire bankroll at 200NL on Carbon Poker, where some shark would eat me alive.

To me, it seems these beats hurt new players a lot more than the typical seasoned grinder. Bad beats happen to everyone, if you don't believe me, go over to BBV (link BBV) and go see for yourself. I have a few friends of my own who get so bent over bad beats. A pro or a decent player has a solid grasp on the game, and understands how poker and how probability works- just because you have the best hand does not mean it can't lose on further streets. However, as long as they make the correct play, the pro/decent player understands that the money will run in their favor in the long run. Think about this, say I was able to create my own game at a casino, where I always have a 70% chance in winning (roughly the advantage we may have on a strong hand against a villain), and I only have to pay 1:1 odds if I lose. Sure, we will lose sometimes, but in the long run, we will have a +EV. If you play perfectly and still lose, there's nothing you can do about it. It's just like the casino game we created, we will win in the long run.

Another type of tilt that I find myself guilty of, is when I realize I played a hand terrible, and end up losing because of it. This drives me nuts. I think of all the money I could have saved if I played the hand correctly. I look at the decreasing red line on my PT3 and look at the extra thousands of dollars that could be in my poker account right now. It will continue to eat away at me for the rest of my poker session, and will probably lead me to make more stupid decisions.

I would expect players who have a somewhat decent grasp on the game to struggle with this. Poker is a game where we are continuously trying to improve our strategy. For someone like me, who has finally started making some money after being a slightly losing player online before the beginning of 2009, I will continue to make plenty of mistakes. Dealing with this will come later on in the discussion, just be aware that this tilt exists.

Lastly, things that happen to us in the real world could potentially tilting. Whether it be your beautiful girlfriend breaking up with you (been there, lost plenty of monies), financial struggles (could push you to try and win at a faster rate), or other stressful situations, these can affect our poker game as well. Despite what you may think, no one lives a fairy tale life. Everyone is vulnerable to this type of tilt.


I'm sure everyone can relate to at least one of the tilt examples listed earlier in this thread, so now we need to figure out how to deal with it! If we are able to effectively deal with tilt, we can be closer to playing optimal and make more money! In my opinion, every person has their own solution in dealing with tilt, everyone is different, however, I can tell you what has helped me overcome tilting. I also recommend that readers reply with their methods of dealing with tilt.

I consider myself to be very patient, I do not get angry easily. But just like anyone else, tilt will always happen and we just need to deal with it effectively. First, let's consider the following statement:

"If we are not playing our best possible poker game, we should not be playing the maximum stakes that we are properly bankrolled for."

As games get tougher and tougher, we need to be at our best to be a step ahead of our competition. It is the little things that allow us to squeeze out our 1-3BB/100 winrates at the tables. If we are not playing at our best, then we are just as bad as rest of the field. If we don't have an edge, then there is no profit to be made.

Here are a couple guidelines I follow while experiencing tilt:

1) If I am not playing well, I am willing to end my poker session early.

With the exception of tournaments, we can leave our poker tables whenever we want. The fish will always be there ready and willing to donate.

2) If I am not in the mood to play a session, then I don't play.

Whenever I am bored, first thing that usually pops in my mind is poker. If tilted, playing regular stakes poker purely because you are bored is not a good enough reason to play. There are other options available. For me, it's either working out, WoW, Pogo Spades, or WCIII. For others, it may just be as simple as reading a book.

One other idea that I have been messing with lately is trying a new type of poker game at the smallest micro stakes. For me, this would be 2 PLO and .05/.1 Limit Hold'em. Now this may not be applicable for everyone, (since if you are currently grinding 2NL, then playing a new game at those stakes are probably not a good idea) but if you play something like 100NL, then you're not risking much to have some fun, not to mention, you may still even have a slight edge on the field just purely on your general poker abilities. Even though there isn't a monetary incentive playing this low when you're used to playing for more money, I find it to be a lot of fun learning a new game. On the positive side, this may begin to get your footing into multiple games, and end up being +EV in the long run when you become decent in more than one type of game. Nevertheless, breaking even at the micros is better than spewing at higher stakes!

Everyone has their own solution for dealing with tilt, but the bottom line is, playing tilted poker only because you are bored is a bad idea. I look forward to reading other people's ideas on things they choose to turn to when tilting on poker.


Drinking, online poker, and you

As cool as it may seem to be at first, playing drunk is a very bad idea. While some may argue that drinking can be +EV live (great table image), it is impossible for drinking to be +EV online. It may lead some to bad choices in game, or make you take ill-advised shots at higher stakes.

If anyone has more things to add, please do, I look forward to reading them!

Cliff notes

- Tilting is bad
- If you're tilting, don't play
- Don't drink and play online poker!
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:43 AM   #2
SwAyWithSkill
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

in before tldr....
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:36 AM   #3
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Wah! I need this one! And I agree completely with the cliffnotes (just don't stick with them yet... )
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Old 10-19-2009, 06:53 AM   #4
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Great article. I have heard of this 'tilt' thing, It sounds interesting
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:31 AM   #5
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Go hug your girlfriend, say that you love her and spend an hour with her..and then get back to grinding
this helps a lot!
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:33 AM   #6
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Nice start! For a change I have something to add.

While we can't directly control whether we tilt or not, we can control our actions at the unfortunate times.

1. Step away from the computer
You're not playing objectively.

2. Step away from poker
It does no good to mull the bad hands in your head. While you should take the hands for review, don't do it straight away. Do something else to get your mind off the issue. Peel an orange. Do some pushups. If the weather permits, get out of the house and do something productive.

I like to hop on a bike and go for a ride. It does a world of good to get into the fresh air and pound the frustration through my legs and into a locomotive force. Or I grab my gardening gloves and go uproot some weeds.

3. Do not dismiss the tilting hands as bad beats
When you're feeling better, it's time to review the game. Something happened in the hands that tilted you. If you're lucky, it might have been a bad play you didn't know of beforehand.

4. Listen to other people
I recall the last time I tilted. My wife commented sternly that shouting the way I had done was not healthy and I will stop my games right there. I did, and took a couple of days off entirely. That was more than a year ago, and since then I haven't felt the need to repeat the incidence.

5. Frustration is the first sign of pending tilt
If you ever find yourself thinking "Oh for f**k's sake.." take it as a warning sign.
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Old 10-19-2009, 08:18 AM   #7
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Stop losses.
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Old 10-19-2009, 09:11 AM   #8
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Originally Posted by Bostik View Post
5. Frustration is the first sign of pending tilt
If you ever find yourself thinking "Oh for f**k's sake.." take it as a warning sign.
That's my tilt warning, anytime I think/say/shout that I begin to play badly.

I'd just like to add (mainly as a warning for myself) that The fish will still be there tomorrow. Don't chase your losses, its ok to have a losing session, if you feel you have to play to break even then you are never going to be as patient and as clear minded as usual.
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Old 10-19-2009, 09:18 AM   #9
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Excellent post! I definitely like your analogy about the 70% game and I think that if people can keep that image in their head, it can help them out a ton. There are a few things I've done that have drastically reduced my tilt (and dramatically upped my WR, also).

1) I do my best to stay present-minded, focusing on the decisions at hand (should I play these cards? Should I stay at this table? What's the best line/bet size here?) I try to ask myself as many of these questions as I can so that I'm not focusing on some hand that happened a half hour ago, checking my BR on the cashier or steaming.

2) I turn off all IM programs, browsers and table chat. This makes for fewer distractions and discourages me from sending bad beats to people on AIM. I used to do this a lot to make myself feel better and laugh (or so I told myself), but it really just prolonged my tilt and took away energy that I should have been using to focus on the moment at hand.

3) If I felt like I misplayed a hand, I would promise myself to look at it after the session was over. That way, I could keep playing focused, while acknowledging that something needed to be done.
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Old 10-19-2009, 09:45 AM   #10
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

what i found interesting about tilt ist: we spend so much time thinking about correct betsizes, image, positional awareness etc. and do this until you can wake us up at midnight and we can say every theoretical rule by heart...

but if were on tilt we just dont care any more.

why is that? and what we can do about it?
i think its inner balance for the most part. we know it will happen. we know we have 33 on a 663 board and Villain could suck us out. but why we still tilt? because our level of expectation is growing as fast as our hands played.

villain doesnt deserve to win this pot becuz hes playing 70/10 fish style, word!

i think coming to the point where you ask yourself: did i play it correctly? yes! ok - go on next hand. you found your inner balance within poker.

were all just grinding hand afte rhand aching for profit but losing the sight of the long run. i cant handle it msyself completely - i could do better.. hopefully over time ill improve this..

sorry for my bad english
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Old 10-19-2009, 10:12 AM   #11
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Tommy Angelo's DC video's have pretty much cleared up my tilting problems. They are awesome, recommend them big time.

Making stupid river bets with AK unimproved v a station who's called 2 streets usually sets off the monkey tilt for me.

When I first started playing my biggest leak was calling too many 3bets OOP, sometimes I still find myself doing it subconsciously. This also puts me on a way journey to tilt town.

Playing more tables has helped dramatically, as I generally make less mistakes because I'm playing a nice 14/12 instead of 23/17 and not getting myslef into so many bad spots.

The Table Manager icon in the task tray also used to make me play bad if it was showing negative, no matter what i tried I just couldn't stop looking at the damn thing, and i'd be like "stack someone and I'm up, whoo hoo suited connectables.....lets 4bet.....damn he has dem Aces" which in turn completely screws with my ability to make good decisions. The past few weeks i've been using TableNinjaFT, I've found that using this keeps my hands completely occupied so i'd be less inclined to keep looking how much I've won/lost and focus purely on making correct decisions.

I still suffer major tilt now and again and the only way to control it, once detected, is to take a break, have a smoke, and regain some focus.
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Old 10-19-2009, 10:41 AM   #12
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Good post.

It is easy to say, "step away from the table." It is extremely hard to do. Bostik has listed some great ways to recognize the signs of tilt. One way around it is to create habits that provide a counter force to tilt. Some things that have worked for me.

1. Short sessions: Develop the habit of taking a break no matter how good the tables are after a fixed playing time. For me, it is one hour. Unless there is a huge fish at the table, I just shut them down. What this does for you is that it provides a counterweight to your desire to keep playing. If you get yourself used to getting up and getting something to drink or eat (for us older micro players, nature often calls), this can overcome the desire to keep burning money. Once up from the tables and doing something else, it is much easier to recognize tilt. If you do this regularly, then you at least cut short your tilt time.

2. Keeping track of mistakes. One reason that you don't seem more experienced posters starting threads with HHs is that they often know as soon as they finish the hand how they played it wrong. If I make two mistakes within a 1/2 hour period of time, I shut down the tables. Keep paper and pencil handy and just jot down the time when you think you played a hand badly.

3. Print out HHs of when you gave someone else a bad beat. Yes, you've gotten lucky too. It helps to have 4 or 5 around as a sanity check to the "I never catch a break" monster.
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Old 10-19-2009, 11:18 AM   #13
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

After a two-outer, I actually pounded the table with a fist three weeks ago......in front of my wife.

First time in my poker life I actually lost control. I have felt "tilt" before, but lately I have allowed it to creep in and nest. I believe 'for me', tilt is everpresent now BECAUSE I have been on an extended BE stretch. Winning has always allowed the sharp edges to get smoothed over and keep the tiltmonkey away.

I have vowed to cage the monkey. To do this, I will have to break down my play to the basics and rebuild. I begin today.
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:05 PM   #14
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Doom & Gloom

i hate losing, period. i know it happens and there is little we can do when someone coolers us, or we believe we're crushing when in fact we're crushed. value betting a river HU when checked to only to be /cr'd(!) and then lose total awareness of where you are in the hand and have to lay down. stuff like that irks me.

last month was a good month. this month i'm down 4 bi's which isn't much, but when you're brought up with the phrase, "show me a good loser and i'll still show you a loser", it sucks. do i continue to play my game (still have 25+ bi's for the fiddy) or do i move down and ride it out until i book a 4 sesh win, and then go back to 50nl? this is what i'm currently asking myself...

last night the tables weren't good and i found myself sitting with a table full of grinders, 3 betting each other. my raise and cbets were met with flats/floats and 4 bets. i wasn't feeling mentally aware and left after dropping 3 bi's. i was up 1 bi from a morning sesh, lost it and another at a 2nd sesh, then last night the other two totaled 3.

i'm 50/50 on positive attitude right now... the Doom & Gloom cloud hovers over me when i open up a sesh... Ricky1231 mentioned playing at your reg stakes as 1 of his 5 points when facing a downswing in his "not a well' thread... i think i'll play another 2 bi's and then drop if need be.

how do you handle the Doom & Gloom feelings? i can't be the only one who goes through it from time to time...
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:06 PM   #15
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

When I'm up like 2 buy-ins and then lose them, that's what makes me tilt. I feel the urge that i HAVE to get it back. I become desperate and start making bad decisions. It's EXTREMELY hard to quit because you want to get at least back to even before you quit. You don't think you're playing bad, but YOU ARE. All the sudden you're down 5 buy-ins, are full of anger and frustration so you smack the wall and procced to run down and smash something because you need to get this frustration our of your system.


Had one of these today, and it feels horrible.

These days I try to always end it when I feel I start losing cuz I know that whenever I start losing, I don't stop. But it's extremely hard to walk away.
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:13 PM   #16
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Originally Posted by imfromsweden View Post
When I'm up like 2 buy-ins and then lose them, that's what makes me tilt. I feel the urge that i HAVE to get it back. I become desperate and start making bad decisions. It's EXTREMELY hard to quit because you want to get at least back to even before you quit. You don't think you're playing bad, but YOU ARE. All the sudden you're down 5 buy-ins, are full of anger and frustration so you smack the wall and procced to run down and smash something because you need to get this frustration our of your system.


Had one of these today, and it feels horrible.

These days I try to always end it when I feel I start losing cuz I know that whenever I start losing, I don't stop. But it's extremely hard to walk away.
how much of that is the fact we BELIEVE we MUST be better than our opponents??? in the back of my mind there is always the voice which is telling me that... "you read, you watch vids, you've picked up some coaching... there is NO REASON you shouldn't be a better player than the majority of 50nl players! for krissakes that 54/4 with 1.6k hands is absolutely CRUSHING two tables and is up 6.5 bi's!!!! wtf????
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Old 10-19-2009, 12:18 PM   #17
SwAyWithSkill
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Originally Posted by RapidEvolution View Post
Excellent post! I definitely like your analogy about the 70% game and I think that if people can keep that image in their head, it can help them out a ton. There are a few things I've done that have drastically reduced my tilt (and dramatically upped my WR, also).

1) I do my best to stay present-minded, focusing on the decisions at hand (should I play these cards? Should I stay at this table? What's the best line/bet size here?) I try to ask myself as many of these questions as I can so that I'm not focusing on some hand that happened a half hour ago, checking my BR on the cashier or steaming.

2) I turn off all IM programs, browsers and table chat. This makes for fewer distractions and discourages me from sending bad beats to people on AIM. I used to do this a lot to make myself feel better and laugh (or so I told myself), but it really just prolonged my tilt and took away energy that I should have been using to focus on the moment at hand.

3) If I felt like I misplayed a hand, I would promise myself to look at it after the session was over. That way, I could keep playing focused, while acknowledging that something needed to be done.
Great suggestions! I especially like the 3rd one..

If I feel like I play a hand terrible, it will be stuck in my mind for the rest of the session either trying to figure out a solution to the problem (while 9 tabling), or telling myself that I'm bad... I'm gonna give those a shot and see if they help me

Last edited by SwAyWithSkill; 10-19-2009 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:17 PM   #18
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

Quote:
Originally Posted by imfromsweden View Post
When I'm up like 2 buy-ins and then lose them, that's what makes me tilt. I feel the urge that i HAVE to get it back. I become desperate and start making bad decisions. It's EXTREMELY hard to quit because you want to get at least back to even before you quit. You don't think you're playing bad, but YOU ARE. All the sudden you're down 5 buy-ins, are full of anger and frustration so you smack the wall and procced to run down and smash something because you need to get this frustration our of your system.


Had one of these today, and it feels horrible.

These days I try to always end it when I feel I start losing cuz I know that whenever I start losing, I don't stop. But it's extremely hard to walk away.
Paradoxically, this is partly because of confidence. You say to yourself 'No problem, I've won 3BI in a session lots of times'. The problem comes when you start trying just a little too hard to make it happen rather than letting it happen. If you are a good player, over time the right situations will arise where you can profit from them and make up your losses, but it might not be tonight. The problem is 'I don't want to be a loser tonight'. Ask yourself if you would already have quit if you were up 2BI rather than down.

I've become much better at recognizing that bad state of mind in myself.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:25 PM   #19
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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how do you handle the Doom & Gloom feelings? i can't be the only one who goes through it from time to time...
Been there. Every time I opened tables I was right back in that desperate state of mind. First time I got sucked out on I was totally steamed. When you are at that point, you just have to walk away for a few days or even weeks, because if you keep going you are conditioning yourself to feel this way more and more. Watch some vids and read some books and chill for a while. Play some tournaments. Play some micro HORSE or Razz. You'd be surprised how good something like that can be for your state of mind.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:33 PM   #20
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Play some tournaments.

This has definitely been -ev for me when I'm tilted.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:46 PM   #21
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Paradoxically, this is partly because of confidence. You say to yourself 'No problem, I've won 3BI in a session lots of times'. The problem comes when you start trying just a little too hard to make it happen rather than letting it happen. If you are a good player, over time the right situations will arise where you can profit from them and make up your losses, but it might not be tonight. The problem is 'I don't want to be a loser tonight'. Ask yourself if you would already have quit if you were up 2BI rather than down.

I've become much better at recognizing that bad state of mind in myself.
Exactly!!!!!!!

I want to get back to even so bad I start making "meeeh **** it, if I win this I'm back to even"-kinds of call and other bad plays like trying to bluff people when it's not a good spot.
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Old 10-19-2009, 03:59 PM   #22
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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This has definitely been -ev for me when I'm tilted.
Funny thing. My approach to the game in tournaments is completely different than cash. I'm looking at a completely different set of variables and it just doesn't feel the same to me.

Also, I'm not talking about playing the Sunday 750K . . . I'm talking about playing ultra-low bi satellites and things like that, where there is little to lose but you are still playing poker.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:40 PM   #23
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

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Originally Posted by WJL View Post
The problem comes when you start trying just a little too hard to make it happen rather than letting it happen. If you are a good player, over time the right situations will arise where you can profit from them and make up your losses, but it might not be tonight.
This is gold.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:43 PM   #24
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

I have a slightly wider definition of tilt as any emotional reaction that reduces your ability to make good decisions, not just negative emotions. An example (that maybe only affects new players) is hitting the flop and getting so excited all you can think about is getting the money in.

Physiologically, what's going on is the limbic system, which among other things controls emotion, is taking control of the brain, which greatly reduces your ability to think logically. The key to managing tilt in the moment is noticing it and shifting control back to the prefrontal cortex. I recently listened to a webinar with David Rock, the author of the recent book Your Brain at Work and learned a great technique he calls "labelling." Basically, if you put language to the emotional response by simply assigning a label to it, you necessarily shift control back to the PFC, because the PFC is required for language. When you notice you're tilting, just label the emotion, like "frustration" or "anger" or even "excitement." Your ability to think is immediately lessened and you give yourself a chance to get back to your thinking game.
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Old 10-19-2009, 05:17 PM   #25
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Re: COTW: Tilt Management

great post,
Like to add that tilt can be caused by lots of stuff, not just bad plays/bad beats:

-Playing scared
-Tilt from being up a lot
-A successful Hero call
-Bad day IRL
-etc.
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