What is tilt?
Tilt, in a poker hand, can be defined as any negative deviation from the way a player would have played that hand had he been thinking rationally to the best of their current ability, without letting any emotions cloud their thought process.
Tilt will likely affect almost every player who plays poker. Tilt can occur for an endless amount of reasons.
How to overcome tilt
Step 1: Identify YOUR triggers
What exactly is causing you to play irrationally? The first thing you need to do is anytime you find yourself doing anything irrational in a poker hand or series of hands, is to identify what triggered this tilt.
Here are some examples of tilt triggers:
Bad beat tilt might be triggered if you suffer a (or multiple) perceived bad beat or perceived injustice.
Tiredness tilt might be triggered after you have been playing for longer than your average session.
Winning tilt (yes, this is a type of tilt too) might be triggered after you are up a certain amount of buy-ins for the session.
You can make notes of any tilt triggers whilst you are at the table, or afterwards when you are reviewing your sessions.
Step 2: Identify the manifestations
Exactly how are you playing irrationally, after each tilt trigger? Once you have identified the type of tilt, you will have to understand how the tilt manifests itself. This will vary from player to player.
Bad beat tilt – Some players will start to see monsters under the bed, and will not try and get maximal value from the strong hands (preferring to keep pots small, in case they get another bad beat) or fold strong hands altogether in situations where they shouldn’t (fearing one or two particular even stronger hands, even though they are a tiny part of an opponent’s overall range). Other players will try and get their money back asap, even if it means playing in a suboptimal way by creating volatility when it is not the best strategy.
Tiredness tilt – Some players may auto-pilot when tired, and not bother making all the calculations needed or considering all available information when making decisions. Other players may start making glaring mistakes.
Winning tilt – Some players may feel invincible and start taking unjustified gambles when winning. Other players will try and protect what they have instead of taking the best strategic line.
You can make notes of any how each form of tilt is manifesting itself for you whilst you are at the table, or afterwards when you are reviewing your sessions.
Step 3: Think through the logical fallacies
Once you have identified the types of tilt that affect you, and how each manifests itself for you, you then have to start finding the logical fallacies of your thoughts.
This step takes a lot of thought, and is best done away from the table, at a time when you are able to think fully rationally (i.e. are not under any form of tilt)
Let’s us look at he logical fallacies of the thought process of getting upset by perceived bad beats, which then cause suboptimal deviations in a player’s game:
- In any given poker hand, you usually have some equity and your opponent’s have some equity. When you win a hand, you usually win the whole pot (except in the case of a tie). For example if you get AA in versus QQ preflop, and win you win 100% of the pot, not 80%. When you lose, a poker hand (even if you are favorite), think of it as paying back all those times you got more than your fair share of equity in the pot.
- Taking the get AA versus QQ preflop all-in example above, you are meant to lose 1 in 5 times. In any one given hand, you will either lose or win. Losing 1 in 5 times, is not the same as losing 0 out of 5 times. Whilst this may seem obvious, many beginner poker players (and some not so beginner) seem to think they have some right to win every time they are ahead.
- If you believe your bad beat was caused by your opponent doing something he shouldn’t have, e.g. calling with a hand he shouldn’t, and then getting lucky by hitting an one outer, if you think about it this is great news. Would you rather your opponent called you correctly (and needed less luck), or incorrectly (and needed a lot of luck to win)? Clearly, if it’s the latter you are in a great game.
- The variance built into the rules of poker, which causes so called bad beats is what makes the game profitable for studied players over unstudied players in the first place. The unstudied players would not have any incentive to play, if their was no variance, and they were punished for all their incorrect plays immediately – instead the variance of the game often rewards them in the short term for incorrect plays, solidifying their incorrect beliefs and keeping them playing for longer. Being properly bankrolled for the games you play, will lessen your risk of ruin due to variance, and as such will likely cause you less worries – we have a detailed training article about bankroll management at UnfairPoker.com
Dealing with tilt at the table
When you spot a known tilt trigger that has affected you in the past whilst you are playing, it is important to STOP what you are doing and acknowledge it e.g. you have just suffered a bad beat, or are starting to feel tired. This does not mean you have to necessarily stop playing (although it may help to take a short break, if you are playing a cash game), instead you could take a certain number of deep breaths every time.
After that, what you do depends on how much work you have done away from the table.
If you have had a chance to identify the logical fallacy of your thoughts for a particular type of tilt, and have fully accepted these fallacies, you may be able to ensure you are not affected by this type of tilt (even though it has affected you in the past).
If however, you begin to spot manifestations of the tilt, in your game, you should seriously consider stopping playing (if it’s a cash game) if you think this type of tilt will affect future hands. If you believe you have spotted a new tilt trigger, and you have had not had a chance to work through the logical fallacies of this form of tilt, again we recommend you stop playing if you can.