In this article, you will learn to understand tilt, what triggers it and how you can deal with these triggers in a more productive way. We will also cover what you should do if you were unable to prevent tilting and which steps you should take the least amount of damage from it.
We define tilt as anger combined with bad play. Once you are in an agitated mental state, making rational choices becomes incredibly difficult.
Therefore, the prevention of tilt is always the better choice over dealing with the symptoms.
What causes tilt? What are typical triggers?
There are two types of triggers, those that happen while you are playing Texas No-Limit Holdem, and other external factors that are not part of a poker game, but make you more vulnerable to tilt.
A useful analogy for understanding tilt is to imagine a cooking pot filled with water. The water boiling over represents tilting in this metaphor.
External factors such as stress at home, trouble at work, financial worries, lack of sleep, consumption of alcohol or merely the absence of a good coping mechanism for dealing with frustrations of any kind preheat your water, before you even play your first hand.
For some people, those might also be external events that happen while you play. Listening to a particular type of music can cause a spike of adrenaline in some people. Loud noises such the neighbor’s drilling machine or the sound of crying children can heat up the pot further.
Other people might feel stress in a room that is too warm or too cold, by being hungry or thirsty.
Putting the cooking pot onto a hot plate represents internal factors. Depending on the strength of the trigger, this can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. The heat of the cooktop can also vary significantly.
Taking control of your emotions allows you to take off the cooking pot from the hot plate, so it can cool off a bit.
Your goal is to start with a cooking pot filled with ice-cold water. You only want to expose your cooking pot to any hot plate for a maximum of a few seconds. Continue to measure your water temperature on every hand, so you can pull the emergency break at any time when you are no longer in control.
What are some of the internal factors? In general anything that is going against your vision of how a certain aspect of the game should work out.
A phenomenon, where you have a strong hand and lose with it, is often called a bad beat. Example: If you hold pocket Aces lose against a player with pocket Two’s who got a triplet on the river.
Weak Starting Hand Streak
Having a streak of weak starting hands can be very frustrating. If you miss the flop over and over again, and never get the matching card for your flush or straight it is easy to get angry. It almost seems as if life itself was conspiring against you by giving you unfair odds or just bad luck the entire day.
Slow Playing Opponents
In real life poker games, this often happens in combination with another source of frustration: Slow-playing opponents. When it is taking too long till it is your turn again, and you already thought about your last hand for several minutes it is easy to get impatient.
In online games this rarely happens, but the sheer number of bad cards in a row can more than compensate for the lack of slowness.
Loose-playing opponents can be an incredibly powerful source of anger. Imagine if you have a lovely pair of pocket Jacks and the suddenly the player to your left is going all-In preflop. This might happen over and over again until you finally decide to call his “bluff.” Then you loose because he had a strong hand for a change.
Losing a big pot because of a poor Internet connectivity or by clicking the wrong button by accident can add to the mix.
Thinking About What-if Situations
If you tend to think about what-if situation you are in danger of tilting as well. Folding a weak starting hand, then seeing the board and realizing you would have won the game if you only had played can be nerve wracking.
You might also face a trash-talking opponent who finally manages to get under your skin when you lose a big hand.
Anything that gets your emotions flowing has the potential to cause tilt.
How to Deal with Triggers of Tilt in a Productive Way?
When it comes to stress, it is always better to remove a source of stress instead of learning to live with it. You want to eliminate as many external triggers, as possible.
Start with a basic healthy lifestyle: Get enough sleep, enjoy healthy food on a regular basis and drinking enough water over the day.
Play Mentally Fresh and Energized
Only play when you feel mentally fresh and energized. For some players, this might be early in the morning, for others this might be on the weekend, for some it might be a physical exercise before the game.
Exercising on a regular basis helps to reduce stress hormones naturally.
It also helps with blood circulation. Don’t overdo it though, an exhausted body won’t be of any benefit for your play.
Play with a Clear Mind
Avoid playing under any form of mind-altering substances such as alcohol, drugs, and certain prescription medicine.
Deal with Personal Problems First
When you feel stress about any problem in life, deal with those first before sitting down at a poker table. You might think that you can handle it, but problems tend to pile up, and before you know it, you have a big weight on your shoulder that is slowly eating up all your energy.
Take Control of Your Emotions
Learn how deal with your emotions. This could be autogenous training, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness, visiting an anger management seminar or talking with a health professional about your anger problems.
Once you learned how to calm your mind, create an environment that is beneficial for a quiet mind. If your environment is too hectic, consider changing it. Go to a different poker room or take your laptop to a beautiful library for your next game. You can also look for a babysitter if your kids are distracting you.
Eat and Drink Enough
Make sure that you ate and drank something before you start, preferably an hour before you start playing so you will not feel a lack of energy because of your body is digesting the food.
Have a Game Plan Ready
Make a plan before you play. Define how many minutes or hours you want to play and when you wish to take a break. Set an alarm, so you know when to take your next break and when your playing time is over.
Only Play with Money You Can Easily Afford to Loose
Establish a bankroll for each poker game and keep track of it. Example: Assuming you are playing a micro stack cash game with blinds of $0.05/$0.10: With a buy-in of $10 per game, your can start each game with a stack of 100 BB.
To cover for bad streaks you should reserve a minimum of 20-40 buy-in as a reserve (20 x $10 = $200; 40 x $10 = $400). If your bankroll is $400 and you lose all your money of a single cash game ($10), you can still play another 39-times to cover your losses.
Besides having a bankroll per game, and a total bankroll it is recommended to define a maximum number of losses per day, week, and month. Example: Max. Loss per day before I stop playing for the rest of the day: $20. Max Loss per week: $50, max. Loss per month: $100. Which event triggers first serves as the stop signal.
How to Deal with Trash-Talking Opponents
If you are easily getting angry over a trash-talking opponent, consider wearing headphone during a game or turn off the chat window in an online game.
Remember: Poker Is Also a Game of Probabilities and Chances
If you are facing a bad beat or a series of weak starting hands, you have to remember that poker is also a game of probabilities and chances.
Randomness can be a very confusing topic. There is a common misconception that a specific card or hand combination is due.
This would only apply to a game where cards are removed from the deck. In Texas Holdem, all cards are returned to the deck after each round. Therefore, the probabilities to draw a specific starting hand will be entirely independent of whatever starting hands have been drawn in the past.
What to Do about Loose Players
If you face a loose playing opponent, you can either wait for the perfect opportunity to steal all of his chips, or just change the table. Sometimes just waiting and folding for a couple of rounds will solve the problem naturally, when another player takes the loose players chips.
If You Have a Bad Internet Connection
If you have a poor internet connection, it is a good idea to start thinking about a switch to a new provider. Sometimes a different technology can make a big difference as well. (dial-up, fiber, cable, cellular network)
Thinking about What-If?
If you happen to think about what-if scenarios you should always remember that those thoughts are entirely pointless. What if you knew the lottery numbers of the next ten years in advance? You always have to make decisions based on incomplete information. There is no way to cheat the universe or to see the future. If you make the best choice based on all the information you have at a given moment, you will be a profitable player in the long run.
Emergency: What to Do When You Are on Tilt?
Get out as Soon as Possible
If you are noticing that you are slowly getting angry or are already in a mental state of uncontrollable rage, you should stop playing as soon as possible. Press the sit out on next hand button in your online poker game or leave the table in a casino cash game.
Deal with the Physical Symptoms
If you cannot escape the situation without losing everything, for example in a tournament try to apply one of the following techniques to calm yourself down:
Reverse the bodily symptoms of anger with breathing exercises. They can help you to relax and slow your heart rate to more normal levels.
The most powerful tool for calming your emotions is controlled breathing. First inhale and exhale deeply 3 or 4 times in a row. Slowly count to four as you inhale, then to eight as you exhale. Focus on feeling the air moving in and out of your lungs. Stop and revert to normal breathing if you start to feel dizzy at any time.
You can distract your mind by starting to count from 1 to 10, or from 1 to 100 if the feeling of anger is very strong. Other forms of distraction include drawing doodles or taking notes. If you have some time to practice, you can learn to stack poker chips.
Do Some Exercise
Try to do some exercise, stand up, walk around if possible, and stretch your muscles. Physical activities have a calming effect on our autonomous nervous system and help to combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
Try to think about something you are grateful for. This could be a personal relationship such as your child, spouse, brothers, and sisters or your parents. Maybe it is your health, or the car you drive. Whatever it is, the act of being grateful can make us happy.
Forgive People and Circumstances
You can try to forgive the person has provoked you, or the circumstance that caused your frustration. This can be the law of physics, or any deity you believe in. Forgiveness is an excellent tool to subdue your anger.
How can you practice?
Thankfully you don’t have to get angry to practice the techniques discussed in this article. Most of the exercises can be integrated into your daily routine and is just as beneficial when we are in a good mood.
For additional practice, we recommend you to take a look at our advanced poker training software.
You can create a free account by clicking on the Start Training button below:
Once you created your new account, navigate to the member page and click on 9-Max icon.
You can practice against 100 life-like opponents and play up to 500 hands an hour, with no waiting for slow opponents.
If you want to practice against loose players without losing your mind, you can choose a special player mix typical for loose players.
Step 1: Navigate to the Player Mix section.
Step 2: Pick either “very passive” or “unknown”. This allows you to play against a variety of different players of whom all or some play very loose, similar to a real life amateur poker game.
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