Tilt is a problem faced by all poker players, even the very best in the world. This article will take a look at the psychology of tilting, how to recognize it, and what you can do to minimize the effects.

Understanding and Dealing with Tilt
Mental discipline is a key part of becoming a winning poker player. Avoiding tilt is crucial.

What Is Tilting?

The term tilt comes from old-fashioned pinball games. If you moved the machine too aggressively, you’d be punished by having the flippers temporarily deactivated. In poker, if your emotions are out of control, you suffer similar consequences. Your decision-making and critical thinking skills will be hampered, just like your ability to play pinball.

How to Recognise When You Are on Tilt

It’s important to acknowledge straight off the bat that everyone is different. Not only do people have a variety of triggers when it comes to tilting, but they also react differently and for varying lengths of time. The most important thing to master is self-awareness.

A good way to help you learn about yourself and your tilt triggers is to keep a diary. Record notes on your phone when you are playing. Review them after the session. Doing so will help you understand your emotions even after the feelings have been forgotten.

Here are some signs that you may be on tilt:

● Thinking about a previous hand when you should be focused on this one

● Blaming other people for your results or actions

● Raising your voice or typing more into the online chat

● Doubting your strategies and decision-making abilities

● Acting far quicker than usual

Common Causes of Tilt

Although all poker players are unique when it comes to steaming, there are some situations that can cause almost every player to tilt. The two most obvious are bad beats and a long run of bad cards.

External factors can play a role in your tilt

However, external factors can play a role too. Perhaps you’re having difficulty in a personal relationship. Maybe you’re struggling financially or in a full-time job. Lack of sleep, excess alcohol, and even hunger can all contribute to ending up on tilt.

Strategies to Keep Tilt Under Control

When you recognize that you might be tilting, that’s only half of the battle. What can you do about it? Here are some top tips for dealing with a tilt at the poker table. 

Positive Attitude

It’s a statistical certainty that you’re going to experience some outrageous beats. If your opponent has a 1% chance to win, then once every 100 situations, you’re going to be on the wrong end of it. You are going to endure bad beats. End of discussion.

The best way to deal with this is to acknowledge this fact. Be mature. You cannot have everything your own way, all of the time. A great way to cement this mindset is to simply laugh when such things occur.

Sulking, moaning, and complaining not only makes life miserable for the rest of the table, but it will also weigh you down. Poker is ultimately just a game, and a social one at that. If you’re not having fun, you need to reassess your choices.

Hand Analysis

All good poker players should be tracking and studying their play, but it can be surprisingly effective to help you deal with tilt. If you suffer a bad beat, put the details straight into a hand calculator or whichever tracking tool you use.

This has two benefits. First of all, in the heat of the moment, you may have felt hard done by. However, when you see the numbers, perhaps you’ll realize that, actually, it wasn’t even that bad of a beat.

Secondly, it helps you to quickly put things into context. By looking over your past play, you’ll realize how often you won in this exact same spot. It’s just variance. It’s a natural part of playing poker.

Take Short Breaks

Regardless of whether you play online or in a physical poker room, you need to get out of your seat from time to time. If you’re card dead or even enduring a run of bad luck, don’t feel obliged to sit and grind.

Get up and take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Grab a snack or a drink. Step outside for some fresh air. If you’re into that kind of thing, take a few minutes to meditate. You don’t need to pack up completely, but frequent mini-breaks help you remain focused and can provide a boost.

Phil Hellmuth
Image Source: WSOP.com

Phil Hellmuth is among the many advocates of this anti-tilt technique. And he’s not exactly doing badly for himself, is he? 

Know When To Quit

Although we advocate for taking lots of short breaks, sometimes things just don’t work out at all. It’s important to know when to quit.

Some people benefit from stop-loss limits. For example, you might say that you’ll walk away for the day if you lose a fixed number of buy-ins. This is not a strategy that will work for everyone.

Some online poker sites, such as Natural8, offer tools to restrict your gaming when you hit certain limits. It might be worth investigating those, to prevent you from spewing money when on tilt.