Tilt And The Art Of Anger Management
Things you will learn:
- What tilt is and how it can affect your winnings
- How to recognise tilt and prevent it
Imagine you're on the button and you're dealt K♠ K♣. Naturally, you put in a large bet. One player calls.
The flop comes a beautiful K♥ 8♥ 3♣. You've hit top set and decide to trap with a check-raise. You check and your opponent bets into you, taking the bait. Holding such a strong hand, you raise all-in, figuring that they're holding the fourth king, or possibly an ace - both of which make them a gigantic underdog. They call and turn over Q♥ 8♣. Great! Not only did your opponent call your pre-flop raise with a junk hand, but he also called your all-in with middle pair.
You now have a 95% chance of taking the pot down. Until, that is, 9♥ on the turn and 4♥ on the river give your opponent a backdoor flush - and the pot is awarded to your lucky opponent.
We've all been there. All of a sudden you've lost a lot of chips and, although you're not down and out just yet, all you can think about is how that last hand should have been yours.
What will determine whether you're a winner is how you react to the slings and arrows of terrible misfortune.
Deal with it
Poker players have a name for this. Tilt.
Anyone playing poker will go on tilt. But what separates the professionals from the rest of us is that they don't deny its existence; they acknowledge it and try to limit its effect. It's impossible not to get a little worked up when you lose four hands on the trot to opponents who got lucky with poor hands. It comes with the territory and there's not a lot you can do about it.
But if you're going to avoid further unnecessary losses you have to learn not to surrender your soul to the evil poker gods.
The main thing to remember when playing poker is that, although it requires skill and knowledge, it's also a game of luck, with fortunes resting on the turn of a card. Sometimes your opponents are going to hit that one-outer that will scoop all your hard-earned chips. It happens to the best of us. Even if you play perfect poker and every decision you make is theoretically spot on, bad beats will from time to time, still creep up and rob you.
But if you understand that it's all part of the game, and accept its inevitability, then it's less likely to bother you and affect your game.
Tilt can't be ignored, but it can be controlled. Be aware of it, stay strong and don't let it get the better of you. There's only one thing worse than losing to your opponents and that's being beaten by yourself.
Let your emotions get frayed and you'll be mincemeat. Follow these five tips to handle tilt:
- Think of each losing hand as a lesson learnt and draw experience from losses
- Take a break, so when you sit back down to play you've got a clear head
- Play at lower limits, so if your bad run continues, you're losing less
- Don't let it ruin your game. Poker is meant to be fun, after all
- Read a poker book to restore your confidence
Show of emotion
You'll find that your worst losing sessions aren't simply to do with bad luck or 'not hitting the cards', although that might be your excuse, but are in fact due to you becoming emotionally unstuck. You might think that your play is perfect, up until a certain point, but it can all fall apart swiftly, because you let a so-called 'bad beat' get the better of you.
Emotional discipline is every bit as important as the technical aspect of your game. There's no worse feeling than looking down and seeing all your chips being pushed across the table and then wondering, "Why in the world did I chase that straight when there were three hearts on the board? What was I possibly thinking?"
Here are some tips:
- If there's one person getting under your skin, then disable the chat feature or stop bantering with them. The only one way to get them to shut up is to take their money so they can't sit at the table anymore! If you can't learn to take successive beats then you'll never be a consistent tournament or cash game winner
- If you're that type of character, you need to get up and walk away from the game and take a few minutes to regain your senses. Have a break from playing. This could take five minutes or five days, but be sure to compose yourself before returning to the table
- You'll start feeling that you're owed some luck and start chasing gutshot draws and backdoor flushes. This is a bad move. Not only is that very dubious poker strategy but solid players will see you tilt and trap your silly ass
- Tilt can make you paranoid. When you've been harshly outdrawn you start worrying that someone else will have a bigger monster in their closet. Big slicks and pocket rockets suddenly become hands that you're scared to play for fear of another dirty beat. When this happens try to adjust to your normal play as soon as possible
- Although a few pints are grand of a Friday evening, the demon drink can turn what would have been an irritating loss into the catalyst for a vocal and/or physical explosion of sound and movement that will see you attack with less than premium cards
- Don't dwell on the bad beat; accept it, embrace it, enjoy it. Admittedly that's much easier said than done