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mental game of pokerAt the start of a new year, poker players begin to set goals for how they hope the next 12 months will unfold. Often these goals are centered on making more money, winning a big tournament title, or moving up in stakes. The big question then becomes how you’re going to achieve these results.

With the games getting tougher, tilt has become more costly. Think for a few minutes about how much tilt cost you in 2011. If tilt wasn’t a problem: How much more money could you have won? What stakes would you be playing now? What titles could you have won?

Make 2012 the year you killed tilt and stopped wondering how much more you could have achieved.

You’ve tried to kill tilt before and the reason it hasn’t worked is because you didn’t work long enough (tilt takes longer than you think to kill), and you didn’t work smart enough (tilt is an entrenched problem that requires a well devised strategy to kill).

Use this article to begin developing a strategy that kills tilt in 2012.

Understand Your Tilt
If you want to successful eliminate a problem like tilt, you must first understand it. Devising a strategy to eliminate tilt from your game, means that you understand what causes it, the signs of it, and how it affects your game. To begin assessing tilt, I have all new students fill out this questionnaire and in The Mental Game of Poker, readers are asked to create a ‘Tilt Profile.’ (Often, by simply filling out the questionnaire or creating the tilt profile you can reduce tilt.) In case you haven’t picked up the book yet, here are the questions to create your tilt profile:

• What causes you to tilt? (Bad beats, losing to fish, running bad, etc.)
• What are the things you say to yourself out loud, or to other players, when frustration starts rising and when tilted?
• How do you know that you’re on tilt? What’s the first thing you notice?
• How does your body react to tilt? (Head gets hot, body is sweaty, heart races, fist is clenched, etc.)
• Can you identify the point when tilt starts shutting down your thinking?
• At what point do you take action to deal with tilt?

Once you’ve answered these questions, study the information regularly, and especially before each session. In order to kill tilt, you need to recognize the earliest signs of tilt. It’s at that point, tilt is easier to control. If you wait until you’re tilting to try and regain control, you’re in for a major battle. Instead, study your tilt profile so you’re ready to take aggressive action against tilt at the first sign.

There are two steps to eliminating tilt. The first step is managing or controlling tilt at the table.

Managing Tilt at the Table
The only way you can kill tilt is by remaining in control at the table when you would typically lose control. Unfortunately, the brain makes controlling tilt harder because it’s designed to shut down thinking when emotion rises too high. Meaning, if tilt becomes too intense, you lose the ability to think clearly. Thinking is how you remain in control, and if you can’t think, you can’t control tilt. Period.

That means, you need to take aggressive steps to control tilt at the first sign, otherwise, if it gets too big, the intensity of the emotion makes it nearly impossible to control. Have a strong sense of urgency to spot these early signs of tilt, as though your poker life depends on it. Once you recognized a sign, follow these steps:

1. Take a few deep breaths to mentally back up and create some mental space so you can think clearer.

2. Repeat a statement of logic that corrects the flaw causing tilt, in your mind or by reading it. It’s like a mantra, but not something that only sounds good. This logic statement needs to correct the flaw causing you to tilt. For example, “Bad players have to win for me to be profitable,” or “I can’t control the cards, I can only control how well I play.” Something that attacks the reason you’re tilting, and gets you refocused on the action.

3. Focus on correcting the tactical mistakes you tend to make when beginning to tilt. It’s good to actually list these out on a note card so you can easily remind yourself that you, play too many hands pre-flop, 3-bet too much, or become too tight.

4. Repeat as often as needed. In a session or tournament where variance is particularly against you, you might repeat these steps 5 times in 10 minutes. Kill tilt often means going to battle. You have to fight to remain in control.

5. Quit when you can’t fight any more.

If you follow this strategy and still tilt, but, you don’t tilt as bad, it takes longer to tilt, or you don’t play as worse, then you’ve made some improvement. In your next session, you can take another step forward if you stick to this strategy.

Tilt is a big problem and killing it can’t happen in one day. It takes sustain aggressive effort.

Resolving Tilt
Managing tilt in the moment might help in small bursts, but long term it is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound. To really conquer tilt, you need to resolve the root cause of it. Managing tilt at the tables is a critical short-term step, and resolving tilt is the second step that allows you to actually kill it.

Resolution means, that you’ve permanently solved the root cause of tilt. Understanding the root cause is the toughest part and requires digging deeper into your tilt. To make it easier to identify the root cause of tilt, I’ve identified seven types of tilt that poker players typically encounter:

Running Bad Tilt: One (or more) of the other types of tilt happens so frequently in such a short amount of time that your mind can’t reset itself before the next time you play. As a result, tilt builds up and makes it easier and easier to tilt again.

Injustice Tilt: Bad beats, coolers, and suck-outs are prime examples of triggers that make you feel cursed and make poker feel unfair.

Hate-losing Tilt: Many players hate losing even though they realize how much variance impacts results in the short run. Wanting to win is not the problem—the problem is how you handle the inevitable losses.

Mistake Tilt: Making mistakes is frustrating for many logical reasons; these reasons just happen to be flawed because of inaccurate views about learning.

Entitlement Tilt: Believing that you deserve to win for X, Y, or Z reason makes winning a possession. You tilt when someone undeserving takes it from you.

Revenge Tilt: Disrespect, constant aggressive action, and opponents thinking they’re better than you are just a few of the reasons why you seek vengeance at the table.

Desperation Tilt: The urge to win your money back and get unstuck is so strong, it makes you play monster sessions, force the action, and jump up in stakes.

Look at your tilt profile and try to dig deeper into the particular nuances and qualities of your tilt. Did losing to a fish seem unfair because you have more skill? Did losing to a tough regular make you want to destroy them? Do you simply hate losing? Is one bad beat enough to tilt you?

Identifying and resolving the root cause of tilt can be a complex step. But, it’s necessary to kill tilt. If you need help with this step, The Mental Game of Poker is designed to make it easy.

Jared Tendler, M.S. is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Mental Game of Poker. He’s the mental game coach to over 200 poker players from around the world. Find out more about Jared at his website: Follow him on Twitter: @jaredtendler


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