3 Steps for Dealing with Winner’s Tilt

As Gordon Gekko once famously said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” That may be true in the world of high finance but it is not necessarily the case in poker and in fact is probably the biggest cause for winner’s tilt.
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Anybody who has played online poker has experienced tilt before. One bad beat leads to a bad decision, and then another bad decision, and then an angry shove and the next thing you know, you’ve donked away all of your winnings. I wrote in an earlier blog post about the five stages of tilt. It is important to recognize early if you are climbing on board the tilt train, because once it leaves the station, there is no turning back.

There is another kind of tilt that can be equally devastating. Winner’s tilt occurs when you are the person who is administering the bad beats. You’re hitting two outers, your flush draws are connecting, your pocket pairs are turning into sets, your bluffs are working – everything is going your way. Your stack grows to the point where you feel invincible, that you can’t lose.

Then sure enough, before you figure out what has happened, you’ve frittered away all of your stack on a series of bully plays, bluffs, and blunders. You’re left scratching your head and wondering where did all your chips go?

So how do you combat winner’s tilt? Again, like with almost everything else in poker, you’ve got to have a strategy, and then you’ve got to have the wherewithal to stick with your strategy.

Get a Strategy

Knowing when to quit is perhaps the toughest decision in poker, and it is really difficult when you are on a hot streak. Effective bankroll management is not just a strategy for dealing with losing streaks. You can also create rules for yourself on how you will handle a profitable session.

Let’s say you play .05/.10 online and you always buy in for the maximum $10. You probably have a rule that addresses how much you will lose in any one session (e.g. you won’t lose more than three buy-ins per night). It’s not a bad idea to adopt another guideline that addresses your winnings. You could adopt a policy that if you win more than three times your buy-in, you will leave the table.

I can hear the arguments now. Why leave a soft table? Why quit when you’re on a hot streak?

Big Stack, Big Target

It’s tempting to think that when you are accumulating a lot of chips, it’s all about you. You’re making the right decisions and the right reads, but a lot of times, your opponents may be more responsible for your hot streak than you are. You may have landed on a table with a bunch of inexperienced players who are just making one dumb play after another.

But as new players join the table, the competition level may increase without you realizing it. Your “soft” table may suddenly become a table filled with regs who are looking at your big stack as the source for their next double up. The classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted.

Stick with the Basics

Another advantage of starting over at another table with your original buy-in amount is that you go back to playing the style that helped you get the big stack to begin with. Many players subconsciously change their approach when they are enjoying a winning session. They open their range, stop paying attention to position, and chase flushes or straights simply because they can afford it. Going back to your original buy-in amount can force you to play the way you are most comfortable and successful with.


As Kenny Rogers said in his song, The Gambler, “You’ve got to know when to walk away, and know when to run.” (Source: media.tumblr.com)

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