I hope the title got your attention, because what I’m about to cover is something I consider to be some very important advice that it doesn’t seem to me is often covered. Poker players, we’ve all gone on tilt at the tables, we’ve all been salty from bad beats. It’s a common enough thing to happen that there’s no shortage of advice there.
But this is not the only form tilt takes. Sometimes, you’re tilted from stuff that doesn’t have anything to even do with poker. Sometimes something happens in your life that just shakes you up, shakes you up so badly it’s like your poker brain just up and took a vacation. When that happens, there’s really only one recourse: to take a vacation from poker yourself.
The First Step
As with just about anything, the first step of taking a poker vacation is to recognize and admit you have a problem; to be cognizant that you are playing poorly and that it’s not the result of normal tilt, but of something that it’s going to take days, a week or two, or even more (though hopefully not.) When that happens, stopping playing is really pretty simple.
I wish I could give advice on how to gain this awareness, but everyone’s road to such a level of self-criticism is different, so nothing I can say will probably help you. It’s your game, your groove, you need to be the one to recognize that you’re not in it. And if you really are playing how you always play and still just losing a lot, then this isn’t really that applicable to you anyway. However, what I believe I can help with is what comes after this:
Stopping playing when you’ve donked out is all well and good, but it’s no reason to stop for good. However, the timing to go back is important. Go back too soon, and you’re suffering more losses because you still haven’t got your skills back together. Wait too long, and your skills get rusty, leading to–guess what–suffering more losses!
My approach is to continue to play, but do so sporadically and don’t spend money. Don’t play ideally more than one online tournament a day, to sort of check your playing “pulse.” Play a freeroll. Play a Pokerstars play money tournament, or even an event on the WSOP Facebook app–I’ve used each of those for this purpose. If you’re a pure cash game player though and not willing to go to freerolls just to see if your game is back to usual, there’s little that can be done. I don’t think I even need to expand on why playing online play money cash games to calibrate your game is a bad idea.
And if you’re itching to play, but still playing badly, don’t lose heart! Discipline is key to poker, go to a freeroll or PM event. Remember that how shook up you are is a temporary condition, your skills will come back and really it doesn’t take much more than just straight up waiting for it. You will be fine. After all, you’re a good player, you’re legit.
Wait, you’re not? You say you keep losing an arm and a leg at the tables? Oops. Well, just come over here by me and I’ll help you out. Right here, this seat directly on my right. The game is 1/2 No Limit Hold’em. 😉