Tips For Dealing With Tilt!
When I decided I wanted to write an article for my 1000th post contribution (to the greatest poker forum
on the web - thank you CardsChat!) I had a much harder time deciding which subject matter to write about than I imagined I would. I knew I wanted to write about a subject that I knew well, one that others would appreciate, relate to and benefit from.
Even with the numerous articles and threads already existing, not just here but all over the net, even with complete chapters in poker books
dedicated to the subject, I found one very common denominator amongst poker players across the globe: tilt. Thousands of poker players are either exclaiming that they are on tilt or asking for advice on how to deal with it. It occurred to me that there are some subjects relating to poker that are so important, there really shouldn't be a limit to articles written about or discussions on them. Therefore, I offer you my insights, personal experiences and observations into a poker subject of the utmost importance: tilt.
Tips for dealing with Tilt:
Tilt Happens! The best and the worst of players have experienced tilt; it is not uncommon for a players emotions to experience intense highs and lows while playing poker. Most often, tilt occurs when a player experiences a horrific beat, a series of bad beats or while on a downswing. After several losing sessions and/or bad beats, any player can become upset and question if the Poker Gods will ever smile upon them again.
How to handle tilt is as important part of your poker playing arsenal as any strategy guide you will ever read. Ask yourself this question: How can you play at the top of your game if your emotions are affecting your play? You can't! It's that simple. Players who have learned how to deal with tilt are better armed for the ups and downs of poker: those who don't know how to handle tilt can quickly go broke. Below are some tips and advice to get your head back in the game and minimize tilt.
1. Don't go on tilt.
You're search is over, just simply don't go on tilt, problem solved! I absolutely despise this piece of advice! When I first started playing poker and was searching for advice on how best to deal with my negative emotions with the extreme ups and downs that can be dealt with the game, I was amazed at how many articles listed "Don't go on tilt" as their ultimate words of wisdom. Gee thanks for that, my search is over, my emotions are now under control, /end tilt.
If only it were that easy. No more idiotic ramblings from a scorned player, no more players threatening each other and no more easy free chips from a tilted player who is going to aggressively overplay the next several hands.
The hard truth is that you are going to take some bad beats and you are going to go through some downswings and the more you play, the more of these you will experience. The sooner you come to grips with this reality then the sooner you can get your attitude in check and not allow negative emotions to have an adverse affect on your mental state of mind. This is easier said than done, but with practice, patience and experience, it will get easier.
2. Don't play the next hand!
I cannot stress this point enough! It's surprising how many players will either bust out of their mtt, sng or ring game the very next hand after taking a bad beat. If you find your emotions are elevated after suffering a bad beat then do yourself, your chips and your bankroll a favor and fold the very next hand. Even if you are dealt your favorite hand on the button, do yourself this favor because chances are while your emotions are in an elevated state, you are not going to play it to the best of your abilities.
I recommend one exception to this rule: if you are fortunate enough to be dealt a premium pocket pair right after experiencing a bad beat you might be able to use this to your advantage. Experienced players expect a tilted player to often times become quite aggressive in the hand or hands immediately following a bad beat. This is so very common that players will often call large preflop raises, aggressive plays and even all ins preflop with less than desirable hands from a player who just showed down a bad beat or lost a big pot. Make this work to your advantage and play those premium pocket pairs as if you were angry and ready to shove with any two cards. You might just get rewarded with a nice double up or even a well deserved triple up!
*In the rare occurrence you lose a big pot, take a bad beat and are dealt AA and that gets cracked: stop playing immediately! Do not pass go, do not collect $200, get off the table, curse my name if it makes you feel any better, but for the love of your bankroll and your sanity stop playing now! Do go directly to tip #3 below:
3. Take a short break.
If your emotions are elevated or negatively affected then your judgment is clouded, your reads are off and there's a good chance you will make mistakes. One of your top goals in poker is to induce mistakes from your opponents while avoiding making them yourself. If you find yourself in a position where you are unable to control your emotions then you've put yourself in a position to make mistakes: do not do this to yourself! If you are still in the game (your bad beat didn't knock you out or bust you off the table) then take five minutes to go have a smoke, splash some cold water on your face, take a short walk, do some jumping jacks or give yourself a pep talk: do whatever it takes to cool off, change your attitude and get your "A" game back on. Your sanity and your bankroll with thank you!
After a particularly nasty hour at a live casino tournament, I practically knocked people over rushing out of the poker room during break time. The last thing I wanted to do was listen to the poor excuses from the donk at my table for his horrible plays. All I could think of was why? Why this drunken jerk of a man? The one who bragged about early release from an over-crowded prison! Why is he getting so lucky and not me? This jerk called my all in preflop with 74os. Why? Because he had a "feeling". Ahhhh! A "feeling"! Meanwhile my AA was smashed to bits and I had not won a single hand during the last entire hour of tournament play. I walked out to the open floor of the casino, lit a cigarette and paced around muttering obscenities under my breath like a recently released mental patient from the psycho ward! It wasn't until after a security guard walked up to me and asked if I was alright before I decided I really needed to go to a more private place to calm down. Off to the bathroom I went. I locked myself in a stall, took some deep breaths and told myself to shake it off, the next hour would be productive if I could calm down.
I once read in a magazine that running very warm water over your hands and wrists for 20-30 seconds worked as a calming effect on your body. Remembering that little tidbit, I walked over to the sink and held my hands under the warm water for nearly a minute. It only took about 10 seconds of holding my hands under the water before I realized it did feel calming, but picturing the drunken idiot in my mind, I decided I needed a full minute! The good news is that it worked. By the time I walked back into the poker room I ready to play some serious poker and serious poker I did play! I made a comeback to take down 3rd!
4. Take a long break.
Even the pros will find themselves in a position where it just doesn't matter what they do, hardly anything seems to work. It might be the amateurs who want a good story to tell and make terrible plays at them and get lucky: the fight they had with their significant other before playing or the stars and moon are aligned just so. Whatever the reason, losing streaks can last beyond days into weeks and even months. So the next time you are on a downswing, know that it can happen to even the best of players and take a break for a few days or even a few weeks.
There are pros out there that have lost millions during a losing streak, amateurs that have literally lost their homes and haven't a roof to put over their families heads and Average Joe's that lost their entire months wages in a series of bad games. We're not talking about chump change here, but no matter what amount you are rolled for, don't let this happen to you!
I remember the worst losing streak I ever experienced, it wasn't just because it lasted three months but because I lost my entire bankroll during it. This streak was detrimental to not only my bankroll but to my core as a poker player. My confidence was greatly shaken and I questioned everything about myself, my play, my style, my reads and my abilities. If had simply taken a leave of absence from the game sooner than I did, then I may not have fallen as far as I did. Starting over from scratch is no easy task, it can be done, but there is no reason to do this to yourself if you have the ability and discipline to just take a break.
5. You are not the unluckiest player ever.
Ever feel like you are the unluckiest player in the world? Do you have the bad beat stories and cliff diving graphs to prove it? Do you run so bad you feel like there is a permanent dark cloud floating precariously over your head? Does any of the below sound familiar?
Does your AA get cracked by that inevitable two outer by a donk who calls your all in preflop with 22 (out of position of course) then jumps for joy like he's made the best call of the year when he's hit that miracle 2 for a set?
Does your flopped set of 10's get cracked by the calling station with A4 os although with a flop of A 10 2 rainbow you know you should probably have this one in the bag so you throw out a value bet hoping to extract more chips from your opponent and he obligingly calls; then when the 3 hits the turn your bet offers him terrible odds
to call, yet he does anyways, and of course the Poker Gods above see fit to reward this moron with a 5 on the river?
Has this type of bad beat ever happened to you? You are sitting pretty with Ah Kh under the gun and throw out a healthy size preflop bet when the fish from middle position just flat calls you. Your love/hate relationship with AK is renewed when a beautiful flop of Ad Kc 4h hits the felt. Feeling pretty good you throw out another healthy size bet when the fish pumps it up putting you all in. Earlier you watched this guy accumulate his stack by chasing a gut shot to the river with terrible odds and getting lucky; you also have noted that he plays any ace and over values his hands. You briefly consider if he played pocket fours and now has a set but quickly brush that possibility aside and make the call. When the fish sheepishly rolls over 4c 5c you feel pretty good when your top two pair are shown and thankful to the Poker Gods above for the double up. Then it happens, of course it happens, if this sort of thing is going to happen to anyone by golly it's going to happen to you! The dealer turns up 7c and you place your head in your hand as you know, without a shadow of doubt in your mind, that this fish, this moron, this donk of all donks is going to suck out on you on the river! But wait! You have top two pair! You are a huge favorite to win right now, plus you have six outs to fill up so you take a deep breath, remind yourself to think positive, and stare at the deck of cards willing them to show you an ace or red eight, anything but a club or a four, you even yell at your computer screen "One Time!" Yes, the power of positive thinking, you feel good, your hand is going to win, you're finally going to knock this ****y little fish down a notch and BAM! The river is the frigging 10 of clubs! WTF??? You yell out a string of expletives and before you know what's happening you thrust your fist through the wall next to you! Still screaming out profanities so vulgar it would make a biker blush you then pick up your monitor with full intentions of throwing it out the window! But wait, the window is closed! Ahhh, screw it you say to yourself! It will be much more satisfying throwing your monitor out the window with it closed and watching the glass explode into a thousand shards!
Many of us have been there compadre, and we feel your pain. So stop what you are doing, put the computer monitor down and slowly back away! It isn't worth it, this king of the donks isn't worth it so just take a deep breath, slowly let it out and go for a walk. These types of beats happen all the time, online they happen much more frequently due to the sheer volume of hands seen compared to live action. Better players than you have experienced these bad beats, worse players than you deal them out often and you will experience this again, there is no preventing it. Learn how to harness your anger, know this will happen again, it sucks, but this is a part of poker and if you want to become a better player you had better learn a healthy way of dealing with it.
I recall taking some particularly bad beats live at a cash table one night and getting up, shaking the morons hand that busted me and going over to the bar. Once there I vented to my favorite bartender John and told him how extremely bad I run. Another player who had been running bad that night dared to attempt to tell me about a bad beat he had taken. Still feeling the adrenaline rush of my beat, and with great anger, I felt the need to "enlighten" him on how his bad beat didn't compare to the ones I've taken. After exclaiming how nobody runs as bad as I do, the player quickly left the area and that's when the bartender John asked me a simple question: "Why do you play poker?". "I enjoy it" was my quick reply. John's response was the first response anyone had said that really got me thinking. In earnest he stated "I don't think I would enjoy playing if I were the unluckiest player in the world". "In fact", continued John, "if I ran even half as bad as you, I would hang my hat up and never play again."
Wow.... that was some deep stuff, serious stuff, and it really got me thinking. Maybe I shouldn't play anymore, maybe I should just quit. What John said got me thinking so much that I took a month off of playing to give it the serious consideration it deserved.
I'll tell you what helped me to answer that question - CardsChat. While on my sabbatical from poker I decided it was about time I researched poker strategy
. Online, I found several poker forums and began reading articles and posts. While doing this, I ran across an old thread where someone had stated they were the unluckiest player around. Several people with a low post count responded about how they would give the original poster a run for their money in that regard. While reading through that thread I had an honest to goodness epiphany! I had never read through a poker forum before so the bad beat stories I heard were limited to live play and the online poker rooms chat box. I just never realized up until that very moment, that there were so many people out there experiencing the same horrific beats on such a consistent basis as I was. This truly opened my eyes! It wasn't just me, and if it wasn't just me then maybe, just maybe, I really wasn't the unluckiest player in the world. (Of course after I read the responses from members with a higher post count, I had another epiphany - I wasn't as good at poker as I had previously thought I was!)
(Tips 6-10 below in post below):