How do you avoid tilt? (long story)



Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
I'm not talking about sudden tilt, where you take a really bad beat and get pissed off at a player or at yourself. For that, I know the drill. Understand that it's probability, that if your hand was best when your chips went in you made the right move, that you'll make money in the long run, etc. If you can't, get up and go for a walk, do something else, etc.

My problem is sort of a "creeping tilt". It has to do with a concept in investing called "reference points", and a general need to break even over time. So for instance, I recently consolidated my entire bankroll onto pokerstars, about $500 or so (this is the product of about $200 to start, some cleared bonuses, and 6 months of play). Through some MTT luck and some good SnG grinding (yes ChuckTs, at the turbos), I cranked it up to over double.

Then, naturally, the luck turned sour and the cards turned cold, and I dropped to maybe $800 or so. My problem is that since I had hit the $1,000 mark, I kept feeling like I was "behind" and wanting to catch up. I started raising the stakes, reasonably at first, but eventually I was playing over my bankroll (and over my skill level, frankly), and before I knew it I was back to $500. I took a break, but after I came back I still had trouble grinding at low levels and as soon as I ran into a bad streak I felt the need to raise the stakes, either by playing higher buy-in games or by increasing my number of tables. Naturally this too was a disaster, and I got out only after I was down to $300.

Soooooo... I took about a week off, and now have come back with some perspective and want to start fresh. My question is, how do you avoid "long term tilt"? Walking away from the table isn't the answer, because when I come back that reference point is still there. The obvious answer would be "well don't play higher stakes dummy", which is true, but it's easy to convince yourself of whatever you want when you're sitting there playing.

So I suppose what's needed is more of an attitude change. I am generally ROI positive, I take poker theory seriously, play for fun, and have never risked put a cent in my bankroll that I needed elsewhere. So I believe I have the makings to do this as a fun hobby for a long time. The question is, for you guys who have been successful managing a bankroll for a long time:

1) How do you avoid the temptation to raise the stakes to cover your losses?
2) What kind of "mantra" do you preach to stay sensible about this stuff (whether it's just focus on the next game, focus on being a good player rather than your bankroll, whatever)?

Mucho thanks.


Mar 14, 2005
Total posts

I don't know if what I am going to say will help but I hope so. I too fell into a "creeping tilt" awhile back. It seemed as soon as I had started to deposit again and not relying on the freeroll wins for my cash, things just went all haywire for me. I couldn't seem to win at the lower limits so I went over to the higher limits and was playing more NL instead of PL and limit games. I finally had to regroup because I wasn't winning I was losing and who wants to lose? I went back to what I did before the deposits and the following is what I do.

Whenever I feel tempted to go higher in stakes than my BR will allow I just keep telling myself "you can't deposit anymore!" I have a limited Bankoll as it is and I know if I lose all of it, it will be a long time again before I can deposit again. And I have gotten used to playing more than just freerolls these days. I keep trying to remind myself of what was said here awhile back on the %s of BR for a cash game or a tourney.
Also, here are some links I searched for:

Now on the second: I usually come here and read. I don't log off the poker site I am on but I read the forum at the same time. It just helps me keep my head on. I also usually will read while I am playing in a tournament to keep me patient. It just seems that it helps me play a little slower and not act impulsive on a hand.
Now I try not to throw myself into what I am reading and not pay attention to what is going on at the table I am at. Sometimes if I do get too involved it can mess me up. I also just keep telling myself that the cards will turn in my favor sooner or later and patiences is a virtue!

I'm not sure if that's what you wanted but I hope this helps some.


Cardschat Elite
May 25, 2005
Total posts
Try depositing to a different site. That way you are working up from $300 again, not trying to recover back to $1,000. The $700 downswing was from profit anyway, and you got all the enjoyment (or not!) of numerous hours of play from it, so dont get disheartened. I think a new site would remove some of the mental blocks you may have at the moment, and enable you to start afresh without being worried about the "inevitable" bad beats / cold cards.

And you may be going through the same slump I had recently. Started off playing poker well with some obvious flaws - got really into poker, read all of the books, but lost some of my "flair" by sticking to closely to the guidelines. All the poker theory books contradict each other anyway - take the bits you agree with from each, and go back to your own style - the one you had when you were being successful, and use the poker books to enhance your game, not sap the life out of it.
Last edited:


Rock Star
Jun 16, 2006
Total posts
Through some MTT luck and some good SnG grinding (yes ChuckTs, at the turbos),

I love the Turbos at Stars - very good for the ROI and bankroll over the past few months.

Back to point here. The bigger questions revolve around what happened to your game. Your Stars HHs are stored on your hard drive - have you gone back and looked over some winning tournaments versus losing tournaments, and analyzed your own play? What are doing differently (if anything) now than you were doing when you were winning?

I think your attitude is a good one about the game, and this will work well in the future for you. Drop back down a level, beat up on the lower-limit games for a bit to get your confidence back, and then just get back to what you were doing when you were making a few bucks here.
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Aug 24, 2005
Total posts
Take a month and play a game that you don't normally play, and play it at the absolute bottom limits. 7-card stud, Omaha, maybe even just a switch from no-limit to limit cash games (or vice versa). The key point being that by focusing on learning something new, you take away focus from your losses. For instance, I've started playing NL cash games more seriously, and despite being bankrolled for higher games, I'm playing at $25 buy-ins; I'm not so interested in the money itself as in the progress.

That's the best tip I have for you.


Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
Great replies guys, thanks. I added some reputation. :)

Okay, so...

DESSERTLADY: Great links. I'm a numbers guy at heart, so definitely using a chart like that will help. I guess my issue is that I know in my heart that when I go up a level that I'm being reckless, so I need something beyond "you are not being prudent" to keep me away, a frame of mind I can really get my head around. I think focusing on the fact that I won't let myself deposit more so I had better make what I've got last...

robwhufc: You actually make two great points here. One, trying to adapt my game to what books say often throws me off my game, but when I go back to my instincts (using pieces of what I have learned of course) I do much better. I'm glad to hear others have had the same thing happen. And I also agree about going to another site for a change of pace, I think I might consider doing that.

BKrywko1: Agree 100%. Do you know of a good stat program that can help me evaluate my play in SnGs (eg, by position, by hand, etc) to see where my holes are? I've played 100's of SnGs there so going through each one will take awhile!!! May I ask, what's your plan of attack when you play the turbos there?

F Paulsson: This one's really interesting. I suppose it keeps the focus on your play and takes it away from the roll. Which can be hard to do sometimes. How do you track your progress then? Normally I think of my bankroll as my progress (over the long-run). I understand what you're saying, that the end goal is having fun and improving your game, but it's just harder to benchmark yourself to "well has my game gotten better this day/week/month" without something numerical. Do you track your rolling ROI or something? I wouldn't mind thinking up a methodology for something like this. As I've said, I'm a #'s guy.

One thing I will say, despite the ups and downs it did come from initial profits and it has been a huge amount of fun, so I am not down on my game or anything I just want to plug this hole in my "bankroll game" so I can eventually ascend to the next level!

Thanks for all the replies folks


Rock Star
Jun 16, 2006
Total posts
I've played 100's of SnGs there so going through each one will take awhile!!! May I ask, what's your plan of attack when you play the turbos there?

Just take 1 or 2 of them where you did real well at, and take 1 or 2 where you didn't do so well - that would a place to start. After looking a few of these, I figured out that I needed to stop playing a certain marginal hands as often as I did, for example.

I would maybe consider PokerTracker, but I'm not sure if this is SnG compatible or mainly for cash games.

As for the Turbo plan of attack, be warned that this is not to be considered a bible, by any means, and it certainly may not work for everyone - as I am a tight, aggressive player (TAG), this plan won't work for players who are generally loose, aggressive (LAG).

1) In the first couple of levels try to see a lot of cheap flops if you can with marginal hands like 10-8, soooooooted or not. You won't be open-limping into too many pots after a few levels, so this is the time to try to see cheap flops.

If you don't hit, you can get out cheaply...but if you hit a 2-pair or get as much as a straight draw, you can either get paid off by player(s) who will never let go of top pair, or be aggressive and bet your draws strong.

2) If #1 is a little loose for you, then stick to playing solid hands. Keep in mind that you will have to open your game up as the blinds go up, however.

3) As the blinds escalate, stealing the blinds becomes more important.

4) Be aggressive from the bubble on, especially if you have a couple of more passive players.

5) Don't be afraid to open-push when your stack is under 10BB - if you're willing to, say, commit half your stack on a blind steal or when open-raising with AJ, make the choice for the rest of the players potentially that much costlier.

6) Time is not your friend here - don't take 20 seconds trying to figure out if you're calling a 4BB preflop raise with A6-offsuit when you know damn well that you won't be calling it.

7) Just play them to get more of a feel for it - and find a way that works for you.

Good luck!


Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
Actually, one idea that I am mulling over is to do a ChuckTs-style "challenge", except instead of tracking my bankroll (which is kind of the problem!!), I might track other metrics over time.

For example, pick a SnG game/level/type and try to play 100 games and accomplish some score, like ROI>10%, ITM>40%, and/or 4th<10%. That might keep me focused in each game on what I am trying to do, trying to build some good mental habits.


Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
Thanks BKrywko1, great post.

My strategy, which works when I am applying it diligently, is more in the tight/aggressive style. I see merit in your opening gambits, but I tend to wait for premium hands and raise big or speculative hands and limp if I'm in late position, to try to outplay just 1-2 opponents after the flop. I personally become sloppy with the "limp with everything pre-flop, stick around with the nuts post-flop" because some yahoo min-raises for the heck of it and I am constantly given pot odds to keep throwing money in with a speculative pre-flop hand.

Of course, then as blinds go up and players go down you start trying to steal shrewdly, not playing too speculatively on the bubble but not too passively either. Then when I'm down to 3 the fangs come out.


Rock Star
May 26, 2006
Total posts
Try this i recieve emails from some Roy Rounder guy they really work read this...

How To Avoid Going On TILT

When a poker player goes on "tilt", it means that
he is playing in a way that is DIFFERENT than
normal... in a way that is based on EMOTION and
the events of the game.

For example... if you got pocket Aces and lost a
big hand to someone with pocket 2's, you might go
on TILT because of that bad beat...

Or let's say you had a pair and your opponent went
all-in... and once you folded, your opponent
showed you that he was bluffing with a nine-high.

You might go on TILT after that... because you
were TRICKED and you blew the chance at doubling
your chips.

The point is, TILT is an EMOTIONAL state. And the
most important thing you should know about tilt is


It's dangerous because it will cause you to lose
money... LOTS OF MONEY.


Well, put simply, tilt makes you do things that
you wouldn't "normally" do.

It makes you place over-aggressive bets... it
makes you stay in pots longer than you should...
and it ZAPS your self-control and discipline.

The good news is, I can show you how to "avoid"
tilt. But first, let's look at EXACTLY how tilt
occurs when you play...

The PRIMARY REASON that tilt occurs is because of
a MAJOR LOSS. There are other causes, but this is
the main one, so we'll focus on it here.

By "major loss" I mean a BIG POT that you COULD
have won... or even perhaps SHOULD have won... but

For some reason, poker players can always remember
the BAD BEATS and BIG LOSSES they've suffered, but
never remember the big victories.

Tilt works the same way.

You can be winning hand after hand after hand all
day... but then suddenly go on TILT following one
lost pot.

When tilt occurs, it first impacts your EMOTIONAL
mind... because like I said, tilt is just an
emotional condition.

Then it will impact your LOGICAL mind.

As much as we'd like to believe we can SEPARATE
our emotions from our thinking, we just can't. The
truth is, emotions are FAR MORE POWERFUL than
logic or reasoning...

So when tilt occurs, you'll start playing in a way

You'll try to bluff more, you'll raise more, and
you'll be more aggressive.

Why does tilt work THIS way?

Why does it make you play more AGGRESSIVELY,
rather than TIGHTEN UP?

The answer lies in what our brains are trying to
"accomplish" with tilt.

You see, in poker... and in all of gambling... the
rule is this:


It can take three hours to win a hundred dollars
but only THREE SECONDS to lose it all... and more.

Now I'm NOT talking about something like winning
the lottery here.

I'm talking about being able to CONSISTENTLY win
money by playing SMART and KEEPING THE ODDS IN

That's what Texas Holdem strategy is all about:

Keeping the odds in your favor.

Because the more you play with the odds in your
FAVOR, the more money you win.

Well, when a major LOSS occurs, you lose all that
time you spent building up your GAINS... so your
brain goes on TILT.

And what your brain is TRYING TO DO is to win back
all that money you lost... fast.

In fact, your brain trying to win the money back

Make sense?

It's kind of like the stock market...

When a stock goes from $100 per share to $50 per
share, it's a decrease of 50%.

But for the stock to get BACK to $100 per share,
it has to INCREASE BY 200%.

That's a big difference. And if you know ANYTHING
about the market, you know that 200% increases are
hard to come by...

The reality is it will probably take YEARS for the
stock to gradually climb back to $100 per share.

But the investor doesn't want to think about it
that way. The investor wants his money back RIGHT

And therefore the investor will go on TILT and
make poor buying decisions with his money...
hoping to find that "miracle" stock.

Poker is the same way. Except instead of hoping
for a miracle STOCK, a player on tilt is hoping
for a miracle MONSTER HAND like trip aces or a
royal flush.

The problem is... the ODDS don't work like that.

You can't SUDDENLY win a ton of money... just
because you lost it in the previous hand.

That money is no longer yours...

In addition, a major lost pot SKEWS YOUR ENTIRE

A pre-flop raise of 1,000 chips no longer looks
"big" after you've just lost 10,000. So you decide
to call the raise with your K-4 offsuit... because
TILT has got you by the balls.

The point is this:

You must AVOID TILT. Period.

But how?

A lot of pros will tell you that the way to avoid
tilt is to, "Think logically, take a deep breath,
and remember that it's all part of the game."


You and I both know that that stuff doesn't work.

Because like we said before, TILT IS EMOTIONAL.
And that means it CANNOT be solved with LOGIC.

The key to avoiding tilt is to CATCH IT right
before it happens...

So the VERY MOMENT you lose a big hand... or take
with your mind.

THAT is when you must take control.

And you can't just tell yourself, "Hey, this is
just a part of the game..."


You must SEPARATE YOURSELF from the game... for
however long it takes to "regroup".

For instance... if I lose a big hand at a casino
I'll usually have my chips covered up and I'll
go grab a quick bite to eat. I'll get some fresh
air... call my girlfriend... go back to my hotel
room... whatever.

THEN I will come back to the table and continue

When I'm not in a casino and don't have the luxury
of being able to take a break from the game, I'll
simply "sit out" for the next few pots and pay my

I'll fold my hands and just watch... I'll breathe
deeply and focus on MY GAME. Period.

This "separation" is the secret to avoiding tilt.

Because first of all, it keeps your emotional
brain from consuming your LOGICAL brain. Don't ask
me why... I'm not a scientist. I just know that it

And secondly, separation allows you to KEEP THINGS

You'll be in control. You'll know that a pre-flop
raise of 1,000 chips IS A LOT... and you'll fold
your measly K-4 because you're thinking CLEARLY.

You'll go back to YOUR GAME. You'll remember your
strategies and techniques... and you'll gradually
start winning with the ODDS BACK IN YOUR FAVOR.

Honestly... of all the tricks, techniques, and
Texas Holdem secrets I teach, avoiding tilt can
quite possibly have the BIGGEST effect on your

Because whether you spend ten hours or ten
THOUSAND hours "grinding it out" at the poker
tables, your money will VANISH if you go on tilt.

Which brings me to ANOTHER interesting secret I've

The EXPERIENCE OF TILT is actually just an EXTREME
form of experience that happens ALL THE TIME when
you play poker.

What I mean is EVERY TIME YOU LOSE A HAND you're
going on tilt. Except, this tilt would be a small
version of "the real thing."

Stick with me here...

If TILT is just an EMOTION, then you're ACTUALLY
going on tilt all the time... except it's only
noticeable during the really big pots.

The truth is you're going on "Tiny Tilts" all
game... every game... that are swaying you back
and forth and back and forth from the REAL

That's why the PROS are able to avoid tilt so

Because they've played SO MUCH POKER that they
know the RIGHT play to make... in virtually every
situation. Emotion just doesn't factor in.

And ultimately, that's the BEST way to avoid
tilt... to adopt a complete SYSTEM of playing
STRATEGIES and techniques that YOU STICK TO
throughout the game.

Take emotion out of it. Just play the proven,
step-by-step methods that will help you
CONSISTENTLY win the most money at the table.

And the way you do that is by either playing for
years and years and years... and "figuring it out"
on your own...


Feb 2, 2005
Total posts
it sounds like a definite state-of-mind thing. You're paying less attention to your play and more on the state of your bankroll.

As the great swedish poker scientist F Paulsson once said (or at least something like this), "You should set goals that are achieveable and realistic."

Making a set goal for how much you want to build your BR to is a bad idea.
I had my freeroll-initiated bankroll up to nearly 3000 dollars, but found myself looking at the money side of it rather than my quality of play, and it has since dropped back down to around 1600. It was actually pretty recently that this happened, and I'm in my rebuilding stages right now.
I have a long term goal of a certain amount I want my BR to reach, but my realistic, short-term goal is to finish these 200 SnGs, which hopefully will also be a great bankroll builder. I might even do another 200 or 1000 if I feel it's helping my game that much.

When I had started losing my BR, I damn near put it all on a 10/20 table (WAAAY out of my range) and gamble with it. I think it's just a character thing; some people have strong will power, and can just tell themselves "No. Don't do that, it's not smart". Others just can't resist the urge of their other, evil side saying "awww why not - you can win at those stakes, why not play?". Even the most common swing can destroy your bankroll if you're playing at stakes too high.

Anyways I'm rambling again, but I think it's a good idea to start a sng challenge, because it's an achievable goal and it's also a great way to consistently build on to your bankroll.

(yes ChuckTs, at the turbos)
oh and there's of course the obvious possibility of this all being the turbos' fault ;)


Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
Thanks for the great additional comments, everyone.

I think I'm going to go ahead with some kind of SnG challenge to get back on track.

Details to follow!
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Aug 24, 2005
Total posts
Beriac said:
F Paulsson: This one's really interesting. I suppose it keeps the focus on your play and takes it away from the roll. Which can be hard to do sometimes. How do you track your progress then? Normally I think of my bankroll as my progress (over the long-run). I understand what you're saying, that the end goal is having fun and improving your game, but it's just harder to benchmark yourself to "well has my game gotten better this day/week/month" without something numerical. Do you track your rolling ROI or something? I wouldn't mind thinking up a methodology for something like this. As I've said, I'm a #'s guy.
I'm a numbers guy, too, so I know exactly what you're saying.

When you make the switch, set goals, that's fine. Set bankroll goals, if you want - but set them in relation to the limits you're playing. For the $25 NL cash games I'm playing, I'm essentially considering my bankroll to be $500 (20 buy-ins) and I will not move up to $50 games until I've doubled up, e.g. won $500.

You still have your "real" bankroll, of course, but you're setting part of it aside to learn a new game. That game gets to build its own bankroll until you're confident enough about what you're doing to merge the two together, and then you can continue on your merry road. :)


Jan 8, 2006
Total posts
I like the "partial bankroll" approach. Good thinking. On top of setting goals that allow you to make sure you're of the right skill level before moving up in a new game, it also might help to remove some of the impatience (if you're wagering a very small portion of your overall bankroll, it takes a long time to build much equity even if you're winning, which might encourage a hasty increase in stakes)!

Good thinking. Some great ideas guys.


Rising Star
Jun 21, 2006
Total posts
This is not directly in response to the original post, but to anyone in general.
I can say this with all honesty.........I do not go on tilt. I do not get mad, and I do not get frustrated. When I get ready to play, whether it's a ring game, sit n go, or mtt, I know at some point the bad beat, the suckout, the donk call is gonna happen. If I know this beforehand, then how can it affect my play afterwards? It's a mindset that you have to get in. Things are gonna happen during the course of a game that you can't control and sometimes those things can be devastating to you and your stack. But like I stated earlier, if you know that it is going to happen, then why get bent when it does. Bottom line is we gamble. Plain and simple. Some gamble more than others. Gambling = bad beats = Tilt.
For example, if you were in a casino playing slots would you get bent if you pulled the arm and did't win? What if you pulled it 10 times and didn't win? Is there a guarantee somewhere saying your "suppose" to win?
You play your hand the best you can, and if you get wrecked by a "stupid"call then so be it. The law of averages say that given the same scenerio over and over good is going to trump bad. With that being said, if you play the same hand 10 times in a row against the same player your gonna come out ahead in the long run. Even though that fact probably doesn't cushion the immediate blow, it should serve as a building block as to how to deal with tilt in the future.
The next time before you get involved with a session go over in your mind all the possibilties that could potentially put you on tilt. Replay those scenarios in your mind, get familar with them cause one or more of them is gonna happen. So when it actually does happen what do you do? Tilt? Of course not, you have already went over it in your mind and expected it at some point to happen. You were already braced for it.
I'm not saying that you should go into every game defeated by making yourself believe that your gonna get waxed. I'm saying just know that all hands are not gonna the way you would like them to go, so when one doesn't, don't blame yourself or the other player. Accept it, move one rebuild what you lost, and think about what you learned.

Government Cheese

Dec 14, 2007
Total posts
After reading only half of the replies, I'd add that it might help to recognize that success in any game or sport requires mental toughness. Trying to "fix" your tilt by chasing at higher limits or trying different games or even taking a break avoids the reality that you aren't really doing anything to help your brain to adapt better to similar tiltspots in the future. If you go on tilt, you naturally want to stop, but don't you also want to develop your brain such that you don't run into this problem again in the future? To handle the mental toughness part, there are a number of books that can give you exercises to develop this toughness. One is a book called Mind Gym. If you search for it on Amazon, I'm sure you'll run into a number of others as well. Check one out; try what it suggests. If it works for you, then you've nipped the problem in the bud.
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