How to Avoid Tilting in Poker: Mastering Emotional Control at the Table

avoiding tilting

Poker is a game of skill, strategy and psychology. While mastering the technical aspects of the game is crucial when playing in a tournament, cash game or heads up poker, controlling your emotions is equally important. An inherent challenge within poker is the occurrence of “tilting” which involves emotional frustration capable of impairing decision-making. 

The article below aims to delve into the concept of tilt, its underlying causes and, most notably, strategies for its prevention.

Understanding Tilt

Tilt is a term borrowed from pinball machines, where a player’s actions could cause the machine to tilt, disrupting the game. In poker, tilt refers to when a player’s emotions overwhelm their rational decision-making process. Common emotions associated with tilt include frustration, anger, disappointment and impatience. These emotions can cloud your judgment leading to poor choices at the poker table.

Why Does Tilt Happen?

Tilt can strike even the most seasoned poker players and understanding its root causes is essential to avoiding it. Here are some common triggers for tilt:

  • Bad Beats: Experiencing a series of unfortunate losses or “bad beats” can be infuriating, leading to frustration and tilt.
  • Overconfidence: When a player becomes too confident in their abilities and underestimates their opponents, they may take excessive risks, leading to losses and, subsequently, tilt, especially in heads up poker.
  • Loss Aversion: Humans are naturally wired to dislike losing. When players become overly fixated on avoiding losses, they may make irrational decisions to protect their ego or bankroll.
  • Running Bad: A prolonged streak of bad luck can erode a player’s patience and mental resilience, making them more susceptible to tilt.
  • External Factors: Personal issues, distractions, or external stressors can also contribute to tilt by impairing a player’s focus and emotional control.

How to Avoid Tilt in Poker

Now that we understand what tilt is and why it happens, let’s explore some effective strategies to avoid falling victim to it.

Practice Emotional Awareness and Set Realistic Expectations

The first step in avoiding tilt is recognizing when you’re experiencing it. Pay attention to your emotions during a poker session. If you notice frustration, anger, or impatience creeping in, take a moment to acknowledge these feelings.

Understanding that poker involves both skill and luck is crucial. Even the best players will experience losing streaks. Set realistic expectations for your sessions and accept that you’ll encounter ups and downs. This mindset can help you remain composed when things don’t go your way.

Bankroll Management and Taking Breaks

One of the most effective ways to prevent tilt is to practice proper bankroll management. Set aside a specific portion of your poker bankroll for each session and never exceed it, even if you’re tempted to chase losses. This discipline will help protect your finances and reduce the emotional impact of losing.

When you feel yourself getting emotional or frustrated, don’t hesitate to take a break. A short break can help you regain your composure and refocus on making rational decisions.

poker spreadsheet

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle and Practice Mindfulness

Physical and mental well-being plays a significant role in emotional control. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, adequate sleep and a balanced diet. These factors contribute to better emotional resilience and concentration.

Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can help you stay present and maintain emotional balance.

Review and Learn from Mistakes

Instead of dwelling on losses, use them as opportunities for growth. Review your play and analyze your decisions objectively. Learning from your mistakes will not only improve your skills but also reduce the emotional impact of losing.

Develop a pre-game Ritual

Create a pre-game ritual that helps you get in the right mindset before each session. This could involve reviewing strategy, setting poker goals, or simply taking a moment to clear your thoughts. A consistent ritual can help you enter the game with a focused and composed mindset.


Avoiding tilt in poker is a skill that every serious player should cultivate. By comprehending the origins of tilt and applying techniques to alleviate its impact, you can markedly enhance your overall poker table performance. Keep in mind that emotional regulation constitutes a pivotal aspect of poker strategy and its mastery will enhance your decision-making prowess. 

Therefore, when confronted with a series of unfavorable outcomes or experiencing frustration, revisit these pointers during your journey toward becoming a more composed and proficient poker player.

Narciso Baldo is the Director and Head Coach of Texas Hold'em Questions. He has been playing poker for over 16 years. After spending many years as a professional, he now runs UK poker training site Texas Hold'em Questions. Narciso regularly writes poker articles sharing tips, strategy, news and experience with gambling enthusiasts. Narciso also writes for reputable gambling portal Casino City Times, (bio here). Contact: