One of the biggest obstacles you will have to overcome to being a consistent winner is tilt. The term that is used to describe a state of mind that all players want to avoid. Tilt is the anger and emotional distress that causes a poker player to play poorly. It usually occurs after a series of lost pots or bad beats but it is not limited to that. Tilt could manifest for a number of reasons specific to different people. Whilst one player may tilt because of a bad beat, another may tilt if he gets mocked at the table or shown a bluff.
Why Do Players Tilt in Poker?
Players are not robots, everyone has triggers that get you off your game. People tilt because something is going on internally that has an adverse effect on your ability to play well. It might be something completely separate to poker. You may have had an argument at home and planned to play poker but guess what? Now you are thinking about the argument and not on your A game. At its simplest, poker is a game of decisions. Making good decisions and better decisions in the long run will make you more money than your opponents. One of the most fundamental things to grasp is that you need to be at your best mentally, as often as you can be, to increase your chances of winning. Think about it, when you drink alcohol, it impairs your judgement doesn’t it? The analogy can be used for tilt and poker. If you get angered or emotionally distressed, you will feel the effect mentally and play worse as a result.
Tips to Avoiding Tilt
Don’t start playing if you are not mentally prepared. Don’t fire up a session or go casino if you know you are already angry or distressed
Get up from the table after a big lost pot or bad beat. Have a walk outside and get some fresh air
Repeat positive messages in your head. If you’ve been shown a bluff or someone has cursed you at the table. Just repeat a positive message in your head that keeps you on your game. It can be something as simple as “you’re a great player” or “you’re better than him”
Take a break for a few days. If you are on a bad run of sessions, don’t be afraid to take some time out if you sense you may tilt
Tilt is an extremely important obstacle to overcome at poker. It takes time, patience and humility to accept you are open to such a negative phenomenon that causes you to play badly. The best way to avoid it is knowing your triggers and being proactive so you recognise when you are likely to start tilting. If you can overcome your own demons of tilt, you stand a much better chance of making more money in the long run.
I hope you enjoyed this article; the mental side of poker is critical to being a winner. Feel free to email us at info@texasholdemquestions if you think you need mental game coaching or want more information.
A bad beat is the term given for a situation in poker when a player with a much stronger hand and in a mathematically favourable position nevertheless loses. It typically occurs with an unlikely turn or river card. A bad beat is usually associated with the idea that the player who got lucky made a bad call or play that should have been avoided. This is not always the case as a bad beat is often incorrectly referred to, when in fact the situation is a “cooler”, two incredibly strong hands battling. For example, if player A has A-A and player B has K-K and they both move all in on a A-K-K board, that is not a bad beat as much as it is a cooler or cold deck. After all, player B is not playing poorly by playing the K-K is he?
How to Handle a Bad Beat
One of the differences between strong, winning players and weak, losing players is in their ability to handle bad luck and bad beats. A strong player will move on to the next hand and not let a bad beat effect their play, continuing to play their normal game. The opposite is true for a mentally weak poker player, they will often go on tilt and play poorly for a while, perhaps the entire session. They will fixate on the hand that they lost and even complain and moan to other poker players at the table.
Don’t pull your hair out or let a bad beat effect your play. Try the tips below after you take a bad beat. You will have a better chance of continuing to play well.
Go For a 2-Minute Walk
Sometimes it’s better not being at the table then playing and playing badly. Getting up and going for a short walk can centre you. It will also help you regain your focus so you are ready to play your A game.
Playing for the Long Run
Remember, if you are losing to bad beats a lot this means you are getting your chips in favourably in the long run. It stands to reason, that the good players will receive more bad beats as they are more likely to be getting their chips in mathematically strong positions. Take comfort from the fact that you are in this group and are doing something right. If you focus on the long run, you are less likely to get angry and play worse today.
Next time you take a bad beat, smile at your opponent and remember these are the people that are helping you make money.
This is so simple and obvious but a worthy reminder for all poker players. We often forget though; just how important it is to concentrate and focus. You’re following twitter, checking the football scores, chatting to friends and still playing poker at the same time?
Poker is hard enough now trying to overcome the tougher calibre players and bad beats without diminishing what edge you do have.
How many tables are you playing? Is this your optimum amount to play at or have you even thought about how many tables are your optimum for playing? Does it differ between tournaments and cash games? Perhaps you need more focus on cash games so need to reduce tables there but can play more tables with tournaments.
Players often just play on autopilot or robotically, don’t become complacent and do the same! If you want to win regularly and maximise your earnings, you need to focus.
I challenge you to do an audit of yourself and find out how focused you are. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with yourselves.
Are you playing the optimum number of tables?
Are you doing other things whilst playing?
Have you played on “auto-pilot” in the last week?
Have you played whilst tired in the last week?
If you’re answering yes to any of the above questions then you are sacrificing some of your edge and costing yourself money. Don’t give up any of your edge, FOCUS!
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