Tilt Poker – What it is & How to Avoid it

a man upset about losing at poker so resorting to alcohol

One of the major 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?

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 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 on how to avoid tilt

Whilst everyone is susceptible to going on tilt and making bad decisions, there are things to mitigate the chance of it happening. Below are some tips to help you avoid tilt.

Don’t play if you’re not mentally prepared

There is no point firing up a session if you know you’re already angry or distressed. Otherwise you may as well play live casino games. The players who are mentally prepared will also have a technical edge so don’t give be handicapped before you even start.

Walk after a bad beat or lost big pot

Getting up and walking can be a productive reaction to suffering a bad beat or cooler. By going outside and getting some fresh air, you can regroup and refresh. This will take you away from the table for a few key moments. Often, the pots immediately after bad beats is where players lose composure. By removing yourself from the table for a few minutes, you can gather your emotions.

Repeat positive messages

Some players find repeating positive messages internally to be helpful. If you’ve been shown a bluff or someone has cursed you at the table, just repeat a positive message in your head. It can be something as simple as “you’re a great player” or “you’re better than him“.

Take a break

Taking a break for a few days can serve you well if you’re on a bad run of sessions. Don’t be afraid to take some time out if you sense you tilt. The games will always be there when you come back.


Tilt is an extremely important challenge 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.

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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: info@texasholdemquestions.com