How to Tilt in Poker


Tilting. The age-old Achilles heel to many promising poker players. Again, I was surprised that the BeastsOfPoker-team asked me to write about this subject, and again I was reminded that people probably want to hear of the subject from someone who actually has some experience on it. If you’re unfamiliar with my extremely high-level articles feel free to read the one about bankroll management. These subjects are somewhat related to each other as bankroll management and tilt often correlates. Meaning: bad bankroll management usually leads to bad tilting.

What is tilt in poker?

I’d define tilt as a play or series of plays where players mental stage prevents him or her from making the optimal play. The type of tilt varies depending on the player. Some of us go to the aggressive “I’ll win my money back no matter what, if they can outdraw so can I” type of mode, while others go to passive “I’ll lose anyway so I just checkback these nuts because it’s going to cost me less when they outdraw me” mode. To some it’s something in between.


What does tilting feel like?

To me, tilting starts with losing control. There’s a small voice telling me to quit the games and wait for another day but a huge urge to get back to breakeven, or to some other monetary goal. I’ve played long enough to usually listen to this voice, but when I don’t it leads to non-optimal plays, which then again tilts me even harder. It’s a vicious cycle and it always starts with losing control and a feeling that I “must do” something.


How to prevent tilt in poker?

Make sure that you have slept well, are in a solid state of mind and if possible; exercise before the session. When you get outdrawn for the fifth time in fifteen minutes it really helps to have that after exercise dopamine in your body. My A-game comes from a state of mind that I’m only observing someone else’s game, so I might also meditate to get to that mindset.

In the real world though: a lot of my tilt preventing is just picking when I’m in a bad mood and decided to take the day off. Having a hangover, feeling sick or sleep-deprived (or all together) is already bad enough, trust me: you don’t want to add a losing session to that. That’s how you end up with a life tilt.