I define tilt as experiencing negative emotions that remove you from your logic centers which leads to making sub-optimal, unthinking, losing plays.
The negative emotions that lead to tilt can be brought on by hundreds of things. On-the-felt; suffering a bad beat, facing loads of 3-bets, missing your draw and Fishy Frank rivering his gutshot straight can set you off.
Off-the-felt; relationship problems, lack of sleep, ill health and issues at work can lead to anger and tilt as well.
Tilt control is a central aspect of every profitable player’s skillset. You can’t be profitable if you allow negative emotions to consistently hijack your decision-making process. Tilt control is a difficult skill to develop, and for most people like myself, it’s always a work in progress.
You MUST train the skill of tilt control like any other skill (e.g., hand reading, c-betting, check-raise bluffing, etc.). Here’s a simple 4-part plan to help you develop it:
1. Recognize What Tilts You
“Knowing is half the battle” and recognizing what tilts you will allow you to fight it. Spend some time with your poker journal and write out all the things that cause you anger and tilt.
For myself, I know that losing a huge pot with AA can set me off. As can making a mistake that allows a weaker player to exploit me.
2. Plan for Tilt During Your Warm-up
Maybe you recognize that getting sucked out on after flopping a strong hand tilts you. So, during your pre-session warm-up (you do warm-ups, right?), focus on this. Tell yourself, “I won’t allow suck-outs to tilt me today. I’m going to weather those inevitable poker storms with composure and continue playing A-game poker today.”
I suffer from a form of tilt that Jared Tendler calls “Entitlement Tilt”. It’s when you feel entitled to win, like all of your time studying and playing and dedication to the game means that you deserve to win more than anyone else. When you don’t, you get angry and are more likely to make bad choices. I tell myself in my warm-ups, “You aren’t entitled to win, but if you play your A-game and make better decisions than they do, you’ll win in the long run. Focus on that.”
3. See Tilting Situations Before They Happen
You flopped a straight on a wet board (e.g., holding J9 on Ks Qs Td). You recognize this is a potentially tilting situation because your hand can easily cost you a lot of chips if another spade or Jack hits the board. So, take a deep breath and think through each decision. Tell yourself again, “I won’t allow suck-outs to tilt me today.”
If you’re primarily an online poker player, removing your hand from your mouse prevents “finger tilt” as Tommy Angelo calls it. This is when your emotions hijack your decision-making process, leading to costly, angry button clicks.
4. Post-tilt Evaluation
If you’re reading this article, you already understand the importance of taking poker notes. So, if you experience tilt in your session, open your poker journal afterwards and write about it. What tilted you? How did your tilt manifest itself? What can you do better next time to avoid tilting again?
Here’s my most recent post-tilt evaluation: “[Player Name] was on my direct left and 3bet me 3 hands in a row. I folded each time but decided to fight back with AJ the fourth time. I 4bet and he called with position. The flop came AJT. I c-bet and he raised. I immediately 3bet shoved (didn’t remove my hand from the mouse) and he snap called with AA for the flopped top set. I lost my full 125bb stack. Next time, I’ll avoid LAG 3bettors on my direct left. When I get 3bet twice, I’ll assess the player and decide whether to switch tables, narrow my open-raising range, increase my bet size or fight back sooner. I’ll also remove my hand from my mouse when I face raises so that I can calmly assess their raising range.”
Take this 4-part plan and run with it this week. Good luck controlling your emotions and avoiding tilt!