Tilt is the enemy of every poker player. Tilt is the evil that takes things from bad to worse and from worse to unspeakable. Well, that is, unless you happen to be sitting across the table from a tilted player. In that case, tilt can be a very, very good thing.

What Does Tilt Mean In Poker?

Tilt can be broken down into many different parts, but no matter how you add them up, you’ll get the same thing. It can be made up of frustration, anger, exhaustion, inebriation, or a wild combination of any of those and more.

When it’s all said and done, tilt will cause even the greatest poker players to do things they shouldn’t do. They’ll end up more or less giving their money away to whoever happens to be sitting around the table with them. Again, depending on which side of the table you’re sitting, it can be a damning curse, or a bountiful blessing.

Tilt is an emotional state that doesn’t just take a player off his
“A” game. Tilt doesn’t just lower
the edge a player has. It will actually make a player start playing badly.
It will make them willingly and consciously do things that they know they should not do.

Tilt defies logic, listens to no reason, and will destroy you if you let it.


How To Avoid Tilt In Poker

Learning to deal with tilt is a crucial part of the mental game of poker. Some players can keep it at bay. Some will excuse themselves from the game when they feel it coming on. Others can accept it, feel it, and let it go.

One of the best plans for dealing with tilt, though, is to simply do your best to keep it from happening at all. You’ll find that if you prepare for it before you even sit down at the table you will lessen its effects and quite possibly avoid it all together.


Don’t Get Emotional

The first thing you’ll need to do is try to keep your emotions in check. That means that you shouldn’t sit down to play if something already has you emotionally off balance and you should get up if it occurs while you’re playing. Even if you’re playing online where nobody can see you, you should try to maintain a poker face.

If you feel that your emotions are getting the best of you, the last thing you need is a bad beat or a suck-out to push you over the edge. Any negative results in the game will undoubtedly make things worse, then your emotional state will cause more negative results, and you can probably figure out how it will go from there.


Set A Loss Limit And Stick With It

Sometimes you just can’t keep the tilt from taking over, but a loss limit can keep you from throwing all of your money across the table when things aren’t going your way. Set a limit in terms of buy-ins or dollars and stick with it. If you hit that limit, the session ends. Live to play another day.


Expect To Face Variance And Downswings

There simply is no strategy in poker that wins 100% of the time. If there was, nobody would play the game. You must accept that there will be variance and downswings even if you play perfectly every hand, every time you play.

When you lose a hand or a session, analyze what happened. If you got more money into the pot when the numbers prove you were a favorite to win the hand, you did the right thing. There’s nothing you could have done differently or played any better. If you find that wasn’t the case and you made a mistake, use it as a learning experience.


Identify When You Are Playing Tilted Poker

Each time you realize that you’ve been playing tilted poker for any amount of time, think about how you realized you were tilting and how long it took you to see it. Use that information to identify it sooner next time—and there will be a next time.

Your goal should be to keep shrinking the amount of time you play when tilt is pushing you off your game. The ultimate achievement would be to be able to see it and turn it off before it has the chance to affect you.


Just Take A Break

Maybe you’re not fuming mad and foaming at the mouth, but you can tell you’re starting to make some, shall we say, marginal, decisions. You don’t necessarily have to shut everything down and do something else for the rest of the day (or night).

Sometimes just realizing what’s happening and allowing yourself to take a break and cool off will do the trick. Sit out for a while, go refill your drink or use the bathroom. Maybe even just go stand at your front door and suck in some fresh air for a few minutes and let your head clear. Then, when you’re ready, take your seat and get back to fishing.


Start With A Time Limit In Mind

Aside from the game itself, all sorts of things in your own mind and body can set off a tilted poker session. A great way to avoid that is to set time limits before you even start playing. Say, for example, that you’re going to play for two hours with a ten minute break at the hour mark and then take at least an hour off to do something else before you play any more.

This way, you know before you even get started that you’re not going to play to exhaustion and that you’ll have plenty of time to refresh yourself and decide if you want to come back later. It’s much easier to keep your mental state straight if you have your session planned out ahead of time.

What does tilt mean to you? Have you ever thrown a few too many chips away because tilt got the better of you? What are your tips for dealing with and avoiding tilt at the poker table?

Let us know in the comments!

Latest posts by Jeff (see all)