Poker Mind – What Tilt Is and How To Fix It

In order for an internet poker player to control their poker mind and know what causes tilt, they first need to understand what it is, and what triggers it? Poker tilt is when a poker player’s frustration and confusion causes them to take less optimal lines than they otherwise would take. There are a myriad of possible causes for tilt. In many cases the causes of a poker player’s tilt is unique to the individual. Lets take a look at some common causes and solutions to tilt.

Top 10 Causes & Solutions For Poker Tilt

1) Aggression is one of the most common causes of poker tilt. Many times when the Hero is faced with an aggressive Villain and he does not understand the Villain’s aggression, it will cause him to make poor plays. The key is to analyze the Villain’s play and understand it so that you can make sure you are not being exploited and/or acting in an emotional reactionary manner.

2) Health & Food: I think this is often overlooked by poker players, but is also a common cause of poker tilt. It’s important for mental stability to exercise the mind and the body. Also, being hungry or thirsty while at the tables can be a recipe for tilt. Make sure if you are putting in a long session that you are well hydrated and have had something to eat. Keep a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts, near your desk to grab during those long sessions when you can’t get away from the tables to prevent hunger tilt.

3) Long Sessions: In my experience this is one of the more common causes of tilt (sub-optimal play). It is difficult to play at an exceptionally high level for extended periods of time simply due to mental fatigue. Generally, I find that after 2-3 hours my perception of game flow will start to slip slightly. One way to overcome this if you want to keep playing is to take a brief break and get your heart rate up. I have found that a few push ups or sit ups can help to shake the cobwebs loose and bring back my mental focus.

4) Losing: This is another very common cause of poker tilt. The strategy here is to first determine if you are you losing because of bad play or bad luck. If the answer is bad luck then you have nothing to worry about and should be able to maintain your level. If you are playing poorly then it could be the aggression of your opponents or some other factor throwing you off. If you examine your losses in an analytical fashion like this, you should be able to re-group and avoid tilting.

Poker Mind - Tilt

5) Winning too much! If you are running insanely hot it can be difficult to keep playing solid loose aggressive poker. One issue can be calling or shipping too light, since you feel like you are hitting everything. Another issue can be maintaining your level of aggression and fighting for small pots. Even if you are up a lot it is important to stay focused on the small pots and your red line (non-showdown winnings). Having a massively positive blue line (showdown winnings) on your Poker Tracker can be a warning sign to avoid this type of poker tilt.

6) Fear of Tilt: I think that in some cases poker players think that poker tilt is some weird boogeyman in the closet that will jump out and snag all their money. As a result they start playing bad because they are afraid of “tilting”. They think the last time I ran up a bunch I “tilted” and instead of focusing and making good decisions they are distracted by this fear of “tilt”.

7) Entitlement: Unfortunately, there is nothing in this world or this game that says you “deserve” to win. Just because you won $100k or $1 million in the past doesn’t mean you are going to win today or tomorrow. Make sure that if you start losing, it does not cause you to play worse than your normal level.

8) Wanting to win too badly. Just because you want to win does not mean it’s going to happen. The only thing that can help you to win is playing well and running well. Unfortunately, you can only control one of those factors. If your desire to win is too strong it can get in the way of rational thinking when you are losing (which will inevitably happen when you run poorly in NLHE). This can in turn cause you to “tilt” by turning a rational game into gambling. Not needing the money and being properly bankrolled for the level you are playing should help to address this kind of tilt.

9) Distractions can be incredibly tilting. Maybe it is the phone ringing or the skype box popping up. Whatever the distraction is it is important to minimize its affect on your performance. The best way to do that is make sure you have an environment that is free from most distractions and be disciplined about keeping phone and skype conversations to a minimum.

10) Some players get caught up with their Expected Value and find themselves becoming frustrated if they are significantly below it. I talked with Jared Tendler about this on his radio show not long ago and the key with Expected value is to use it as a guidepost and learning tool. It is not perfect and you can’t expect it to be so.

There are a myriad of other factors that can also cause tilt. Consider network changes, personal life issues, etc. Make sure you always ask yourself why? Why is this factor tilting? Then ask yourself what you can do to address that issue.

The Poker Mind Is Not Mythical

Be sure that you understand tilt is not some mythical thing. The poker mind can quickly take a dark turn for the worse at the tables when you run bad. By turning tilt into some mysterious and mythical figure in the life of a poker player it implies that tilting at poker is unavoidable. The reality is that tilt can be avoided and managed with careful thought, work, and discipline.

Also, there is no such thing as being a “good” poker player except when you “tilt”. At least if you want a hope of winning in the long run. Being good means that you know how to manage your poker mind and minimize tilt it as much as possible. Many players say they are good until they “tilt”. However, in many of those cases their “tilt” moments are really just the times when they are running into the top of opponents ranges, and are in fact a part of their game. For example, they may semi-frequently run a poor bluff, but they only consider it “tilt” when the all-in shove gets called. This is the wrong way to look at the hand. It is either a good bluff or a bad bluff independent of the result. That is very important to keep in mind when trying to address tilt in NLHE.

The more you understand exactly what you are trying to do in every situation the less your poker mind will go off track. If you are uncertain that leaves room for poor decision making. For example, make sure that you are not just 3 Bet shoving 44 because you are frustrated with an aggressive opponent and end up getting snap called by 99. You need to understand why you are 3-Bet shoving, and always remember if it is an appropriate play then it is not tilt….

Tilt is not an excuse for the poker mind to derail. I hear so many players say that hand was excusable somehow “because I was tilting.” No! All hands are a part of your poker history and it is important to understand the bad ones (and what leads to them) as well as the good ones. The most important hands to analyze are your “tilt”/bad play hands. You may find that there were some very recognizable factors that led to the bad play. If this is the case you are well on the way to solving your “tilt”.

If you have any questions about my post fire them into the comments section. Please check out my book when you have a chance Exploitive No Limit Holdem.



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