The 10 Commandments of Poker Tilt

One of the leading causes of busted bankrolls and computer screens is poker tilt. Tilt is another way of saying emotionally unbalanced, very angry or upset. Tilt affects a player’s ability to think clearly and play his best. Instead, players on tilt make plays out of spite, chase losses and throw temper tantrums every time they lose a hand.

Since tilting in poker can be harmful to them and their bankroll, I thought it would be helpful to provide some tips on how to handle (or eliminate) it. I call these the 10 commandments of poker tilt.

1. Thou Shall Take Breaks

A break is a tilter’s best friend.

Taking a break gives you the opportunity to clear your mind, relieve stress and rest. You’re less likely to tilt if you’re not already stressed or irritated to begin with.

A break also removes you from the game. You avoid more opportunities to make bad plays, spew money and tilt harder.

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2. Thou Shall Not Chase Losses

Chasing losses is never a good thing. It’s too much like gambling.

Chasing your losses puts you on the fast track to tilting, or tilting harder. Every time you lose another dollar you become more frustrated. Not only did you just lose again, but now you have another dollar to recoup.

Many players that chase losses also come up with the bright idea of playing higher stakes to recoup their money faster. However, if you’re not running or playing good to begin with, do you think moving up in stakes is really the best idea?

Eh… probably not. The most likely outcome is you losing your money even faster and becoming even more emotionally unstable aka more money spew and broken screens.

All that chasing losses does is create a (negative) snowball effect. It’s a compounding problem — you lose more money faster the more you try to get it back.

3. Thou Shall Not Engage in Table Chat

The only reason why there is table chat is so that it’s like a live poker experience. The chat feature is for the players who play 1-2 times per week, and are sitting down to blow off some steam. They could care less about winning.

If this is you, disregard this advice.

Everyone else — shut off your table chat. Why? Well, what’s going to happen to most of you is you’ll lose a hand, either by playing or running bad, and then the smug asshole that beat you will make fun of you for it. You’ll get mad, tilt and then try to get him back. You’ll get overly aggressive or tricky, and just lose more money.

I think the chat feature is a distraction. If you play several tables at once, it’s not as if you can keep up with a conversation anyway. So do yourself a favor and shut it off.

4. Thou Shall Not Be Results Oriented

Results oriented thinking is looking at the results versus the actions you took to get those results. For example, say you decided to limp 73s under-the-gun, got a couple of callers and flopped the nut full house.

Did you make the right play?

Results oriented players will say yes, because they won the hand. Everyone else will say no, because in the long run playing a hand like 73s from anywhere (much less EP) is going to be -EV in the long run.

This goes hand in hand with tilt because many players wouldn’t tilt in the first place if they weren’t results oriented. Stop looking at the fact that your opponent hit a 3-outter on the river or that for the 5th time your aces were cracked by kings. If you played the hand the right way, then the results don’t matter.

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5. Thou Shall Understand Variance

Players would tilt less if they understood how variance works.

For example, pocket aces only win 80% of the time versus pocket kings. That means 20% of the time they’re going to lose. What’s even more important to understand is that this means your aces can win 10 times in a row, or lose 10 times in a row before the opposite happens. And it would be perfectly normal.

So if you notice that you’re taking an unusual amount of beats, or your AK has been out-flopped by AQ 5 times today, realize that it’s not that unusual. It happens, so don’t let it upset you.

6. Thou Shall Understand Your Opponent

Understanding your opponent will help you to tilt less.

For example, if you didn’t pay attention to your opponent and know that he likes to make bad calls on the bubble, then it’s your own fault that he made a bad play and you busted. You have no reason to throw a fit here.

Equally as important to understand is that not every one of your opponents are there to play seriously and win money. Many of them are there to blow off steam and have fun. So when they make a bad play or get lucky, you shouldn’t let that bother you. They simply don’t care, and aren’t doing anything on purpose. Not only that, but so long as they’re making bad plays, you’re making money in the long run.

That’s all that should matter anyway.

7. Thou Shall Review My Own Play

As I mentioned above, it’s important to understand your opponents because not every mistake made is their fault. Sometimes it will be yours.

That’s why it’s important to take some time to review your hand histories. Even if you only play for fun, if you find that you’re prone to tilt then it would still be a good idea. It’ll give you some perspective. It’s possible that you’re not running as bad as you think you are, and that’s it actually a combination of running and playing bad.

8. Thou Shall Understand What Tilts You

Trying to calm down from tilting is only half the battle. The other half is understanding what tilts you so that you can avoid tilting in the future.

All that you need to do is ask yourself what’s making you so mad? Is it a certain player? Are you running bad? Are you not getting enough sleep?

Figure out what tilts you and then create action steps that you can take to fix it. Being tilt-less should be your ultimate goal.

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9. Thou Shall Not Play Until Ready

This isn’t going to be easy for professionals, since you should “work” whether you feel like it or not.

That said, there are boundaries, and you should know what those are and avoid crossing them. If you didn’t get enough sleep last night, or you’re having a problem with your wife or girlfriend or are dealing with something stressful, forcing yourself to sit down and play is going to get ugly quick. Only sit down when you are confident that you can remove all other distractions and play your best.

For poker pros this does mean that you need to work on understanding what tilts you as soon as possible. After all, you can’t take days or weeks off work just because you don’t feel like playing.

10. Thou Shall Exercise Before Sessions

I recommend exercising before you sit down to play each session. That way you can burn off some extra energy so that you’re not experiencing highs and lows while trying to focus. You’ll be less likely to get irritated (easily), and you’ll be stable (energy-wise) for longer periods of time.