This article is about the psychological phenomenon of tilt. For the ESPN TV series, see Tilt (series)
Tilt is a condition where a poker player makes less-than-optimal decisions for emotional and psychological reasons unrelated to a rational assessment of the hand.
Reasons for tilt
- Some people tilt when they have a bad run.
- Others, possibly even some of the same players, tilt when they have a good run!
- Any sort of conflict with other players at the table can cause tilt.
- Issues totally unrelated to poker can cause tilt, such as a fight with a spouse or some other life stress.
The best way to avoid tilt is to educate yourself on how the game works. Understanding the odds and the nature of luck and variance in poker will go a very long way to helping you overcome tilt. If you understand that your opponent just hit a two-outer to crush you, you'll understand that you did not suffer a bad beat but that, in fact, you made money even when you didn't get the pot pushed to you.
For good treatments of avoiding tilt, try reading John Feeney's Inside The Poker Mind and Zen And the Art of Poker by Larry Philips. These books will give some psychological insight into dealing with tilt.
To understand the numbers behind the game check out the books page for titles that offer that. Consider especially David Sklansky's Fundamental Theorem of Poker to understand why you win even when you aren't stacking the chips.
Dealing with tilt
Even the most emotionally and psychologically controlled individual will still experience tilt. They may not show it, but they experience at least an inkling. If you feel yourself tilting, what should you do? You definitely should not sit and spew chips into unwinnable pots; that won't make you feel any better. Consider these responses to tilt:
- Cash out and go home. There's always a poker game waiting for you.
- Get up, go to the washroom and splash some water on your face.
- Go eat a meal or a snack well away from the poker table.
- Call a poker friend and vent - away from the table.
Notice that these things all get you away from the table and out of action for a bit. This is an important part of overcoming tilt. If you continue to play in a tilted state, you're likely to tilt even worse.
Do not vent at the table. You may be inclined to make nasty or snide comments at someone who has just beat you. Perhaps worse, you may become a table captain and give the other players notions about how to play proper poker. Don't do these things.