Understanding And Avoiding Tilt

Allowing results, positive or negative, to affect present decisions is the definition of Tilt. The usual culprit behind these feelings is being results oriented. Having emotional attachment to an outcome completely out of your hands is a pointless endeavor.

Many players feel somehow slighted when they get their money in good and lose or value bet and run into the top of their opponent’s range. Some may even think the “Poker Gods” are out to get them. Youmustlearntodisciplineyourselfandnotletanyshort-termresultaffectyourplay. Iamnot saying that anyone can get to a place where downswings will not bother them in some way. It is a natural reaction to be negatively affected emotionally when we lose. Nobody likes to lose. And unless you have achieved nirvana or have amazing control of your emotions, bad beats and downswings will always bother you to some degree.

Case in point: as of the writing on this book, I have played over three million hands. Bad beats still upset me much more than I would like. However, they do not bother me as much as they did when I first started playing. I used to shout at the computer, slam my fists down on the desk, or even get up and kick a wall when a bad beat happened to me. Over time, I have learned how counterproductive a reaction like this is. I am now able to either brush it off or simply quit the session and go do something else if I feel I can no longer play my A game.

Having this type of self-control may be the most important skill that any professional poker player possesses. You must realize that poker is one lifetime session. Short-term results matter little as long as you are playing a superior strategy compared to your opponents. When the money goes in, your opponent (and you) are almost never drawing dead when behind. Even a hand with a 10% chance of winning is going to take the pot 100 times out of a thousand. Sometimes that 10% hand will win 3 or 4 straight times. But over 1,000,000 instances, the average result will be very close to the 10% number.

Even the most even-keeled people get frustrated with short-term results, and I am sure you will too. It may take some time for you to get to the point where you can quickly shrug off or not be bothered by negative results. In the meantime, I advise that you develop a short-term fix to tilt to keep at your disposal. You will need to make a reality check when you start to feel emotional about something that happens on the poker table. If you decide that you are on tilt, you will either need to do something to get rid of it or stop playing altogether for a time.

Depending on your level of emotional control, tilt management ranges from being very easy to being extremely difficult to overcome. Some people are naturally centered and unemotional and have no problemshruggingoffabadbeat. Theycansimplylookawayfromthecomputermonitorandtakea deep breath or sit out for a few minutes. Others get way too hyped up, in one way or another, depending on the result. They feel elation when they win a huge pot and emotional distress when they lose one.

You will need to find out what works for you. And while it is nice to have a short-term fix to tilt, you must also realize that it is just a band-aid and that you still actively need to be working on the core issue that causes the stress or tilt in the first place. Otherwise, you are probably doing more harm than good to your game in a long-term sense. Whatever your natural inclination, control of one’s emotions is a learned skill. There are many tools available to help people with this type of thing. Some practice yoga, others spend time talking to psychological consultants.

It is my view that any emotional stress felt during play stems from a lack of understanding of poker. Once you really learn where the money comes from and have a controlled plan for your play, you should never feel emotion while playing. In fact, you should not care about any short-term result. They say that ignorance is bliss. In poker, nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding and knowledge is bliss in poker.

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