The Psychology of Tilt - Recognising and coping with this poker problem

Posted on Monday, August 28 @ 15:59:01 UTC by root

It does not matter how cool you think you are, all players are susceptible to and will be punished from time to time for going on Tilt. For the uninitiated "Tilt" is the descriptive used to explain irrational, illogical poker play immediately following a bad beat or significant table loss. Simply put, the symptoms of Tilt are:

1. Large calls or raises that are not justified by pot-odds immediately or shortly after a large loss.
2. Chat room rage.
3. Constant action, with little folding - again immediately or shortly after a large loss.

The best example I've ever seen of a player on Tilt was in a $3/$6 No Limit Holdem game. My opponent took a bad outdraw when his flopped Straight failed to stand up against a Set which became a Full House on the River. The very next hand I'm dealt a pair of 5s and bet them aggressively. I thought I'd be playing a tilted player, and sure enough my bet was called. At this point he only had $120 to my $600 in poker chips. The flop came 2,4,8 different suits so with only 1 over card I expected to be ahead. I led out betting a stiff $40 and was called. Turn comes a 9 which was an over-card but not a scare card as such. I bet $30 and was called again. River card was a 5 guaranteeing my win. I put him allin and he calls his remaining $42 into the pot. The most amazing part was that he only had 10 Jack unsuited which in this encounter was Jack high. I sat back amazed at the easiest $120 I've ever made playing poker and wondered at the psychology of the final $40 call. Whichever way you look at it, that was the worst call I'm ever likely to see as he couldn't possibly hope to win with Jack high.

Psychologically speaking many poker players seem to rationalise their bad beats as follows "I can't continue to be unlucky - I'm due some good luck now." There is however no logic to this mentality - it can be compared to marking a Roulette card with the result of the last 10 spins to aid the selection of the next spin (all spins have equal probability so marking results is statistical nonsense). In other words your next bad beat could be right around the corner, and pushing your luck by betting any and all hole cards is virtually guaranteed to end in complete loss of table chips.

Most poker players recognise Tilt when they see it, and some look for it. Most have seen a player going off on an irrational tangent when outdrawn. Some are obvious - the ones that rant and rave in the chatroom and others who simply start betting every hand after a loss. Which ever category you are in you need to be aware that you are sending signals which say "play me I'm about to lose."

Few players recognise Tilt in their own game, seeing it in their own play, and yet controlling loss is fundamental to success in Texas Holdem Poker. The message is clear - if you take a bad beat or a big loss, step back from the game, sit out and perhaps walk the dog. Whatever you do find something else to do besides playing poker in the immediate aftermath and you should steer clear of a double disaster.

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