In its broadest interpretation, tilt is the emotional state of a player who has great difficulty controlling their game through rational decisions, but rather acts very emotionally. For example, when a player takes a few large losses and tries to make them up as quickly as possible by betting aggressively and playing large pots with weak hands, then he is on tilt.

Types of tilt

The most obvious form of tilt is aggressive tilt. A player tries to win big pots with aggressive moves, as described above. He bluffs a lot but also puts his opponent on a bluff frequently. He plays very loosely, very aggressively and tends to play for big pots, even with marginal hands. This can ultimately lead to him getting into double-or-nothing situation in a more or less hopeless spot and shoving all-in, like sitting at a Roulette table and putting it all on red.
This kind of tilt also means that the player ignores his bankroll management and makes bets at limits which his bankroll can't cope with and where one lost buy-in alone can mean a big part of the bankroll.

Another, sneakier kind of tilt is passive tilt, where losses or experiences make a player so shy and fearful that he no longer plays aggressively enough. He behaves very passively and doesn't even trust himself to play his good hands aggressively, as he ought to, because he suspects there's a bad beat lurking around every corner.

Triggers and consequences of tilt

Tilt is normally triggered by losses. They don't have to be particularly large, they need only impact a player so that he falls into the state of mind where he thinks he must regain his losses at all cost.

The consequences are often catastrophic. If the player does not have exceptional good luck, he will make his relatively small losses large in no time with aggressive tilt, until he burns through his whole bankroll. In its passive form, the player continually cuts his winnings, so that from one loss he then makes consistent, long-term losses. He plays badly, much too passively and scared. A generally good player becomes a bad player, as he no longer acts as he should and often, he knows it.

Avoiding tilt

Tilt is a very basic phenomenon in games of chance. At some point, something clicks in a player's mind and suddenly all he can do is watch his money fly out the window. There are few people who are immune to it. The only way to avoid a tilt is to check yourself at the first signs of it and quit playing as soon as you notice you're heading towards tilt. This is when you're playing emotionally, playing a lot of hands and trying to make the biggest possible profits as quickly as possible. Once it sets in, it will be hard to control while you're playing.

Related topics:

Bad beat, Bankroll management