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Principles of Tilt Control


In this article
  • What tilt is
  • How to spot the early signs of it
  • How to control tilt

The only way you can solve your tilt problem is by remaining in control at the table when you would typically lose control. Period. There’s no other way around it. I want to make that clear from the start because the strategy that I lay out in this article is designed entirely to help you remain in control when you typically lose it.

It sounds obvious enough but all too often players don’t quite think in those exact terms. They sometimes think the solution to tilt is to quit. Quitting is not a solution. It’s a way of managing your tilt problem by avoiding the situations that provoke it, or make it worse. You can’t solve your tilt problem from the rail.

That doesn’t mean you have to jump right in and challenge yourself to face a barrage of bad beats on a downswing and handle it like a grand mental master. Tilt control is a skill, and just like in poker you have to develop that skill over time. In essence you have to build “mental muscle” and the process of building that muscle is exactly the same as building real muscles in the gym.

This process in turn is exactly the same as building actual poker skill. You’re not just going to jump into playing $25/$50, because you’re crushing $2/$4 (though you may when on tilt). You wouldn’t do that because you’re not ready. Without the skill to beat high stakes games yet, you keep working hard on your game and making steady progress. With tilt control you have to think in the same way. Work your way up the ‘limits’ by acquiring the skills necessary to control tilt.

Far too often, players think that improvement in the mental game and with tilt specifically, should happen much more quickly. When something clicks, improvement can happen rapidly – just as when you have a big realisation or learn something that makes your poker game click. That’s rare. More frequently improving tilt requires sustained focus over a longer period of time.

Before I get to the strategy to help you move up the mental stakes, it’s important to define tilt.


That's not the entire article...

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Comments (4)

#1 andreimgs, 23 Jun 11 19:03

Good article. Thanks for sharing this

#2 Salivanth, 24 Jun 11 06:59

I especially like "Mistakes are going to happen. However, the bigger mistake is letting one turn into more." I'm very tilt resistant, but one thing that does make me tilt is playing badly, since I feel I should be able to control that, when I know I can't control bad beats and such.

#3 Marioest88, 28 Jun 11 21:15

I do 5$ -150$ but will end up losing control and I have zero, more trying to control own thoughts, good article

#4 faronel, 27 Aug 11 18:13

Thank you, Jared! Finally an article that is confirmation to my idea as well. I try to neglect the broad definition of tilt (especially the claim that playing bad during an upswing is "being on a winner's tilt"), and narrow it down to a bad play after an uncomfortable result (that would lead to an irritated mental state).

There is a strategy that I adopted from "anger management" and find it useful in poker as well. Whenever a player will start expressing irritating thoughts after an unpleasant event, the player should break the thoughts into an objective description of an event and a subjective description of his reaction.

An example:
Two players went allin on turn, they revealed their hands. One was underdog with 20 to 80 but hit his river. The hero started thinking: "this f*** fish sucked me out. What a bad beat."

The objective side:
Two players went allin on turn. One was a favourite to win 80 to 20. With the river card, the underdog won.

The subjective side:
"He is f*** fish. Sucked me out."

The logic:
Let's get back to turn. Is this a profitable situation for you in the long run? Yes! Would you like to go 100.000 allin like this and get 60.000 profit as a result? Yes! can opponent still win you with a river card? Yes!

The main idea is to try to distinguish between the situation that REALLY happened and your own reaction to it. Like Jared puts it, tilt is anger + bad play. Though, even more important, tilt as a product of being angry misleads you to interpret a negative outcome even in a more negative fashion. Now who is the actual fish who was sucked into a bait - a fish playing bad and winning, or you wearing these rage glasses willingly?