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Tilt: Of Shark and Fish

You have no edge when on tilt

"Competition is won or lost on the six-inch playing field between the ears" (Bobby Jones, legendary golfer)

One would think that good players would welcome playing against the worst players, the so-called 'fish'. After all, aren't they the ones that provide the dead money? Don't they make mistakes that better players profit from? Don't they just call with anything in the hope of a weak draw hitting? Isn't it true that they are unaware of the mathematical probabilities and simply gamble, play far too many starting hands, choose awful bet sizes, ignore position, and well....... calling station, weak-tight? BAAH!

Yes, all of this is true, and through these mistakes, fish represent the likelyhood of better players. And yet, fish are stumbling blocks for many good players, as their bad play inevitably leads to occasional horrendous bad beats, 2-outers etc. Or perhaps its just one of those days where the fish are just constantly getting lucky or making irrational plays that put us on tilt.

Bad players can win too

If fish didn't occasionally win despite their bad play, then good players would have astronomical win-rates. The only problem would be that the oceans could suffer from over-fishing after a while. The poor fish should be allowed to feel comfortable in the role of the losing player. They should be allowed to lose as much money as possible without complaining, leaving this money for the other players to collect.

Anyone with a degree of experience in poker is familiar with this problem. Bad players make us angry, while at the same time we have to acknowledge that the largest part of our poker earnings come from bad players. The anger will often however take control and put us on tilt. Why is this?

It is because anger is of emotional nature and touches us directly. It distracts and upsets us, while the awareness of the fact that bad players pay our bills is distant and based on intellect. Since our brain classifies this intellectual understanding differently, the thought process has less influence on our emotional state. In a similar fashion, when we are winning, then we usually attribute this to our own skill and competence and to the others' mistakes.

This however leads to a shift in our perception, away from our own game and towards the others' game. While doing this may take some weight off your shoulders, it doesn't benefit your game much. If you fall into this line of thought, you stop trying to improve your own game because you make the other players responsible for what happens at the table. This however implies that you are also letting them determine the outcomes, even though these are in fact influenceable by you.



That's not the entire article...

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Comments (13)

#1 One12ver, 12 Nov 08 05:10

Ok this is the best of the Tilt Articles!

#2 mouse89, 16 Nov 08 01:54


#3 Chriskelly123, 22 May 09 15:04

Great article, always nice to be reminded as much as we try and read and absorb from this great site we're only, at best, marginally ahead.

#4 theboydave, 22 Sep 09 12:24

very good read

#5 Fagin, 05 Jan 10 01:47

Excellent article - now bookmarked for easy access when I need to remind myself how to reframe the next bad beat!

#6 blankcheque, 20 Feb 10 17:44


#7 FishDan11, 20 Apr 10 16:37

Superbly written - great article :)

#8 Pimprlas, 10 Jun 10 10:40

Thumb up

#9 bobtheslob, 20 Jan 11 00:49

Great article - with practice you realise these players DO increase your roll on the long run :)

#10 svendeucer, 08 Apr 11 03:23

numbers don't lie...well ok if you make them but if left alone they don't

#11 Pouserly2, 12 Aug 11 09:04

Last Hand only

#12 SPeedFANat1c, 31 Oct 11 10:29

I liked this sentence: 'Is there actually any reason for us to lose self-control, simply because of the fact that even the worst player will occasionally hit? After all this is the way it HAS to be, considering that probability treats everyone as equals.'

#13 arcnagett, 20 Mar 13 18:25

This is one of the best articles i've read so far. Congratulations to the author!