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StrategyWeekly No Limit

No tilt part 1


No Tilt part 1

from MiiWiin

Basically, everyone knows but disavows it: Tilt is a big problem for most poker players and has ruined many possible higher limit careers before they even got to that stage. Today we want to go through the possibilities of precluding this phenomenon in a practical way.

I want to deal with this topic in two articles. In this first article we are going to talk about the origin, the problems and mode of action of tilt. You will learn how to prepare for a session correctly, how to gain confidence before and during the session and how important table selection and the number of tables is.

I will talk about the "down-rule" next week. We are going to evaluate preventative means of the bankroll management and deal with other aspects that can help us to prevent tilting.


Why do we tilt at all? People blame the variance and that they are not getting paid off properly in the short run even though they are playing well. There are many articles about variance, up and down swings. We don't want to go into these topics further.

The reason why we tilt and which emotions play part in it have already been discussed in other articles. This is the reason why I want to focus on things we can do to avoid tilting.


Why is tilting one of the main problems of a poker player? What is the point in knowing that we have a good preflop and postflop game and know how to make value bets but give away lots of stacks in pointless situations.? Most players will have experienced this at least once. They analyse their sessions and think: "what the hell did I do there...?!"

Especially the stacks, which are needlessly lost, hit us very hard. The anger about having tilted creates even greater tilts. You'll think that it won't matter any more.


How do you notice tilt? Some players become more aggressive, other more passive. Some might even become a maniac and bluff a lot of hands. Others might become a calling station and a showdown junkie. Obviously none of these things are any good.

Any excursion from our a game will reduce our win rate. We will move into uncommon situations, which we can't play profitably. Furthermore our concentration will suffer making us concentrate more on our cards than on our opponents. We start to overplay our hands.

Our goal should be to avoid these situations as well as we can!


The preparation for a session is absolutely essential. I often read that players start a session when they are demotivated or think that they are going to lose anyway. Simply turn on the hand converter, collect all the bad beats and them on the forum to be able to nag about these hands. Say that you don't have any luck and that poker is a game of luck anyways or even that the site XXX is rigged.

If I were to start a session with that feeling, it would probably end up being a very bad session as well. Where is the the courage and the confidence in your game going to come from if you are basically just waiting to get sucked out only to prove to yourself how bad you are running?

There is an essential danger to sitting down and waiting to lose your first stack knowing for sure that others are going to follow. If you start a session with such a negative attitude you are basically beginning it, already in a state of tilt. 

What can you do about it? Many ask themselves whether it might be a good idea to take a break if the game is not going to well. The answer is pretty simple: Yes and no!

If you think that you are playing well and that you aren't affected by the results, you should continue playing. Swings are part of poker and have to be lived through by every poker player. Simply sitting down in a corner and waiting for the downswing to finish is definitely not recommendable.

However if there is a danger of tilting, especially if you are sitting down at the tables in a bad mood, you should definitely take a break. Ask yourself before every session whether you are even up for playing poker, be concentrated and give it your best! If this is not the case, you should simply not play at all and concentrate on theory or something completely different.


If you are not satisfied with your game or unhappy with how you deal with expensive decisions, you should do something about it.

Before a session you should look inside of yourself, concentrate and set specific goals. If I know that I have been getting stacked too many times with over pairs in the past, or have the problem that my turn play is very bad because I am too weak, I would focus on these two thinigs in the session. The more concentrated I am the less room there is for tilt.

Try to create an atmosphere that makes you feel comfortable. A nice place to "work", a favourite beverage and some nice music in the background. It is better to play music that makes you feel comfortable rather than music that makes you aggressive.

Try everything to start the session in the best possible mood and the greatest feeling of confidence.

Furthermore you have the option of evaluating hands or reading articles before the session to get your brain going. You would start a session with some poker specific information still stored in your short term memory. You could also use the skills you got from videos or articles straight away.

Dealing with some content half an hour before the session starts is not a bad idea. In addition you won't have the motivation to deal with theory after a session. Combine these two useful things and deal with the content to start your next session focused and prepared.


Just as the tilt problem, table selection is one of the most underestimated things in poker. Why do so few people pay attention to table selection and why is it so important?

I have to figure out how many tables I am able to play. Do I have some empirical values that I can still play my a game if I am at many tables? Do I know my limits? Do I have some comparisons in my hourly win rates?

Lets start with table selection. Many people don't pay attention to it because they are too lazy. I open the number of tables I want to open, organise them and start playing. After a while you notice that some of the tables aren't that great. One table might be too aggressive, another might not have any fish on it, while you don't have a good position on another one. You should start looking for a new table. You have to consider the number of hands played per hour, the average pot and known opponents whether they are fish or regulars. This is a lot of work. I will probably not pay as much attention to the other tables while I am doing this. Is the other table even better than the one I am at now? If I close the table now I would be missing valuable hands!

As soon as you think about this, you might also think that the maniac who has position on you is a challenge rather than a problem. I try to make money on the other tables while trying to prove myself on this table. I am definitely able to take on one of these super aggressive opponents. This actually wasn't my goal because I knew why I should have selected tables. However I am in the situation now and have to deal with it.

Even though you might know that the maniac is a good player, you try to stay in the game with loose 4-bets. You ignore that you could be avoiding this table. There are no fish at the table so nobody will give you anything for free. You are faced with tough decisions which are very expensive and increase your variance. It is also obvious that our game at this table won't be +EV. As soon as there are only good players at the table, you will probably be playing break even while the rake will do the rest.

We are on a path to tilting. Other tables are perfectly playable, but instead of focusing on our a game and profitable situations, we will only be looking at the tough table which we should have closed a long time ago. We are trying to make very hard moves not to let others bluff us out of the hand. We want to prove ourselves in -EV situations and disregard the other tables while we are doing it.

Basically the one thing we tried to avoid will happen. We loose a stack. We also lost another stack on a different table against a fish. We are getting very annoyed and totally overplay a top pair. The third stack is gone. We are tilting. Concentrating to play a good game is hardly possible any more. The pulse is raging and playing our a game would be wishful thinking.

Does anybody recognise this situation?

How could we have avoided this phase? Take the time to look at the tables to figure out whether they are profitable for you or not. Leave the tables if they are not; you will benefit greatly from this.

Connected to this is the number of tables. This is very specific for every player. There are many players who can play several tables at the same time, while others might not have this ability. You will notice that you are playing too many tables if your actions become very hectic. Why do I display so many stats of my opponents if I don't have the time to look at them, interpret them and then reach a good, concentrated decision?

Anyone who wants to improve their game and reach a decision using the stats, should only play 4 tables. Everything above this number has to be tested by yourself. I personally admit that I only play my A game if I am playing less than or equal to 6 shorthanded tables.

Anyone who plays a lot of hands, can't look at his position, the opponents, the stats from the opponents, possible ways of playing the hand, not only for now but also for other streets, on three tables simultaneously within 15 seconds. I have respect for any player who can play more than 6 tables with full concentration. I am also sure that many players are probably able to do this, in contrast to me. However I am also sure that there are many players who just think that they are able to do this. Maybe these players have never asked themselves whether less tables might be more fun and improve the average decisions which you have to reach relatively often.

The more tables you play, the more often you will reach suboptimal decisions. If these mistakes accumulate, it might become very expensive because if you aren't able to play your a game any more, it will be much worse if you are doing this at 8 tables rather than 4.

We should set ourselves the goal of only playing tables which we can easily beat. We should also choose tables carefully and leave them once they are starting to become bad tables, to find another one. If we were to do this, we would be in many more profitable situations and stay away from tilting as far as we can.


Today we have discussed ways of avoiding tilt the best possible way. We should pay special attention to the preparation of our game, our attitude as well as the table selection and which implications it might have.

Next week we will talk a little bit more about this topic and deal with bankrollmanagement in detail. We will also discuss the "down-rule".


Comments (8)

#1 Rap1d007, 11 Oct 08 20:06

Very nice written and interesting article, mostly part about choosing tables. thx

#2 mouse89, 14 Oct 08 15:50


#3 andyb43, 18 Nov 08 07:28

Good advice about switching to better tables..........so simple but it never occurred to me, i just settle in and slog it out.

#4 funjubulus, 16 May 09 17:19

spot on Andy. Me too. Good article. I shall be moving around a lot more from now.

#5 Razvan888, 16 May 09 19:53


#6 pedromostarda, 22 Jun 09 22:53

The preparation for a season part was very interesting! I'll be sure to use it on my next game

#7 AdamLaw33, 09 Mar 10 14:09

i liked part about choosing tables.. I think some of us let our pride get in the way to much... I am very new but always try to look for value at my table, if there is none there is always value somewhere else.. thanks

#8 ilovem0ney22, 20 May 10 17:29

SO FUCKING TRUE ! I was thinking about this when I first started multitabling 4 table, there were tables where I just can't Win but focused even more on it and then start to lose on tables where I was already trippling up. Tilting is the worst thing you should do, play poker for yourself to be profitable first, you should only challenge yourself to beat better players after you can manage to make a good living in the industry, then you can risk what you made if your a competitive person like me.

I personally only play 2 tables now to focus my best. I think that if you do 2 tables of 2/4 it is more profitable than 4 tables of 1/2.