Dealing With Tilt
Handling your emotions at the poker table can be a tricky business. Poker players are naturally competitive and prideful, add money to the equation and you have a recipe for pain induced mistake-filled play. Tilt.
Learning to take your emotions as much as possible out of the equation is a surefire way to improve your win-rate. Playing your best poker more often and playing on tilt as infrequently as possible is probably one of the fastest ways to improve your win-rate in fact. Learning to recognize the difference in your A-game and C-game and taking frequent breaks are two of the better ways to avoid tilting. These are top 5 tips for tilting less.
Top 5 Tips for Dealing With Tilt
1. Take Breaks
Sustained mental effort over the course of hours can be incredibly taxing. One of the best ways to keep your mental and emotional energy up is to take frequent breaks.
Every 2 hours at least you should get up, grab a snack, maybe a breath of fresh air, and above all think about something other than poker. Allowing your mind to concentrate on something less strenuous allows your mind to refresh and refocus when you to return to the table. Ideally you should take a solid 15 minute break. This is no trouble for cash game and SNG players but unfortunately tournament players are forced to limit their breaks to the 5 minutes allotted by most poker rooms at the end of each hour. MTT players can only hope to make the most of their scheduled breaks.
2. Take Emotion Out of Your Decisions
There are some decisions that you are forced to make in the heat of the moment, for instance, does pokerman124 really have the AK he is representing or is it a calculated bluff? However there are many decisions that a player may end up making in the heat of the moment unless precautions are taken in advance.
When to move up or back down in limits, when to take breaks, when to call a session quits, these are all decisions that you can make before sitting down at the poker table. If you setup rules for yourself that determine when you will take breaks or when you will end your session, then you are far less likely to convince yourself to “win back all the money you’ve lost” when you’re having a rough session. As you improve at avoiding tilt, you may not want to use hard and fast rules however as there will be times when a game is so soft it just makes sense to play through your break.
3. Monitor Your Play and Emotions
Whenever you lose a large pot or brutally bubble a sit-n-go or MTT, you should take a moment to evaluate the plays you made that lead to your loss and make sure that you didn’t make any mistakes. Make a mental note to correct any mistakes you may have made for future poker sessions. Additionally, take a moment to evaluate your state of mind. If you feel the urge to avenge your loss immediately, you may not be in the right frame of mind to play optimal poker. A 15 minute break is a great way to improve your state of mind and stay tilt-free at the poker table.
You might also like our Top 5 Bankroll Management Tips! Learn to play within your means!
4. Keep Playing When Playing Well
A common mistake that many players make is quitting on a winning session so as to preserve the win, and playing long hours during a losing session so as to get back to even. The psychology behind this is undeniable. It feels good to win and it feels terrible to stand up from the table 4 or 5 buy-ins down. We want to bask in the win and we want to get even when we’re losing.
However, when we are winning it’s likely because we’re playing well, the table is good for us, or we’ve got position on the donkey etc. When you are winning you are also playing with greater confidence which leads to better decision making. These are prime conditions for profitable poker. Whenever you feel the urge to put a win in the books, take a look at the clock and ask yourself if you’ve put in enough hours. If not, then take a break and enjoy your win for 5 or 10 minutes and then get back to it.
The reverse is true when you are losing. When you are losing you are likely playing with less confidence and there is a good chance that the table conditions aren’t ideal for winning. Consider calling your session quits, taking a break, or switching tables.
5. Review Your Sessions
Reviewing poker sessions is obviously an important practice for any serious poker player as it allows you to find and plug leaks in your game. However, a nice by-product of reviewing your poker sessions is that you get a chance to look over your plays and see whether or not you were responsible for the hands you lost.
Whether or not you made a mistake, the practice of reviewing your session will almost always give you a confidence boost.
Either you realize your mistake and resolve to avoid similar mistakes in the future, or you took a bad beat and there was nothing you could have done. In one case you have improved your game and in the other you were already playing solid poker. In each case you should feel better about your game and yourself.