Falling victim to poker tilt can cause you to lose money, friends and clout. Here’s a guide on how to combat tilt by making a few lifestyle changes.
We’ve all been there – on the losing end of bad beat. But, what’s most important is how you deal with that situation, keeping a cool head to avoid getting tilted.
Jared Tender, author of The Mental Game of Poker (which I highly recommend for all players, whether they are prone to tilting or not), says:
“Solving your tilt problem means both successfully managing tilt at the table while also working away from the table to resolve the cause of it.”
This is the kind of thing I’ll be looking at in this article. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to get my tilt under control – especially when I’m away from the table – and I want to share what’s worked best for me.
Why You Should Aim to Avoid Tilting
When it comes to tilting, I’ve heard lots of players say, “so what?” – but, it’s really something that you should try to get under control.
We all know that when you tilt, you’re not making decisions with a clear head. This makes it easier to make mistakes that will cost you money. So, learning how to avoid tilt will protect your bankroll.
It will also make you more pleasant to be around when you’re playing. One of the best things about playing live poker is the banter, and one player tilting hard definitely ruins the vibe.
So, it’s something that you don’t want to get into a habit of.
In poker, bad outcomes can impact your emotions.
• Compromises your decision making.
• Become emotionally charged.
• Your mind starts to malfunction.
Leading to irrational decisions causing more bad outcomes.
We call this "Tilt".
— Jason Vu Nguyen (@jasonvuvu) October 6, 2021
Going from Online to In-Person Play
When you’re playing at home, you might not even realize that you’re tilting. If you’re primarily an online player who is making the transition to playing poker in live environments, you should definitely get your tendency to tilt under control before venturing out into a brick-and-mortar venue.
I’ve known some players who tilt incredibly hard and don’t even know it. In these cases, I imagine it’s something like “hulking out” where they completely lose control and can’t remember just how bad of a reaction they had.
So, if you’re unsure of whether or not you have a big problem with tilt, you should ask those close to you or other players you’ve been at tables with. You might get some insight into how you deal with bad beats, which could differ from how you see your reactions.
The Basics – Walk Away
Whenever you search for advice on dealing with tilt, most people will tell you to just walk away and take a break. This is much easier said than done, and it’s not until you’ve managed to get your emotions under control on a larger scale that you can actually do this.
Still, this is the easiest thing to do when you find that you’ve started to tilt. It’s the quickest solution, and, if you can muster up the gumption to do it, it will save you some money and others some hurt feelings.
There’s been a big push for mental wellness recently, and it’s something that poker players should really take seriously. Whether you’re prone to the odd bad tilt or not, taking care of your mental health by being mindful and learning how to meditate will go a long way to helping improve your game.
Being prone to raging out over a game (no matter how much money is at stake), comes from a deeper issue with controlling your anger and anxiety. To manage them, I’ve found that practicing meditation and mindfulness really helps.
Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. You can notice your bad behaviours right away so you can correct them before they can really negatively affect you – which is important when it comes to dealing with bad beats in poker.
You don’t have sit to cross-legged and chant for an hour. You can do it for 10 minutes a day while you’re waiting for a table, or you can excuse yourself from a game for a quick session. Apps like Headspace are great, but there are plenty of free options on Youtube. For example:
This is a great breathing exercise that you can use to calm yourself down. It only takes 5 minutes, so you can step away from the poker table if things start to get to be a bit much.
Even Daniel Negreanu recommends it. He says the best way to deal with a bad beat is to do some deep breathing, and it really does work.
Play Other Online Games
One of the best tips I’ve ever heard for managing tilt is to try playing other competitive games online. At first, I thought it was a joke recommendation, but it actually does help you learn how to be a good sport.
It seems like there’s a good reason that several DOTA and Counterstrike players have made the transition to poker. These kinds of games put you in high pressure situations and require you to keep calm in order to make smart decisions.
Don’t knock it till you try it.
There’s no money at stake, so you can take your time in learning how to keep a cool head about you when things get tough. I actually found playing Mario Kart regularly helped me get to grips with playing an incredibly stressful and often luck-based (damn those blue shells!) game.
Some also recommend giving play-money poker a go. All of the top sites like 888 and America’s Cardroom have play money games where you can compete in a low-pressure environment.
Don’t Go Overboard with the Caffeine
Caffeine plays a big role in poker. You might chug Red Bulls to get through a late-night session, or order coffee after coffee if you’re sat in a tournament for over 12 hours.
While it helps you stay awake, caffeine can exacerbate tilt. If you’re prone to tilt, then you should try to avoid drinking a ton of caffeine during big sesh. Just try to get enough rest the night before or have a snack when you feel your energy starting to wane.
It sounds like a big compromise, but it’s worth it when you think about the consequences that tilting could have.
Often times, poker is a game of endurance. Many players are more prone to tilt when they’re overly tired – so, if you want to play longer sessions, then you should get yourself in the shape necessary to keep your energy levels up.
There’s also the issue of stress, which being active can certainly alleviate. If you work out your aggression at the gym, there won’t be any underlying when you’re at the poker table.
Worst Tilting Stories
If you needed any motivation to getting your tilt in control, here are some stories of the worst cases of tilt that I’ve come across. In the vast majority of cases, however, a tilting player will just blow some money by making bad decisions. These are just some extreme examples:
Doxxing During the WSOP
One of the worst tilts I’ve seen came during the online WSOP last year, and could have devolved into something a lot more serious than a bit of a tantrum. After being slow-rolled by another player, Mike Matusow, who was streaming at the time, threatened violence against the player and even asked his followers to find out the player’s identity.
You wouldn’t think that anyone would actually try to dox someone for slow-rolling, but some internet sleuths answered Matusow’s call. It turned out that the player in question was a woman named Megan – which made his threats of sexual violence even worse.
Fortunately, nothing came of the doxing and Megan took the situation quite lightly.
— 🃏 David Lappin 🃏 (@dklappin) July 6, 2020
A Player Stabbed Himself
This one is an internet legend: an online player stabbed himself in the ankle while on a $14,000 downswing. Many people doubt the legitimacy of the tale, but it’s still talked about in online poker circles, and has gone down in history.
You’ll have to read it for yourself, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you:
If there’s any cautionary tale that motivates you to get your tilting tendencies under control before something drastic happens, this is it.
Most Things Phil Hellmuth-Related
We all know Phil Hellmuth as The Poker Brat – but, he’s made his tirades and tantrums part of his brand. He’s definitely playing it up sometimes and, even so, you wouldn’t want to be that guy, kicking off and bearing other players at a $1/$2 game.
This compilation gives you a good look at what you can expect from a Phil Hellmuth tilt sesh:
Have You Conquered Tilt?
Have you ever had an issue with tilting too hard? Leave us a comment and let us know what strategies worked to help you get it under control!