Goldog’s Guide to Handling Tilt and other Emotions

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Avoiding Tilt. The Importance of Emotional Control in Poker

Control of emotional tilt is necessary to become a successful poker player. If you let the highs and lows of the game affect the way you play, your bankroll will suffer. It is therefore important early on, while your’re leanring the game, to include tilt control as a primary part of your training. If you treat emotoinal control as an afterthought you will not be prepared to handle the swings that are inherent in the game. You need to understand some very important concepts that I may have only touched on in the strategy sections.

Bad Beats
First and foremost, it will seem like you suffer more “bad beats” and “suckouts” than the other players. In addition, you won’t be on the winning end of this kind of beat very often. These facts taken together frustrate many otherwise decent players and cause them to go on tilt.

Undersand, a “bad beat” by definition is dealt to you by someone who shouldn’t have even been in the pot to begin with. Obviously, if you follow a good strategy you should very rarely be in this position. Similarly, a suckout is when someone catches up when starting from behind. Again, since you are generally playing better starting cards than your opponents, you will usually be the one in the lead as the hand progresses. Also, you will only be staying in when you hit the flop or have a quality draw. Other, less skilled players, will play on with little hope. Once in a while they will catch up to beat you. More often than not you will be the one dragging the chips.

Goldogs Guide to Handling Tilt and other Emotions
If you allow yourself to be frustrated by other people’s poor play or your own bad luck you open yourself up to going on tilt. A player is said to be “on tilt” when something in or outside the game has negitivly affected their play. In addition to “bad beats” tilt can be induced by a rude comment from an opponent, bad luck or even boredom. Money or relationship problems are a common source of factors outside the game which can also have a negitive effect. This is a good reason to avoid playing during times of stress. Also never play with money you can’t afford to lose. I suggest having your poker bankroll separate from other money and only invest what you can afford. If you follow a sound strategy you’ll be able to build your bankroll and draw out your original investment and more over time. If you find you are repeatedly needing to add outside money to your account you will need to reassess whether Poker is right for you. Most people can learn to be winning players some cannot. I believe most people who don’t make it did not “pay thier dues” by studying and thinking about the game.

Running Bad
Gaining experience playing at lower levels while you are learning is also very important. Don’t move up before you’ve experienced some periods of “running bad”. This may be a few days or even weeks where nothing you do can change the bad luck you are having. It’s much better to go through this at a level you’re comfortable with. Everyone will have times like this where it feels like the poker gods are just out to get you.

You must really examine your game during these periods. Are there things you are doing wrong or is it just bad luck? Sometimes you get tenitive in your play. Not raising enough or playing too timidly. Don’t forget when you play this way you are encouraging bad beats by letting people in cheap or giving free cards. Remember, aggression is just as important as any other factor in poker. A lack of aggression is just another form of tilt. This is an area I often struggle with. It’s hard to maintain an aggressive posture when you are losing but you must. Re-raise when you feel you have the best hand. This will reduce the field and increase the liklihood of winning the pot.
Running Good
Even good luck can be a source of tilt for some players. Winning can sometimes make the game seem too easy. You’ve amassed a big pile of chips and it just seems unfair to the others that you are such a good player. For whatever reasons you start to play too many hands. You stay too long when you should fold or you bluff when there is little chance to succeed. Pretty soon that big pile has shrunk up to even less than you started with.

Keeping Your Cool

There’s an old Disney cartoon where Goofy portrays an angry driver. At every turn someone cuts him off or does something to make him angrier. In typical cartoon fashion Goofy turns red, his eyes bug out and he has steam billowing from his ears. This is how some, usually losing, players aproach poker. Every bad beat, every stupid play by someone at the table is another reason to “steam”. Anger and Poker are a bad mix. It’s like the angry drunk. Why do something if it just makes you angry? Allowing yourself to “steam” will definatly hurt your game. Besides the general forms of tilt discused above other things like revenge or payback can move you away from optimal play. Don’t make a target out of someone who dealt you a bad beat. Stay in your game and let the payback come naturally. Of course you will be able to target his poor play in future hands.

I advocate the oppisite approach. Train yourself early on to welcome poor play. Congratulate the loose player on his great play. Compliment his tendency to hang in there to the end when he sucks out on you. This is where your profits come from. Try to encourage more of it. You’ll drag the pot more often than not.

You cannot be a winning player unless you make good decisions most of the time. If you are a good player most decisions are pretty straightforward. you know what to do most of the time. Even if you do make a few poor decisions in difficult situations you’ll still do OK. Try to learn from your mistakes and move on. It’s when you let emotions rule your game that you’re in real danger.