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Tilt is personal. Every person who plays poker goes on tilt at one time or another. Whether a person becomes frustrated and internalizes the feelings or exhibits the tilt verbally or physically, every player can identify with some level of it. Mistakes are a part of human nature, and despite what some may think, no one plays perfect poker.

It is that level of tilt, however, that can make one a better player or sabotage all efforts at the tables. At the time, it usually leads to less-than-optimal play and further negative results. But it is all in the way a person deals with it during and after the period of frustration that a player improves.

quote - bobby baldwin

Tilt and Learn

Most professional poker players will say that their experiences with poker tilt have made them better players in the long run. The examination of what made a player go on tilt, how he or she reacted, and what steps he or she took after the episode to overcome that obstacle all contribute to the betterment of a player.

quote - mike sexton

The best book on the market that addresses tilt and other emotional difficulties in poker is “The Mental Game of Poker” by Jared Tendler. Many players swear by it. One of Tendler’s quotes from the book is key to learning about tilt and knowing when to walk away until it subsides:

“Injecting logic works best when: You catch the build-up of emotion, such as tilt or fear, before reaching your emotional threshold. If not, you have a major uphill battle to regain the ability to think clearly and play well without having to take a break or quit. Why? Once your emotions have crossed the threshold, it becomes harder and harder to think clearly. Injecting logic is really just thinking. Therefore, if your emotions have shut off your ability to think, trying to inject logic is the equivalent of trying to run on a sprained or broken ankle. Your logic also corrects the underlying flaw. The fastest way to resolve a mental game problem is by injecting logic that also corrects the underlying flaw that is causing it. Basically, you’re working toward two goals at once.” 

In essence, the best ways of beating tilt involve leaving the game temporarily.

5 Tips for Tilt

1. Physically walk away from the table. Whether via a trip to the restroom or a walk around the outside of the casino, the best way to keep your tilt from showing at the table is to leave. When opponents see what puts you on tilt, they can exploit that factor in later hands. Even more so, putting physical space between you and the problem often gives some perspective.

2. Take deep breaths. Breathing is used in meditation, yoga, and other methods of calming one’s mind, and focusing on deep breaths can help overcome poker tilt as well. Two short breaths in followed by one long breath out is a method used by many therapists to calm a person and clear thoughts.

quote - mike caro

3. During the time away from the table, engage in some form of exercise. Even in addition to that long walk, try to jog a few steps or engage in a session of stretching. Being able to stretch muscles or roll your shoulders can reduce blood pressure and ease one’s general stress level.

4. Call a friend who can calm you down. This is not an opportunity to relay a bad beat story but a chance to reach out for help to someone who can help you regain your positive mindset. This person should be somewhat familiar with poker so they can stop you from getting into the hand details and talk about how to overcome the situation that just happened.

quote - phil hellmuth

5. Let it go. At some point before returning to the table, you must be able to fully shake off whatever initiated the tilt. If that is not possible, you should go back to the table only to pick up your chips and belongings and leave for the day. A good night’s sleep should allow a solid reset for the next day.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.