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Whether it's from a series of bad beats or comments made at the table, sometimes we start playing on tilt, and let our emotions get the best of us. This leads to sloppy play, poor decisions, and problems in general.

What are some ways to stay aware of when this is happening, and avoid it from coloring your decisions?

Are there known recommendations about the subject, from poker writers such as David Sklansky, Lou Krieger, or Doyle Brunson?

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Related meta discussion, and possible explanation for the unexplained close vote. –  Beofett Jan 12 '12 at 21:17
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when my hand hurts and I can't remember when I hit that bloody table :) –  Teo.sk Jan 24 '12 at 21:46
    
@Toby Booth: Thanks for editing my editing. The question now appears answerable. Ditto for your edit of my edit on the other question. –  Tom Au May 11 '13 at 21:57
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10 Answers

I can think of two tell-tale signs:

  • Is your heart racing? whether you are excited because you are doing well or poorly, you might want to take a breather and calm down a bit.
  • Are you starting to get personally invested in a particular player? do you feel riled up? do you want to teach them a lesson? do you get a rush from their misfortune? Again, you might want to stop and re-evaluate your priorities.
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This would differ from person to person.

If I had to generalize it I would say you are playing on tilt when "You are making decisions with no sound reason."

Being on tilt can also be physical:

Is your heart rate increasing? Do you feel like you are breathing harder?

Emotionally:

Are you angry? Do you emotionally feel like you are a yo-yo?

The best thing an individual can do is to examine the times they are in tilt.

Ask the 5 whys you were in tilt. What did you feel like while in tilt? What happened once in tilt? What got you out of it?

Once you can recognize what gets you into tilt you can avoid those items. For instance bad beats happen and If they out you in a tilt state how can you avoid that? Would it help if you accept that a bad beat is part of the game and it is just probability.

If you cannot avoid something that will put you in a tilt state maybe you can developer a technique to help once you are in tilt. For instance if it is a bad beat then take a hand or 2 off. Find something to take you out of tilt like breathing slowly, getting some water.

Try to keep notes on what brings you into tilt, what happened once there, what did you do to get out if tilt. Review it often. Look at it and try to make small changes too get yourself out of being in tilt and help avoid it all together.

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What got you out of it? I lost all my money! :P –  Erik B Jan 14 '12 at 12:07
    
Typically it takes time and may losses before you figure out how to get out of tilt. –  David Basarab Jan 16 '12 at 14:37
    
Good answer. Just wanted to note that recognising you are going on tilt and actively working to prevent it is probably the single hardest thing in poker. –  Andrew Brennan Mar 20 at 16:57
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My experience is that I'm on tilt if I make a decision that I know to be suboptimal; for example, I know that I shouldn't make a call but do it anyway. It can be hard to tell, but if it feels like you're playing looser than usual, that's a good sign.

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Tilt is defined by betting patterns, not so much mental state or emotions, etc. People can be completely lucid, irate, arrogant or in any other form unusual to that specific player and still make the optimal play in each situation, which by definition makes them not tilting.

The most common forms of tilting are when a player changes their typical betting patterns in hand playing frequency, bet amount, raise/call frequency or depth of play (i.e. staying in or folding earlier or later than they normally would). All of these parts of play will change naturally as the game goes on, for instance people will get long runs of decent hands resulting in a natural change of hand playing frequency. In order to identify tilt, you have to determine if the player thinks they are playing correctly or if they know they are abandoning correct play for some other reason. People who think they are playing correctly are destined to lose all the time, people who know they are doing something off beat are tilting.

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Playing "on tilt" is playing while thinking with your emotions instead of your head. To avoid tilting, concentrate on your thought process throughout the game, and think all of your actions through. When you notice that you are no longer doing so, you are either on tilt or otherwise distracted. At this point you should take a break until you cool down and are ready to focus again.

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When you normally think through hand ranges but you suddenly stop thinking about hand ranges.

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Before making a big decision, try asking yourself if you would have made the same decision at the beginning of your session. If the answer is no, ensure you can convince yourself that you are using tells/flow/something to change your decision from what you would do "in a vacuum".

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When I'm tilting I start to open up my range of hands wider and play them badly out of position.

I also start shouting at the screen after bad beats.

I start to chase hands against people that have given me a bad beat, trying to get revenge.

If I notice these things I stand up for a minute have a stretch compose myself and get back to it. I dont tilt for long these days.

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I used to tilt all the time, then I heard an awesome quote, I'm not sure who said it but since I heard it, it really changed my thinking.

"Luck is just probability taken personally"

Those times when you're in tilt, and all you can think is "why am I so unlucky in such important spots?", really you're not unlucky at all, you can and will lose with the best hand often. I've seen a 99% hand on flop lose to a 2-exact-cards-only-runner-runner.

All you can do is make the optimal play when the odds are in your favour, but the optimal play when you're a slight favourite is not to overbet your single pair of 9s on a 679 flop with 5 people still to act.

Then finally, when you lose with the best hand, evaluate it afterwards.. was there any other way to play it? Did you need to go broke on it? Were you thinking clearly?

And then remind yourself when the tilt tries to get you, luck is just probability taken personally, don't take it personally.

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There's a lot of sign that tells You You are on tilt. You should be careful with them, every people and every tilt is different, it depends on personality too. But there are a lot common signs.

For example:

  • You are counting your loss and You want your money back ASAP. This is one of the most dangerous effects of tilt.
  • You are angry, HERE you can find the symptoms of anger.
  • You hate an opponent. You want a revenge. You want to get money from him.
  • You remember a bad beat and think about it 10 minutes after it was made
  • Your ranges become wide. This is easy to detect if You use some tracker software.
  • You don't care about bankroll management. You lost a few Buy-ins, and don't step down a level when You should, thinking You will win your money back.
  • You cann't stop playing, even if your planned session time is over.
  • You are trash-talking in real life or in the chat window.
  • You start to lose money very fast.

I think these are the most common symptoms of tilt. Knowing these is very important:

  • You have to stop playing when You notice some of them on Yourself.
  • You should stay at a table when You realized somebody else is on tilt.

To return to normal state, probably You only need a break. Some sleeping, reading or sport can make a wonder ;)

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