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?

  • Related meta discussion, and possible explanation for the unexplained close vote.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 21:17
  • 4
    when my hand hurts and I can't remember when I hit that bloody table :)
    – Teo.sk
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 21:46
  • 1
    @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
    Commented May 11, 2013 at 21:57

11 Answers 11


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.

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?


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.

  • 1
    What got you out of it? I lost all my money! :P
    – Erik B
    Commented Jan 14, 2012 at 12:07
  • Typically it takes time and may losses before you figure out how to get out of tilt. Commented Jan 16, 2012 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. Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 16:57
  • @Andrew Well, not for everyone. I have played online for a few months, I don't really ever lose my temper or get emotional or anything. Somehow I assumed most players to be the same. Is that unusual? Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 15:30
  • Must be nice m8! Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 15:24

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.


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.


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.

  • 1
    As I was reading this answer, I got dealt KK in a tournament online. A guy in front of me went all in. I called. He showed AQs. I started celebrating. He turned a flush. At first I felt bad about it, but then I realized how true this quote was...
    – anton1980
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 3:35

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.


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


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".


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.


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 ;)


What defines being on tilt is such an interesting subject. Reading through all these answers I can agree that these answers are totally great answers that are relevant to recognizing when one is on tilt. I can also say from my playing experience that I have found exception with most of those answers, I have played angry, I have targeted players, and a number of those other specifics on the list and it was wise to do so in the particular situation. I like the answer from Nick Larsen in this respect most.

Not being able to get a handle on your tilt is the most negative thing to winning that most poker players experience. Tilt is the opposite of being in the zone. You know the zone when you see it, cards come and you understand perfectly how to play them. Tilt being the opposite is when cards do not come and you do not understand how to play them.

One of the basic rules I have for myself is when the cards do not come and I do not understand how to play them, I get out of the game. This rule for me came about because I felt that if I was losing in strange and unexplainable ways that I could not explain simply, something was going on with the game I did not understand like cheating, or something was going on with me I could not understand. Either way time to go home.

When you keep getting very unlucky your on tilt rather you realize or not. If nothing is working your are not in the zig of being in the zone, you are in the zag of being in tilt land. Tilt may or may not be any of those symptoms described. (Not discounting those symptoms, if your loosing and you have one or more of them it is a stronger indicator you are on tilt). If you are not in something that is closer to the zone then to tilt, you are more tilted then not, and if you are loosing, rather or not your feeling like your playing bad, you need to get up and do what ever works best for you to get your head back on straight.

Tilt is not necessarily an emotion. Tilt to me is some mindset that keeps one from being correct enough to beat a particular game. Tilt to me is not an absolute thing it is a variable thing. One can be cool calm and collected, feeling rested and good about their game, then sit down in a game they simply do not have a grasp of, and their ego keeps them playing. This is a form of tilt. If you sit down and do not understand why you are loosing and stay, you have made an irrational tilted move.

Many reasons you might be loosing that you do not quite understand. Your being cheated by a team. They look like crappy players, but you just can't get the handle on them. You have tells that other players are picking up with a good degree of accuracy. We all have tells, and most of the time we are not that readable, but sometimes without realizing it we are. It is an irrational act of ego, that keeps us playing. It is irrational because we do not understand why we are loosing, why we are so far out of the zone and leaned toward tilt, and yet we keep playing.

Playing on tilt is degenerate gambling. One of the signs of degenerate behavior, rather it is drinking, drugs, sex or gambling is rationalization. This is were you attempt to convince yourself and others that what your doing is the right thing to be doing. If you are rationalizing to yourself, to your playing friends, you are indeed to far out of the zone and into tilt land. If your trying to convince everyone that this guy is playing badly and you can beat him, you are rationalizing. If you are convinced your playing well and yet they fold on your big hands and you have not successfully bluffed all night, you are rationalizing. if you keep trying to convince yourself that it will change because of this or that, you are rationalizing. Rationalizing is simply one of the surest signs that you or more tilted then in the zone.

The question How do you recognize when you are playing “on tilt”? Is the most important part of the game of poker a player can master. Tilt is insidious, some players overcome it for awhile, do not really have a problem with it for years or even decades, then it hits them so badly the bankroll goes, and they end up in GA or just walk away. As we have all heard most big name players have gone broke, some many times. They can't walk away for awhile when things go bad. Tilt busted me more then once.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.