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Why you Tilt in Poker

Being “on tilt” is an expression used in poker. It refers to is a state of mind that players get into after experiencing an event (or a series of events) that were negative. For example, having a full house and thinking you’re going to win a huge pot, but losing it to a better full house is a frustrating experience. For some, it sends them on tilt, a place where you are unfocused and where emotions run high... A place you want to stay away from at the poker table.

The dangers of being on tilt

To put it simply, when you’re on tilt you’re irrational and emotional. You become a donkey, which is another poker term to describe poker players that make bad decisions. What frequently happens when you’re on tilt is that you get stubborn and you keep throwing money in a pot you should have walked away from. Subconsciously, you’re trying to make up for the chips you’ve lost and you want them now. While acquiring chips is the goal of any poker player, when you lose objectivity in perusing that goal you end up making bad poker decisions.  What can happen next is even more dangerous – Tilt’s vicious circle! You end up making life more difficult for yourself, and that only upsets you some more but you keep doing it to yourself until you end up with zero chips. It’s only after a cool down period that you wonder “What the hell did I just do?”

Getting other people on tilt

While being on tilt isn’t a good thing, having someone else at the table on tilt could be a great thing for you. This is exactly why people like TonyG are acting like such a-holes at the table: they want to piss you off on purpose so that you lose your focus and start making bad plays. Guess what happens when TonyG is in your face constantly… You think to yourself “I’m going to show that #$@#$%^#”, and that is EXACTLY what he wants you to think. When I play online, I frequently notice that some people are just a-holes when I pay attention to the chat box. And once in a while, I pick on them on purpose without being excessive in my language or anything like that, but when I see something bad happen to them, I do like to point it out and twist the blade so it hurts even more. Am I a jackass? Yes, but I’m a jackass that’s going to end up with your money because YOU will make this a personal matter. You’ll want to teach me a lesson. And odds are, you’re not even going to learn anything from the lesson you’re about to get from me! Haha! But remember, there is such a thing as poker etiquette, and there is a line you shouldn’t cross if you choose to opt for these frowned upon tactics.

When someone is on tilt, they typically become over aggressive, raise when they shouldn’t and call when they should fold. Watch for hands or situations that really hurt them and look for changes in their behaviors. Someone who’s been very chatty and suddenly shuts up after losing a big hand could be on tilt. On the next hand, if you actually hit the flop, it’s time to push these boys around and let them push back. Picture yourself at the edge of a cliff struggling with someone else where each person is trying to throw off the other to the bottom. The difference is you have a harness and are securely attached so if you do go down, you won’t go far. If you can push the other person over, then they’ll go all the way. That’s what it means to play with someone on tilt. You want to push them off the edge, and they want to do the same to you. The difference is you know when to stop while they’ll fight to the death. You have a safety net because you remain focused and calculate your every move.

There is a danger in playing the tilt game. If you’re trying to push someone else to be on tilt, your goal is to make them make things personal. But in your attempt, you may drive yourself on tilt without realizing it. By attempting to make things personal, you may end up taking things personally so it is a very dangerous game indeed. The safest approach is to simply not bother driving people to being on tilt and respecting the poker etiquette. It is a gentlemen’s game after all! But always keep your eyes open for signs that someone else is on tilt and see if you can take advantage of it in some way.

What to do when you’re on tilt

The best thing you can do is walk away if you can. If you’re in a cash game, take a break, skip a few hands, have a smoke if that relaxes you, jump around, yell like a maniac if you’re home alone (DO NOT try this in a casino…). Basically, you need to shake it off, and you need to do it fast. Jumping jacks work wonders! The worse thing you can do is keep playing and remain upset. You need to let it go because what ever happened is a thing of the past and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Focus on the task at hand, on what matters: reading your opponents to win the day.

Mind Games in Poker