In this episode, I give you a 4-part plan for training the skill of tilt control (avoiding anger, negative emotions) to improve your poker results and enjoyment at the tables.
Listen to this episode as you follow along below:
What is tilt?
I define tilt as experiencing negative emotions that remove you from your logic centers which leads to making sub-optimal, unthinking, losing plays. I first learned this definition from Jared Tendler in his #1 book, The Mental Game of Poker.
The negative emotions that lead to tilt can be brought on by hundreds of things.
- On-the-felt: Suffering a bad beat, facing loads of 3bets, missing your draw and Fishy Frank rivering his gutshot straight can set you off.
- Off-the-felt: Relationship problems, lack of sleep, ill health and issues at work can lead to anger and tilt as well.
Tilt control is a central aspect of every profitable player’s skillset. You can’t be profitable if you allow negative emotions to consistently hijack your decision-making process. Tilt control is a difficult skill to develop, and for most people like myself, it’s always a work in progress.
You MUST train the skill of tilt control like any other skill (e.g. hand reading, cbetting, check-raise bluffing, etc.).
4-Part Plan to Train the Skill of Tilt Control
1. Recognize What Tilts You
“Knowing is half the battle” and recognizing what tilts you will allow you to fight it.
For myself, I know that losing a huge pot with AA can set me off. As can making a mistake that allows a weaker player to exploit me.
Take action: Spend some time with your poker journal and write out all the things that cause you anger or negative emotions and lead to tilt.
2. Plan for Tilt During Your Warm-up
Maybe you recognize that getting sucked out on after flopping a strong hand tilts you. So, during your pre-session warm-up (you do warm-ups, right?), focus on this. Tell yourself:
“I won’t allow suck-outs to tilt me today. I’m going to weather those inevitable poker storms with composure and continue playing A-game poker today.”
I suffer from a form of tilt that Jared Tendler calls “Entitlement Tilt”. It’s when you feel entitled to win, like all of your time studying and playing and dedication to the game means that you deserve to win more than anyone else. When you don’t, you get angry and are more likely to make bad choices. I tell myself in my warm-ups:
“You aren’t entitled to win, but if you play your A-game and make better decisions than they do, you’ll win in the long run. Focus on that.”
Take action: Do a warm-up before you next 3 sessions. Open your poker journal to the section where you listed the things that tilt you and make a plan for when it occurs. It might not occur this session, but you know it will eventually, so prepare yourself.
3. See Tilting Situations Before They Happen
You flopped a straight on a wet board (e.g. holding J9 on Qd Td 8h):
You recognize this is a potentially tilting situation because your hand can easily cost you a lot of chips if another diamond hits, or a Broadway card or the board pairs. So, take a deep breath, remove your hand from your mouse and think through each decision. Tell yourself again, “I won’t allow suck-outs to tilt me today.”
Removing your hand from your mouse prevents “finger tilt” as Tommy Angelo calls it. This is when your emotions hijack your decision-making process, leading to costly, angry button clicks.
Take action: Practice removing your hand from your mouse as you play today. If you need, whip out that fidget spinner or stress ball or 20 clay chips to give your mouse-clicking hand something to do. Only return your hand to your mouse and click a button when you’ve thought about your action and you’re not reacting with emotion.
4. Post-tilt Evaluation
If you experience tilt in your session, open your poker journal (get my journal here) and write about it. What tilted you? How did your tilt manifest itself? What can you do better next time to avoid tilting again?
Here’s my most recent post-tilt evaluation:
“Bob was on my direct left and 3bet me 3 hands in a row. I folded each time but decided to fight back with AJ the fourth time. I 4bet and he called with position. The flop came AJT and I cbet and he raised. I immediately 3bet shoved (didn’t remove my hand from the mouse) and he snap called with AA for the flopped top set. I lost my full 125bb stack. Next time, I’ll avoid LAG 3bettors on my direct left. When I get 3bet twice, I’ll assess the player and decide whether to switch tables, narrow my open-raising range, increase my bet size or fight back sooner. I’ll also remove my hand from my mouse when I face raises so that I can calmly assess their raising range.”
Take action: The next time you experience tilt, evaluate it in your poker journal and give yourself actions to take to combat it next time.
The Flip Side to Tilt Control: Striving for A-Game Play
There are 2 sides to this tilt avoidance coin.
Avoiding tilt is the first side, the 2nd side is striving to play A-game poker every time.
The next time you’re play lights out poker (awesome decisions, playing the player, bluffs succeeding, getting crazy value, etc.), evaluate that session afterwards.
What was your day like leading up to the session? How much sleep did you get the night before? Did you have the best day at work ever? Maybe you had an awesome dinner with the family before you started playing.
Or, maybe you just got back from watching Spider-Man: No Way Home. You loved it so much, you were riding on a nostalgic high and you took that great feeling with you into your play session.
Take action: The next time you experience a perfect A-game session, journal on why you were able to play that way. Figure out what what led to the A-game play and see if you can’t replicate it and live it for the rest your poker journey.
Support the Show
I want to thank Cindy Wilson, Mark Fleming, Graeme Richardson, Cringu, Jerry, Linas, Mike Paquette, Bajus, King, Art, Stellar and Kris Paz for getting my Anonymous Poker Exploits Course. This 7-Day Course teaches you how to quickly understand and exploit your anonymous and unknown opponents, no matter where or what format of NLHE you play (online, LIVE, cash, tournaments, etc.).