One of the keys to become a winning poker player over the long run is to avoid tilt. When a player is on tilt, they are not playing optimal poker or making good decisions.
Tilt happens to both amateurs and pros alike. Elite pros set themselves apart from everyone else because they can recognize they’re on tilt faster than an average player. They also have coping mechanisms to get off tilt, and do everything possible to stave off prolonged tilt.
Keep Tilt to Yourself
A lot of tilt discussion focuses on the mental part of the game, but you cannot overlook the physical aspects. It’s easy to spot an opponent on tilt: they’re muttering to themselves, berating other players or the dealer, and/or displaying physical signs of agitation.
Now, let’s reverse the situation. You become an easy target when opponents know you’re on tilt. That means you have to act cool whenever an opponent sucks out on you. You must shrug off bad beats, and act like Teflon if you don’t like someone else at the table.
The moment the table recognizes you’re on tilt, it’s only a matter of time before multiple players go after you. It’s vital to never let the table see you on tilt. Great players sniff out tilt before you’re even aware it’s happening to you.
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Step Away from the Table
You must determine what puts you on tilt the most. Bad beats are a popular trigger. Be alert as soon as a bad beat occurs, and know that you’re in the biggest danger in ensuing hands.
The best thing you can do after a bad beat is to take a break. Get up from the table and go for a walk, but do not return to your seat until you calmed down.
Most pros can take a deep breath after a bad beat, and get refocused in a few seconds. You must train your brain to keep all your emotions in check while you’re seated at the table. Players let their negative emotions get the best of them, which is a sure-fire way to go on tilt. That’s why you have to physically distance yourself from your chips, seat, and table.
If you’re playing poker in a casino, avoid heading into the gaming pits while on a tilt walk. The last thing you want to do is play a few hands of blackjack, or shoot dice to get off poker tilt.
Never turn to alcohol or drugs to calm yourself down after a bad beat. That’s a slippery slope that will compound your fragile emotional state, especially if you’re in a casino environment.
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Toilet Screams, Flying Mice, Tilt Pillows, Punching Bags
Bad beats happen, but sometimes you have to flush the anger out of your system before the frustration builds up and you lose all your chips while on mega-tilt. Obviously, if you’re playing online poker, it’s easier to rage it out in the confines of your own home without making a scene, or making yourself a target for tilt hunters.
I knew a French pro from Paris who threw his computer mouse at the wall whenever he took a bad beat. He lived above a computer store in Paris, and the owner stocked up on wireless mice for him. It was a pricey coping mechanism for him, but effective. By the time he opened a box and installed a new mouse, he’d get off tilt.
Some online pros keep a punching bag in their basement or garage to stave off tilt. Whenever they’d incur a bad beat, they unleash their frustration on the punching bag before returning clearheaded to the virtual tables.
A cash-game specialist I knew from Southern California often utilized a “tilt pillow” that she kept in the back seat of her car. Whenever someone put a bad beat on her, she took a break and walked to her car so she could scream into her pillow.
When I lived in Vegas, I played a lot of poker at the Mirage with a local player nicknamed “Sammy Echoes.” He quickly retreated to the toilet after a tourist put a bad beat on him. He’d shout multiple f-bombs in bathroom stalls. You could hear echoes of his expletives all the way out into the poker room, which is how he earned his moniker. Sammy Echoes was the source of a lot of inside jokes. He always returned to the poker table more focused than when he left.
Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes
Music alters your mood and mindset. It’s also a shortcut that helped get me off tilt in an expedited manner.
If you’re playing online poker at home, you can crank up some of your favorite tunes to help calm you down after a bad beat.
If you’re playing live poker, bring earbuds or headphones with you. You do not have to always listen to music, but find anything to calm you down like stress-reduction apps.
I knew a poker pro and WSOP bracelet winner who listened to soothing natural sounds – like a gentle rainstorm, or waves crashing on the beach – to help reset his mind after a bad beat.
I curated a special mix and playlist to help me avoid tilt. If I absorbed a vicious bad beat, I’d stand up from the table and take a short walk while listening to the mix.
The first song on the playlist is “Even the Losers” from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It is off their third album “Damn the Torpedoes.” Petty wrote a song about someone who is unlucky in love. It’s also a corny, yet effective inside joke for gamblers, especially this lyric: “Even the losers get lucky sometimes.”
Petty almost always talked me off tilt by the end of his four-minute song before I returned to the poker table.
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