Strategies to Avoid Prolonged Poker Tilt

Last week, we discussed methods to quickly get off tilt during a poker session.  This week, we’ll focus on why taking an extended break is the best way to avoid prolonged tilt, curb a slide, and maintain a healthy relationship with poker.

So, when should you take a break?

Timing is everything in poker. It’s important to know when you should step away from the tables for a short stint, or a lengthy hiatus. If you’re making good decisions at the table, yet stuck in a losing rut, you could keep on plugging away until you start running good again.

However, if you’re bogged down in a losing streak and it’s causing you instant tilt, then don’t think twice about taking an extended break.

Breaks could last a couple of weeks, or even a couple of years in some instances. Irish pro Andy Black was so tilted by his performance at the 1998 World Series of Poker Main Event that he sold all his possessions and spent five years in a Buddhist monastery before he found enough inner peace to return to the tables with a resurgence in the mid-2000s.

When losing sessions begin to mount, it’s difficult to snap out of it if you’re not mentally strong and physically rested. A long break will provide you an opportunity to recharge both the mind and body.

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Take a Walk

If you live in a major city, getting reconnected with nature can do wonders for recharging your internal battery. You do not have to hide in a dark cave for months, or go live with monks in the middle of nowhere. A change of scenery, however, is a relaxing way to step away from the tables.

If you’re on prolonged tilt and stuck in a major losing streak, then take a hiatus or sabbatical where you do not think about or play poker for an extend time. A complete break gives you a chance to clear your mind and engage in other actives. If you’re running bad at the tables, it’s a good opportunity to delve into other non-gambling hobbies. Poker can be a solitary pursuit, so a break provides you a chance to spend time with friends and family.

Woodshed, Hand Histories, and ABC Poker

You can actively step away from the tables, but passively think about poker. Breaks provide you the necessary time to improve your game. Thus you avoid hemorrhaging at the tables, or flushing your bankroll down the toilet.

If you opt for an extensive hiatus, you can take months off to woodshed your game and revamp your strategy. This is a massive undertaking, but often necessary to tinker with your game. You return as a much stronger player.

Even if you take a short break, use the time wisely to study. Instead of playing in your weekly home game, or making a usual trip to the casino, take the time off to read new poker strategy books, or re-read some of your favorite poker books. There’s a trove of poker strategy videos on YouTube that are available for free. Or you could spend a few bucks and subscribe to videos from a reputable training school.

Returning to basics, or playing ABC poker, is the best way to end a big skid or get out of a mental funk that’s caused by prolonged tilt. A break is a reminder to return to fundamentals and keep the game simple. During losing streaks players will often overthink situations and get sucked into fancy play syndrome in which they’re complicating situations instead of keeping it simple.

If you’re an avid online poker player but running bad at the virtual tables, you can learn a lot from hand histories. You’d be surprised at how many mistakes you’ll uncover if you do a deep dive of your losing sessions. When you take a break from online poker, utilize the time to study your hand histories. Tracking software will also help you pinpoint leaks in your game.

If you have friends or family that play poker, do not hesitate to tap into their experience. Welcome their criticism. Do not be shy to discuss trouble hands with friends, but make sure you talk to the right people. There’s a big difference in commiserating about bad beats with friends, and finding a true confident that will tell you when you played a hand poorly.

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Go See a Movie

Lou Krieger was an author, editor, radio host, and poker pro. I met him when I first moved to Las Vegas in the early 2000s. Lou has since passed away, but he gave me a bit of advice twenty years ago that still resonates today.

One night, I bumped into Lou at the Mirage. He saw that I was clearly agitated after taking a bad beat, which coincided with a couple losing sessions in a row.

“Let’s go see a movie,” Lou suggested.

Whenever Lou was running bad, he’d end his session early and watch a movie. If he was stuck in a prolonged rut, he’d stay at home and watch a bunch of movies until he was in a better headspace to play.

Lou’s advice can be helpful for staving off short-term tilt, or help you refocus during a major losing streak.

If you’re having a bad session, take a movie break to get you off tilt. Find a nearby movie theater, or return to your hotel room to watch a flick.

If you’re at home and in the middle of a terrible session, then log off from your online poker account. Fire up Netflix or some other streaming service instead. Binge watch something in your queue and forget about all those bad beats and suckouts.

Lou’s sage-like advice worked off the felt as well. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I’ll go see a movie to take my mind off things. Sitting in a dark theater gets you to stop thinking about whatever is causing you angst, whether it’s poker or everyday life in general.

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