The biggest enemy of a poker player is often himself. If humans could shut down their emotions completely it would be a huge benefit to their poker game, but unfortunately only very few people can do this.
A bad beat or a cooler can have an effect on your future play, and it can influence your decisions in tough situations. If you get a couple of unlucky hands in a row, you might come face to face with your worst enemy; tilt. When you are on tilt you are in a frustrated state of mind, which is not always easy to identify, but in the long term it will always have negative effects on your poker. Let's take a look at some of the most common mistakes that players make when they are on tilt….
Playing with Weak Hands
The most common and recognizable form of tilt is when you start playing too many hands, especially weak ones. When a player is on tilt they will often be looking for the possibility of confrontation, and to do this they might try to see the flop with borderline and sometimes even downright weak hands.
A tilted player will raise more often than is optimal, and choose to hang around too long when they should be folding instead. The knock-on effect of this is the player will then often face hard decisions after the flop. A typical example of this is a tilted player seeing a flop with a weak ace, hitting that ace and then struggling to find out where they are for the rest of the hand. Playing with weak hands can continue after the flop too. In these cases weak draws, second or third pairs, or even top pairs with weak kickers can easily get us into trouble. Players on tilt get into these awkward situations much more often than they should do.
Another form that tilt manifests itself in is connected to chasing results. This is when the losing player doesn't even know how he got tilted anymore! He is losing too much to quit the game and he tries to continue playing, but is now very frustrated. There are very few players who can play their best game for a very long period. Most players don't even recognize that they are playing worse during long sessions than they would be during sessions of a normal length.
Many players can lose self-control regarding their bankroll management too. For tournament players it's not rare that they start registering for bigger buyins and more turbo tournaments as the session goes ahead. For cash game players, their mistake is even more obvious when they are trying to bring back a losing session by playing on higher stakes, and sometimes even risking their whole bankroll.
The Positive Tilt
There is a very special form of tilt too, and this is called positive tilt. It doesn't mean that the player wins because of tilt but in fact the exact opposite; that in the glory of winning he is showing signs of tilt with his game. He is playing too many hands, making very loose calls and bluffing with too much risk. Positive tilt is also harmful, but it's more difficult to recognize, and because it only occurs when you are running good evaluating the damage caused is more difficult too!
Players on positive tilt usually get back into reality after a sobering loss, but sometimes when you figure out what's going on it's already too late as the chips are gone. If you open the lobby of a major online tournament where the field is large, you'll see that some players have built an amazing stack in a very short amount of time. These players are mostly on positive tilt, and they are playing way too many hands but running good.
I probably won't be saying anything new when I tell you not to tilt, but it's not always that easy. In the second part of this article I'll try to estimate how much tilting can cost you with each game type. Besides that, I'll give you advice on how to react when you feel the signs of tilt in yourself, and how to abuse it when your opponents are the ones who are experiencing it.