Tilting is a capital vice. In this blog I explain why tilting is a sin and hopefully persuade a few readers that they shouldn’t be sinning.



This will be the first in a few blogs on psychological aspects of poker. As a psychology graduate and every so often psychology lecturer I have license to go on about this kind of thing. I am starting with an obvious one, tilt. I don’t know whether I am a great or useless person to talk about tilt, given that I do not really tilt myself. Hopefully there will be some clues in here as to why I don’t tilt and that may help people, after all I see a lot of reference to being on tilt, or tilting off money on these forums.

So to business…

Tilt (poker) = allowing our emotional state to influence our play so we deviate from our normal or optimal game.

So when thinking about why people tilt, I found myself reminded of the seven deadly sins, a model of tilt you may not have seen before:

We just lost a big pot, perhaps a cooler or a bad beat. And now we see our former chips residing in the stack of some fish. Perhaps it is hard not to feel envious, we want our chips back … Except they aren’t our chips and forcing them back is not going to help our cause much. Don’t envy the fish, s/he is liable to lose those chips and then they will feel sad. Concentrate on playing our A game so we have as much chance of benefitting from fish with chips.

Yeah, but not only am I envious of the fish with my chips, but I am literally angry. Sounds like we have a problem. If you get angry at coolers and bad beats, then I am afraid poker is going to make you angry a lot + you likely don’t play as well when angry. When I see a bad beat from a hand that had no business sucking out (I see a lot of them) I don’t feel wrath, I am happy that there are still players making these errors, plus on the odd occasion they suck out on us they are getting reinforced for making mistakes, so are liable to continue doing so =

You get tilted when your aces get cracked? You greedy sinner. We often feel like the whole pot should be ours when we e.g. get aces in pre versus kings, actually we only deserve 82% of the pot and tend to forget that when we lament that pot that should have been ours. Likewise we (me too) complain about busting out deep in that tournament when there was $xxxx up top. Thing is we too easily get greedy in terms of what we feel we should be getting, rather than our true expectation.

OK this one is a bit trickier, but perhaps a lack of willing to make an effort does apply to tilt. We start playing our cash game and lose a buy in. Do we work hard trying to play our best to get that buy in back or do we hit the PLO tables and/or higher stakes trying to repair the damage quickly. That is definitely a sin.

I don’t know if tilt and eating are related  perhaps we can say tilting allows other controlled players to glut on our bankroll. You have been warned.

I am going to suggest that our pride could be linked to tilt. If we make a mistake and lose some money + we are too proud or vain, then we are liable not to address that mistake, instead chasing the loss or looking to punish the villain whom we are sure is not up to our standards. Much better to make a note of such mistakes and work on them, so they don’t happen. If we don’t give ourselves the chance to tilt, we will obviously tilt less.

No I am not going to go there … But I think we only have to log in to Pokerstars and we can find ourselves lusting over big tournament guarantees, the high stakes games, the lifestyles of the smiling pros at the bottom of the lobby, the first prize in the tournament we are playing etc. There is a difference between desiring bigger wins and the Vegas lifestyle and craving it. The latter is liable to see us deviate from good bankroll management and take unnecessary risks in the pursuit of a dream, rather than working hard on goals.

Takes a while to get through seven deadly sins. I will return with part 2 in the next couple of days looking specifically at why tilt is normalised rather than considered a sin and why yours truly does not tilt (even though I complain about running bad a lot, see my goals thread)