Part 2 of ProfessAwe’s Psychology of Poker!



So I said I was going to write about why tilt is normalised and not considered a sin and say a little about why I don’t tilt. Check out part 1 here on why tilt is a sin.

So tilt is normalised (by that I mean that something different becomes accepted). Tilt is part of poker and widely recognised. We don’t have to look very far to find talk about being tilted or listen for too long before we hear “so tilted”, “he went on tilt” etc. Search for “on tilt” in the forums here – so many results. There is a forum for people to vent about bad beats. Try searching for “just tilted off” on google and the first result begins:
“So, I'm super-proud to say that I just tilted off my entire bankroll”
Genuinely that was the first thing I searched for and was surprised to find this evidence at the top of my google results. Not only is tilt normal, it is something to be proud of

There may be two reasons for this normalisation, first are those pesky pros. Three of the greatest TV hand candidates were pretty good evidence of tilt:
Vanessa Selbst’s reaction to Kevin MacPhee’s hero call
And of course the man who has probably done the most for normalising tilt, Phil Helmuth. He gave us two examples of his tilting on the big game, this one and of course the one the judges picked as the greatest hand

Now I am not saying that we all want to play (or react) like Vanessa and Phil, but TV loves a good blow up and as such this normalises tilt, particularly when the commentators pick up on it or suggest that a poor play was due to tilt etc. So if the pros are doing it, must be OK right? So tilt becomes normal, legitimised and perhaps even cool

I think more important than TV normalising tilt, is our psychological nature. When we recognise something is bad, but it is difficult to control (like tilt), we re-evaluate the behaviour as something normal, something that everyone does – so we share our story of tilt and look for others to tell us that it is normal, that loads of great players have tilted off their roll.

So somewhat naturally we are both encouraged to see tilt as normal and in a self-protective measure we evaluate our tilt as a normal thing that everyone does.

Well not everyone … I find this strange as someone who hasn’t really tilted much and certainly not once I became experienced, here is the reason why or more how I avoid the tilt:

If I was to get angry or just react emotionally every time I experience a bad beat or a cooler, then I would spend a lot of time angry. Such hands happen a lot when you play small stakes zoom and/or multitable MTTs a lot. I love poker, so want to enjoy it not spend my time fuming. Part of the reason I love it these days isn’t the excitement, that has worn off, rather I like the winning. I know that the winning is going to happen more often if I see people playing poorly, I have trained myself to rationalise a bad beat as proof that poker is still a beatable game and over the long term my correct decisions are going to win me more money than I lost in the one hand that a fishy got lucky on the river. In the long term we are going to more often benefit from such poor play as it is not often us on the receiving end of the bad beat.

As for coolers and mistakes and I experience both, again rather than get angry I am able to mark these hands and review them later. I can see mistakes as good things – I learn from them and I tend to learn quite well when I make a mistake that costs me money! Also some people might suggest ignoring coolers, they cant be helped right? Well sometimes what we think are coolers may be mistakes, so they are worth a look.

Overall thinking in the long term helps me avoid tilt, it means that bad beats can be seen as good things – I want that player to make the poor play as I am going to win more than I lose. Equally I need to recognise and learn from my mistakes to improve my game. Furthermore thinking long term helps me not focus on one unlucky hand. We are more likely to remember the important hands and when you stop getting excited at seeing aces and stealing blinds, the memorable hands often are the bad beats. We should not pre-occupy ourselves only with the hands where we lose money in unfortunate circumstances.

Finally I recognise that controlling tilt is not that easy. I am aware of certain hands that are really disappointing, that I guess would make others tilt. But my last effort to suggest tilting is a sin comes from considering one of these disappointing hands. We are maybe 100 places off the money in the Sunday major on Stars.FR at the beginning of the month when this happens:

This hand played on my mind later, since I thought it was a tricky shove, I didn’t expect to get called with worse pairs much (although I know it is a wide open from the villain in question). That I got called with 66 and couldn’t hold at an important stage in the tourney was somewhat “tilting”, however, it was critical that I did not succumb to any emotion as I had large stacks in two other Sunday majors and to play well in these two remaining tourneys just became even more important. Unfortunately I did not final table either, but I did cash and did not make any mistakes, something that may not have happened if I tilted.

Enough of tilt, part 3 will focus on something that I do suffer from psychologically when it comes to poker.