Long overdue Third instalment of ProfessAwe Psychology of Poker coming at you. I wanted to talk about entitlement tilt after a frustrating weekend of poker.


I don’t pay too much attention to the various types of tilt and their definitions, so partly for my own benefit I ought to define entitlement tilt: It revolves around the feeling that either because you are better or work harder than someone else you deserve more than them. Note that this is not just a potential problem for poker.


So a player who feels they are ‘good’ or ‘work hard’ may experience entitlement tilt if a) a bad player sucks out on them, b) a downswing occurs and it doesn’t feel fair given the hard work they put in, c) They have an inflated sense of their edge – they become despondent when they don’t double their buy in or make the final table etc.


I was thinking about this after busting the PartyPoker Road to Old Trafford tournament late on day 1 and after not converting a final table chip lead into the W of the PSO Big Bang freeroll. To be clear there is a difference between being frustrated after busting a tournament and the tilt that affects your game. I am still claiming to be relatively tilt free, I wasn’t suffering from entitlement tilt, but I guess became more aware of it and critically given I think I have something useful to say, learnt something from the experience.


My key message is this: Entitlement tilt should not affect you because there is so much work to be done in the situations that may lead to this form of tilt. That said it holds that better players and players who work hard may be more prone to this, as frankly weaker players are less able to recognise poor play getting rewarded – they might see this as luck – and don’t have the sense of entitlement if they are not expecting to win regularly.


Poker is a game that I would argue is primarily about maximising edges. Associated with entitlement tilt could be a problem of not bringing your A game to the situations where you feel entitled. At Old Trafford I was more confident than normal because I knew that the majority of pros would be in Galway for UKIPT and that the event would attract football fans as much as it would poker fans. I could have gone to the players party the night before day 1*, prepared for the tourney by annoying the beautiful Party Poker girls, listened to my backlog of podcasts while playing etc. But I treated it like any other tournament and soon found that any sense of entitlement was quickly removed by the realisation that it is hard work playing against weak players. There were a lot of level 1 thinkers (interested in only what they have) but there are differences in how this effects these players. Some level 1a – I have AK, a great hand, I will bet regardless of the board. Some level 1b – I flopped a piece of the board, I bet – no awareness of position, checking to the better etc. Some level 1c – I flopped a set and want to get paid, engage mass slowplay. Being aware of these differences was hard. Add in the wide ranges that were typically being played and I was thinking more than I would normally, when I can assume that a competent player will normally play in a certain way. I was frustrated to bust out, ironically calling down with second pair top kicker against one of the 1b players, but felt I had worked hard to maximise my edge and my entitlement.

There is the danger that the message that good players should work harder against weak opponents, leads to a greater sense of entitlement, but really good players should understand the variance of playing versus weaker players and the long-term view needed to realise this entitled edge. 


As for the Big Bang final table, I think my mental game did worse here. I allowed it to feel like a no win situation, where only winning the tournament would have pleased me. I do not think all the players were weak despite it being a freeroll, I just suspected that all the opponents would have been happier with just making the FT and the payouts would have meant more to them. I think this took over a bit when reflecting on not winning and I ought to have been more realistic in terms of what any perceived edge I had would mean in terms of how often I should expect to win (which I appreciate is not nearly 100%) and how to maximise that edge.


In summary, if you are good, sensible enough to work hard at your game and lucky enough to find some games with weaker players, remember that you are not entitled to win, but I think you are entitled to work hard in these spots to maximise your edge.


*To be clear I would have been at the players party if my train had gotten in earlier! Although I would not have been nursing one of the many hangovers that I saw at breakfast!