The biggest enemy of a poker player is often themselves. 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 affect your future play and 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 recognisable 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 effect of this is that 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 this case 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 what tilted them anymore! They are losing too much to quit the game and trying to continue playing, but now very frustrated. There are very few players who can play their best game for a very long period. Most players don’t even recognise that they play worse during long sessions than they do in sessions of a normal length.
Many players can lose self-control regarding their bankroll management too. For tournament or Spin & Go players, it’s not rare that they start registering for faster tournaments or bigger buy-ins 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 called positive tilt. Positive tilt is the effect of winning: playing too many hands, making very loose calls and bluffing with too much risk. This type of tilt is harmful but difficult to recognise, and because it only occurs when you are running good, evaluating the damage caused is more difficult too!
Players on positive tilt usually return to 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 build 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.
If You Are on Tilt…
It’s a basic fact that you should avoid tilt if possible. If you recognise the signs of tilt in your game you should stop playing. In cash games you can do it immediately by leaving the table after the hand. When you are playing Sit & Go’s or Spin & Go’s it’s also not difficult – you should finish the games you’re currently playing and not buy in to any more.
Tournaments are where it’s more difficult but you can sit out for a few minutes. It’s much better to skip a few hands than to make a big mistake which can end your tournament. Sit out, stand up, take a walk, listen to your favourite song, call someone… do whatever it takes for you to break the habit of being on tilt. You can do all kinds of things to rid yourself of tilt, and you probably should, seeing as that’s how you can protect the rest of your game.
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