How Can I Defeat Tilt?

Lost & Found | estimated reading time
2011. March 13.
Every poker player in the world knows our little friend Tilt. Those who don’t should consider themselves very very lucky, but don’t forget: one way or another, it is going to get to you. And when it does, you need to be prepared.
The following article contains a poker player’s thoughts and advice on how to handle tilt.
 
I am not intending to discuss what tilt is; there are countless articles on the Internet covering that topic, and they provide players with enough background information. What I am trying to share with you is real life experience.

Back in the early days when I started playing poker, I can firmly recall a strong sensation crawling on me in the middle of a hand. What started this must have been some lucky fish or bad gameplay, as always, but this doesn’t really matter at all. Nevertheless, it ate up my first deposit, as I risked my whole stack wanting to win some crazy hand. At that time, I didn’t know that this feeling was called tilt, and I thought this was completely alright. For a long time, I didn’t even know what I did. In fact, I tilted my bankroll away (only something like $20, but that doesn’t change the facts).

A leap in time

About a year later, when I already had a salary, I made a $100 deposit and started playing. I think I was playing NL2, and after a few endeavors with a bad outcome, my friend Tilt visited me again, and whispered “play NL50, and make up for your losses” in my ear. Needless to say, I listened to it and lost my whole bankroll. I soon repeated this, once, twice, I don’t even remember how many times. I was blaming myself for being such an idiot, and kept saying things like ‘online poker is rigged’ and that luck never stands by me, and so on. Having lost hundreds of dollars, I went deeper into the topic, read heaps of articles, made a vow, and thought that the tilt was gone. I was wrong.

The bankroll was a bit higher, and it really turned me down that even though I got my wage at 7 AM, I had no money left at 11. In the next month, I read more about the subject and made another oath that I would remain calm at all times. With this ‘new attitude’, my salary lasted for two days instead of one. Another victim in this story was my poor computer, which simply couldn’t handle me banging it anymore and gave up.

But what about the countless articles I had read? Why couldn’t I use the info and advice they contained? I thought it must be because of my own boundaries and that I would never be a good player. But imagine: life without poker? Impossible!

A leap in time - II.

I took a break from poker for a few months, and had plenty of time to think. Finally, I made a deposit, which, this time, managed to last for a whole week without me having emotional breakouts. After that, the bankroll got destroyed again, but I don’t think this came as a surprise. This is when I decided to keep only 20% of my bankroll on the Internet, and the rest of it in cash to prevent quick deposits. This turned out to be a wise decision, as I protected myself from myself. One of the problems with this method is that when you are running low, you know you still have the roll, but you don’t see it in your account, and this is frustrating.

I still didn’t know the reason why I was incapable of keeping the advice I had gathered from the tilt management articles. Well, to tell the truth, I started to see that knowing the right thing to do and talking to people about it was not enough at all. It doesn’t matter what other people tell you to do. “Calm down, stop playing, etc.” These things are easy to say, but almost impossible to abide by, because emotional reactions completely override logical ones, and that is why tilt exists. It is a natural human reaction; we could never expect anything else from ourselves.

Of course, it is true, that a monk in Tibet would be less tilt-prone than myself, but as far as I know, not too many of them play poker. I say, acquire experience from reality and not the papers. I spent a lot of time watching videos of winning players, players going busto, looking at graphs, and trying to get a hold on this something, which is no other than the luck factor.

The Reality


What do you think about this player? A fish, right?

Tilt Graph


And how about this one? Pro?

Tilt Graph

Watchful readers have surely noticed that the two graphs belong to the same player. And I have to say, a very talented one.
So what is responsible for this difference? The number of games played. This is an example for the real meaning of the word ‘long-term’.

Just think about it: if you have a bankroll, and do well at a given limit, what stops you from being a winning player? Only yourself! More precisely, how you handle these situations and how quickly you can make it clear for yourself that even poker pros have to deal with a bad run sometimes. They  also have a bankroll they have to manage, and if it can only be preserved by lowering stakes, then that’s the thing to do.

Don’t ever think that players like Phil Ivey or Durrrr never get outplayed by Lady Luck. The thing is, they just know how to deal with it. Here’s another real-life example:

National Heads-Up Poker Championship 2010

Phil Ivey vs. Scotty Nguyen
Standings: Ivey 77.6K, Scotty: 2.4K. Blinds: 400/800

In the next three hands, Ivey puts Scotty all-in pre-flop, no matter what he has. Ivey loses all three.
Chip count: Ivey: 64K, Scotty: 16K.

The next hand is a Set vs OverSet. Scotty doubles up. Ivey says ‘OMG’.
After this comes another hand, in which Scotty takes the lead.

At this point, Ivey has 24K and Scotty sits there with 56K. The blinds are 600/1200.
Ivey has KK and Nguyen has J9o. Board: Q92 4 rainbow. Odds are 89% vs 11%. They go all-in on the turn, and the river is…..  9! Commentator says ‘oh, come on!’

Ivey is out.

What you should see here is that even after the fourth all-in lost, Ivey waited for a monster hand to shove with. Be like Phil Ivey and not like Phil Hellmuth!

You play well, but others get luckier. What do you do? What would a pro do? Go to a higher limit, or rebuy, and go all-in every hand? NO! Instead, try to remain calm, and continue just where it broke off. If it’s too much, just stop playing. At once. Get out of there as soon as you can if you feel the tilt taking over.

Don’t play above your comfort zone, because it will get you frustrated, and can put you on the road to Bankruptcy.
Tilt will not go away after closing your eyes for a second; that can only be achieved with years of practice. If necessary, use a bigger number of buy-ins, and step back until it’s not too late. Stepping back won’t make you a worse player; it is just an inevitable thing to do sometimes.

What if you lost 10 buy-ins, although you had always made the right decision? Nothing! It will come back the next day. And what if the same thing happens the next day?

Tilt Graph

As I said, if you stand on firm ground at the given limit, it will come back. There are many examples for this, and the biggest problem is, that players want to make up for their losses immediately. Naturally, it is harder to win back 5-10 buy-ins than to lose them. Do not try to do this in 5 minutes.

If you still want to, just go and play Black Jack.

Alessio


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