Recognising when you are in the tilt cycle

tilted poker player

The word “tilt” is an American term that travelled across the Atlantic many years ago. It describes a level of emotional instability caused by losses. These losses don’t have to be financial ones although the origins of the word “tilt” to the best of my knowledge do stem from poker. So what causes tilt and why does it happen? Well firstly some people are more prone to tilt than others and I myself was very prone to tilt some years ago.

In my mind tilt is caused not just by losses and losses serve merely to highlight the problem. Tilt is caused by a lack of acceptance at a subconscious or even conscious level of losing. Many people within gambling simply cannot accept that once they place a wager or get involved in a hand of poker that there is a large element of luck as to what the final result will be. Only yesterday I was hit by a player hitting a two out hand against me when I had them all in on the turn with me holding 10c-10d on an Ah-10s-4c-Kc board.

They held As-10d and they hit one of the two remaining aces in the deck. This is what is known as a bad beat but I am much too long in the tooth now to worry about these eventualities. Tilt is caused by a sense of injustice that the result shouldn’t have happened. However these negative feelings are bad on several fronts. Firstly they prevent you from playing cool rational poker and secondly it infers that you can control the results which obviously you cannot.

Another factor that instigates tilt is when you sit in games where your edge is minimised. In this instance when your edge is less then your earn rate is lower and thus your monetary swings become greater. This increases the chances of you tilting at the table as does coming to the table in a really poor negative state of mind anyway. So remember that tilt is one of the worst things that you can do at the poker table. It is up there with playing a weak strategy and playing the wrong hands and bluffing at poor times as an out and out money burner.

Tilt is a warning to you that something isn’t right with your mind-set in poker and if you have tilted once then you will do so again……it is only a matter of time. One of the biggest advances that I made with regards being able to handle tilt was when I basically entered a poker game with the mind-set that I was only on the right side of gambling. The edge that a casino has in games like roulette and blackjack is minimal and is why players can and do win highly significant sums of money from them on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how many books you read or how good you become, you can never control what happens in a poker game all the time and neither should you try.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson can also be seen on his Google+ page