7 Types of Tilt
Last month I took the common explanation of tilt, that it was anything short of paying your best, and narrowed it down to only playing bad because of anger. This article takes it a step further by describing the seven most common types of tilt, along with a general strategy to combat them.
1 – Running Bad Tilt –The first type of tilt is so common that many players think it’s a natural part of the game. Running bad happens to every player, but that doesn’t mean every player has to tilt because of it.
Running Bad Tilt is actually more like a lightning rod for the other types of tilt rather than being a unique type of tilt. It basically happens because there is such a high concentration of tilt inducing stuff in a short period of time that the mind doesn’t have a chance to reset itself. So the accumulation of bad beats, coolers, bad players beating you, losing, etc, causes so much frustration that it carries over to the next day. As the bad run continues, you reach threshold (the point where the brain shuts down thinking and you tilt) sooner and sooner, and you tilt with fewer and fewer triggers.
The solution: The best way to deal with Running Bad Tilt is to deal with the individual types of tilt that show up. Running bad is a great way to identify the types of tilt that affect your game, which otherwise would go unnoticed. As you reduce them, there’s less and less frustration for the brain to deal with and your able to handle the bad run longer.
2 – Injustice Tilt – Injustice Tilt is all about not getting what you think is fair. It’s as though the poker gods have ruled against you and your sentence is a poker lifetime of bad cards. Constantly getting sent to the rail with some sick beat, or bad players constantly hitting 2 outers, etc, can challenge your beliefs of what is right and subsequently make you angry. When you think you’re cursed or getting screwed all the time it makes perfect sense why you’d be angry. The important question is whether you actually are not getting your fair share, or does it just appear that way?
The solution: While bad luck makes poker profitable, it’s not enough to just know that logically since you still tilt when bad luck happens to you. For most players, the real problem happens when their perception is thrown off when they are far more skilled at seeing negative variance, so positive variance ignored, which means positive variance is assumed to be their own skill. So it appears that more bad luck is happening, when that imbalance is falsely created in your mind. The best way to tip this back in your favor is to get better at separating positive variance from your skill as a player.
3 – Hate Losing Tilt – Being competitive and wanting to win is a great trait; however, in no other form of competition does the better player lose at such a high rate in the short term than in poker. A golfer with a 20 handicap will never beat Tiger Woods, no matter how much random bad bounces or bad luck occur, just as you would never beat Ivey without a sick run of cards.
The solution: Fighting the reality of variance is a battle you cannot win. Instead need to get to know it better so you can more accurately determine what is winning actually means. Plus if you improve your skill in knowing your poker skill and your opponents’, you become better able to determine your edge in a given game. So just like a casino knows that on nights when a slot machine loses money, it still squeezes out an edge over time. Winning in poker is not like winning in the short-term in other sports, and if you treat it the same, you’ll tilt.
4 –Mistake Tilt – Players who tilt because of mistakes have high expectations of their game and often a desire to consistently play perfect poker. This can lead to even bigger mistakes and eventually tilt. High expectations are cool, but if you think you shouldn’t have made a mistake, you’re assuming that you’ve already learned the solution. The mistake is proof you haven’t.
The solution: “Perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi
There is a skill gap many players don’t realize between knowing what’s correct while thinking, talking, or learning poker off the table, and being able to make the right decision in a tough spot at the table. Failing to realize this can lead you to think you’re better than you can prove. Playing poker is the only place you can get that proof. It’s a test of what you’ve mastered, so if you aren’t making mistakes you already know what’s correct. Since you did, its proof there’s more to be learned. Use tilt simply as a way to spot leaks in your game that need fixing, and fix them.
5 – Entitlement Tilt – Classic Phil Hellmuth tilt happens by believing you have the divine right to win because of your previous accomplishments, hard work, being smarter, or any other reason. Players who tilt for this reason subconsciously think winning is a possession they have already earned, so losing feels like they’ve been robbed; especially to really bad players. Entitlement Tilt is basically caused by overconfidence because you believe winning is something you deserve rather than have to always earn; an exaggeration of your real ability.
The solution: At every level of the game, players have room to improve since it’s a game that can’t be solved. Being entitled is basically like freerolling your game - you don’t need to learn anything new to profit, just show up and get paid. In today’s game, there’s no longer a free ride.
6 – Revenge Tilt – Revenge is all about wanting to punish, cause pain and show you’re not going to get pushed around. Once triggered, you think of nothing but getting back at the player who disrespected you, thinks is better than you, gets lucky against you, etc. Basically revenge is your attempt to take control of the situation, but the great irony is that your response proves that you are actually in far less control.
The solution: By getting angry you actually surrender your command of the action and narrow your focus to such a point that you can’t see past hurting the player. Losing sight of the action around you can be a disaster, which is why you need to use the anger to focus on playing well because that is the only way you can really win.
7 – Desperation Tilt – Like running bad tilt, this is not a unique type of tilt. Ultimately, it’s more like a trapdoor into poker hell that players can fall into from any other type of tilt. Chasing losses, playing monster long sessions trying to get unstuck, and shoving any-two, are all examples of what happens when the urge to win NOW is so strong it’s an itch that has to be scratched.
Desperation Tilt is the closest these performance issues come to being a real gambling problem and is a severe form of accumulated tilt. The reason it happens is that as the losses mount, intense anger that has accumulated over a long period of time drops like a bomb on your mind and immediately overwhelms your ability to remain in control. For that reason, you need to put in a lot of work off the table to prepare yourself to win this battle, because the emotion is a major force and it’s not going away without a fight.
The solution: Work hard to create and learn your tilt profile. Play close attention to the early signs of tilt so you can immediately take action and Inject Logic. Set a stop/loss amount and work hard to follow them. Take regular breaks during the game to disrupt the flow of the game and ensure that you keep thinking. Take notes on small improvements you made after every session.
Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of the ways you can go on tilt and how you can begin to tackle each one. In next month’s article I’ll show you how to continue to making progress over time and outline a cycle to continually improve tilt.
Jared Tendler is the mental game coach for over 150 poker player from 21 countries. To find out more about him or his upcoming book visit www.jaredtendlerpoker.com.
Use Tilt to Improve:
Tilt is not ideal, but while it is around, here is how to use it to actually improve of your game. When on tilt the emotional brain shuts off your ability to think. As a result you instead make decisions using the part of the brain that contains only the parts of your game you’ve already mastered. By looking over the decisions you made on tilt, you get a perfect window into seeing what you never have to work on again, and the mistakes you are really good at making, but don’t want to be. Tilt shows you specifically what to work on if you use it.
Inject the Logic:
Completely solving the tilt equation happens when the underlying conflict causing anger is resolved. Getting to that point requires that you can control tilt in real time when playing. This five step process is designed to work with the realities of the brain and help you to do that.
1 - Recognition – The only way you can take control tilt is by spotting the early signs of frustration before tilt happens. Recognition is equivalent to erecting road signs that warn you danger is ahead. These signs are already there, but until you know they signal tilt ahead you’ll automatically blow by them and right into tilt. Often players don’t recognize tilt until after making a few tilty mistakes, losing 5 buy-ins, or busting from a tournament – which is obviously too late.
2 – Deep Breaths – Taking a few slow deep breaths (5-10 seconds) is not intended just to relax you, but primarily to create some space to think more clearly and Inject Logic. It’s the equivalent of a friend who pulled you out of a heated argument to get you thinking right.
3 – Inject the Logic – To do this at the table you have to first write out a sentence or phrase that directly attacks the reason why you’ve gone on tilt. Write it out on a sticky note, on a computer word document, a note in your cell phone, or anywhere that you can easily look to remind you. Having it written out gives you the information to immediately to attack the cause of your tilt, without having to dig it out of malfunctioning mind. The thinking part of your brain is not functioning properly, so DO NOT rely on it.
4 – Refocus on Making Good Decisions – This whole process is designed to keep you at the table playing as well as you can at a time when normally you’d lose control. Once you’ve stopped the rise of tilt, it’s critical you refocus on playing well as quickly as possible. To do this have a few notes written out ahead of time reminding you of what to focus on to make solid decisions. Then steadily work your way back into the flow of the action.
5 – Repeat as Often as Necessary – During a tough session you may have to use this process many times. Keep working hard at it because over time it does get easier. This is how players who are not naturally mentally tough, build the mental muscle to control tilt. Of course, there will be many times even following these steps that controlling tilt is too hard, and quitting is the best option.