Blog6 820x324 - Tilt: The Great Equalizer | Look for Reasons NOT to Play

Tilt: The Great Equalizer | Look for Reasons NOT to Play

I don’t want to hear it! Everyone – I mean everyone – encounters tilt. Tilt is the given, the rake, if you will. No matter how good a poker player is, he or she will, one time or another, experience one of the various forms tilt inhabits. This month I would like to talk about a few different forms of tilt, where they come from and how to limit the negative effects of the multi-headed beast before it crushes your self-esteem and your bankroll.

What is tilt?

A fair definition is something along these lines: Tilt is when external or internal factors negatively effect your decision-making at the poker table. Take note of the word “external.” There will be numerous times during our poker careers where things outside of poker “tilt” us. For example, you’re making your standard drive to your favorite poker room when you get pulled over for speeding. Boom – you got a ticket. Bad beat, huh? Before you even get to the table you’re “stuck” $150.

Or you get a flat tire. You don’t stand a chance. It’s sad, really – you might as well turn the car around and go home. Seriously. Your best line of action would be to not play.

Girlfriend picking fights with you? Don’t play. Feeling a little sick or just off in general? Don’t play. Just ate a big meal or have something on your mind? Don’t play! I know you don’t want to hear it but you will be playing less than “A game” poker in these situations which, over the long run, just isn’t profitable – or I should say isn’t as profitable as it could be.

The money you don’t lose during these sessions is just the same as money you’ve won when you tally up your total profit at the end of the month/year/decade.

Reasons to Not Play

I like to give myself reasons not to play. I know that sounds silly, but it helps me to play only when I’m fully focused and ready to crush people. Ever wonder how I manage to beat $1-$2 and $2-$5 NL hold’em for an insane win rate over the past year? Two reasons: table selection and mistake-free sessions. I only play when subtle tilt factors are out of the equation.

The external factors listed above are outside our locus of control. As poker players we must learn what it is we can control and let go of everything else.

The good news is the benefits of this way of living extend far outside the grasp of poker. You can’t control the economy crashing and losing your job, you can’t control the guy behind you from smashing into your car, you can’t control the rain, etc. Learn to absolutely let go of everything you cannot control and trust me, you will feel a great weight fall off your shoulders.

On the opposite side of the same coin, we must monitor and obsess over the things we can control. Internal factors such as being tired, getting angry or being let down by the outcome of a certain hand are just unacceptable. Being tired at the poker table can ignite the onset of subconscious tilt where we may play more hands in an attempt to double up or go broke so that we can go home.

This “stacking off” of our last buy-in will have a disastrous effect on our bottom line over the course of a year. Don’t believe me? Try recording your results when you have a third of your initial buy-in left for a few months and tell me what you see. Scary, huh?

We can control our bodies to an extent. The benefits of going to the gym and eating healthy food are numerous and once again they extend far outside the clutches of this game we play. Diet and exercise gives us more energy and helps us think more clearly when at the tables. In a game where knowledge is rapidly increasing among the general population, we must distance ourselves from the pack in any way possible.


I want to quickly give you guys an example before I wrap up this “tilty” article. I just got back from a three-day trip to Atlantic City. After spending three weeks in Vegas for the WSOP (didn’t win a bracelet but won quite a bit in the side games) and playing in cardrooms such as Bellagio and Aria and drinking Fiji, I knew it was going to be hard to focus while grinding at the Taj. At any rate, me and my friend Giuseppe “Margheretti!” Forgione took the 90-minute drive down the Garden State to play some cash games.

Problem was that comped hotel rooms all over the city were already booked for the holiday. I have a Black Card at the Borgata and the Taj and still couldn’t get a room, which was very frustrating. Then Denny’s overcharged us for our Grand Slams, then the White Horse Pike hotel overcharged my credit card, then the police closed the street near the hotel so we had to take a detour, then the Taj took forever to valet my car.

Joey decided to continue to play the second day we were there, but I took most of the day off. We are both of equal poker acumen yet he dropped $1k and I won more than $1,500 for the trip. Short sample size, I ran good, he ran bad, I totally understand. But Margheretti could not have been playing his “A game” after all the terrible events that transpired.

It’s OK, Big Joe, you’ll get ’em next time. I believe in you!

Lastly, as for the “supercalifragilistic monkey all-in blind tilt,” I will say one thing: If you experience uncontrollable tangents of insanity when playing poker, maybe the game just isn’t for you. You can always learn to compete in the UFC.