Tilt: How To Avoid It

Poker tilt can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  It can be the most effective weapon in your arsenal or it can lead to your downfall. Learn how to avoid it - and if you can't avoid it (which can happen!), learn how to bounce back.


When you’re on tilt, you’re visibly upset, distracted and your play is suffering as a result. Your opponents, on the other hand, are loving every disastrous second of it. 

Poker tilt can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  When you inspire it in others, it can be the most effective weapon in your arsenal; when it crops up in you, on the other hand, it can lead to your downfall. This is what we are going to focus on today: poker tilt and how to avoid it.

Of course, there's a lot to be said for being the source of tilt in others, but discussing how to do this puts us on a slippery slope. There are many ethical ways to get under an opponent's skin, like by getting lucky hands, trapping them with your mastery of complex strategies and basically being a superior player, but there's also the other, uglier side of tilt-inducing behaviour, like loudly smacking your gum, trash talking and generally being so rude and obnoxious at the tables that you're likely to meet up with a few of your opponents in the parking lot after the game as well. This isn't our style; it doesn't mean you're a skilled player. It means you're a skilled ass. Don't get us wrong - if you're playing winning poker, you're going to have more than a few opponents call you choice names (audibly or not), but this is the result of refined, expert play, not cheap tricks and underhanded tactics.

So, with that out of the way, let's get down to strategies for reigning in our own tilt. After all, peace starts at home...

Reduce Poker Tilt with 5 Tips

1. Accept what you cannot change.

Bad beats happen to good players, and it's an inevitable part of playing poker. You've logged hours at the tables, done your best to learn from your mistakes, practiced, practiced, practiced, but you're still going to bite the big one sometimes. Developing your skills as a player will unquestionably help ensure you will always end up on top over the course of your poker life, but bad beats, silly mistakes and jackass opponents are an inevitable part of the game. What’s more, they’re not indicative of your merit as a player. Remember, you're playing poker, not brushing your teeth. There's only so much you can control. 

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2. It's about process, not progress.

Next time you feel a wave of poker tilt coming on, channel a little existentialist wisdom and remember that playing poker is more of a process than a progress. It's more about coming out on top over the long run than being able to specifically account for every win or loss in every game. If you only focus on the unfavourable situation at hand, it WILL drive you crazy, and it will negatively impact your ability to play well. Look at your poker life as a whole and don't focus on the immediate pitfalls. They happen in life, and they're certainly going to happen at the tables.

3. Sleep It Off.

Moving on from our more ethereal tips, the simple act of getting a good night's sleep is a great way to avoid poker tilt. When we're tired, our cortisol levels (the hormone that balances stress) rise dramatically and this imbalance can turn what a well-rested version of ourselves would consider a minor set back into a devastating loss. Get perspective, and get some shut eye before a game.

4. Eat. And EAT WELL.

Poker and nutrition - who'd have thunk it? Well, there is an undeniable correlation between mental performance and nutrition. Eat clean (i.e. unprocessed) foods and make sure you're hydrated before you get down to the felt.

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5. Sweat it Out.

One of the best ways to not only reduce, but PREVENT stress is exercise. Get in a good sweat session before a big game to avoid busting out due to ballistic emotions. 

Poker can be an emotional game, and we’re certainly not expecting you to be able to rid yourself of all human characteristics, faults and foibles. However, you will want to reign in your rage if you want to stay off tilt, out of the red and ahead of the game. 

Photo Credit: Tiffa Day | Flickr