Understand Your Poker Tilt. Control Your Emotions

If you are here, probably you’ve heard about tilt and its potential wrong effects. It is one of the most confusing concepts in all of poker simply because it has always been defined too broadly by poker players.

When someone plays bad you’ll often hear them say it was because they were simply on tilt, but without saying why. Did you even know that there are different types of it?

Anyways… Let’s first start with a short explanation.

What is Tilt?

Taken directly from Wikipedia: “Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental or emotional confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming overly aggressive.”

Tilt = Anger + Bad Play

And of course, we are talking about decision-making here. What is even more interesting for us as humans is to understand what happens in our brains that prevents us from clear thinking.

seven types of tilt article

Recent discoveries say that we don’t have free will, which is kind of weird. But the most popular conclusion is that our brain makes the decisions for us.

And we realize those decisions between 7-10 seconds after they were made in our brain. But we can still do a lot to influence this process and make better decisions. Eventually, reduce tilt. But then…

Why do we choose to act badly?

Actually, your brain has a completely different agenda than you have as a professional poker player. It has the agenda to keep you alive. That’s its main work.

Your brain prioritizes tilt because it is completely confident that those emotional reactions are the ones it can count on. In states of mental or emotional confusion, rational thinking “is not important”. We tilt just because of our biology.

Seven Types of Tilt

We are similar as species but completely different in behaviour. Every type of tilt requires a different approach to fixing it, so broadly saying “I’m on tilt” is a bit like going to a lawyer and simply saying you have a problem.

To master your reactions you must first understand them, and that requires going into more detail. Knowing which type of tilt you have is important because it gives you a greater chance of actually solving your problem for good.

Keep in mind that after reading the following lines you may think you’re suffering from all of them. A friendly advice from us – focus on the ones which sound the most familiar or cause the biggest problem in your game.

1. Injustice Tilt

Do you blame luck for bad beats? Does poker seem incredibly unfair and you just run worse than most?

The so-called Injustice Tilt happens when you believe you run so bad that it is unfair. You believe your luck is worse than the math suggests is possible.

It’s so common for players to get angry in this way after a sustained period of running bad that for a long time this type of reaction was just thought to be part of the game.

While it is very common, not all players tilt when they run badly, nor do they think the game is unfair.

If you find yourself talking about bad luck a bit too often or your friends have even started making fun of you because of how many bad beat stories you tell, you probably have Injustice Tilt.

2. Hate-Losing Tilt

Ask yourself: Do you hate losing? How do you handle losses? How does it affect your game when you lose?

This is a form of tilt found in highly competitive people who simply hate losing. Wanting to win is not the problem, it is how you handle the losses. You are not supposed to like losing, of course, but if you find yourself reacting badly to even the smallest of losses, to the point that you end up playing significantly worse, as a result, you probably have this form of a bad reaction.

If losing even a small pot on an otherwise good session, or having one losing session on an otherwise winning month, sends you over the edge, you have Hate-Losing Tilt.

3. Entitlement Tilt

Do you think you deserve to win more than someone else? Do you think because you work harder than the other regs in your game, you should win more and it pisses you off when you don’t?

Do you get really angry when a fish beats you in a pot because you don’t think they deserve to win?

It is a form of tilt most players don’t like to admit they have, but it is one of the most common, so really dig deep and look for it.

Even if you don’t feel entitled in a dramatic way, you can still have small versions of it that create a big problem for your game.

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4. Revenge Tilt

This is where tilt starts to get personal. Do you struggle in high-pressure pots against other regulars? Do you not like the idea of an opponent thinking they are better than you?

Even worse, do you find yourself targeting players whom you believe have done you wrong?

If you lose a big pot to a regular and you specifically try to win it back off him instead of concentrating on the rest of the table, this is revenge tilt. If you get hit and run playing HU, do you hunt this player down trying to get another shot to win your money back?

Revenge is common in all walks of life, so it’s not surprising that it would be present in poker. However, it may surprise some of you who are typically more mild-mannered and don’t typically seek vengeance outside of poker.

5. Mistake Tilt

Do you berate yourself after you make an error, even a small one? If you make a bad call on the river or miss out on a value bet, does it make you angry? Do you find yourself making ‘obvious errors’ or realizing the right way to have played the hand immediately after?

Mistake Tilt is generally pretty easy to spot, once you start looking for it. But what players don’t often know is that Mistake Tilt exists simply because you have unrealistic assumptions about the learning process, and believe it’s possible not to make mistakes in the first place.

Or, you’re making very obvious mistakes and focus only on the mistake itself and not the reason why you made it.

6. Running Bad Tilt

The tilt you experience when running badly for a sustained period is not a unique type. Do not confuse this with Injustice Tilt, which is a general belief you are unlucky.

Running Bad Tilt happens because of all of the inducing things such as injustice, losing, mistakes, entitlement, and revenge. It happens so frequently in such a short period of time that your mind can’t handle it.

Normally, a couple of bad beats here or there don’t really bother you, but when they accumulate more and more each day eventually you can’t take anymore and you ca badly. Plus, if you tilted in your last session, some of it will carry over to the next day, so less tilt-inducing things need to happen.

This accumulation will keep building and building each day until you eventually can’t take it anymore and take a break from the game.

7. Desperation Tilt

This is the most destructive form of tilt and it is an exaggerated form of the others mentioned above. As the name suggests, Desperation Tilt is the type of reaction that happens when you start taking extreme measures to win.

This is when the urge to get your money back is so strong that you do things like play higher stakes, play for much longer, play too many pots, gamble or even start playing casino games in the hopes of getting lucky.

Desperation Tilt is the type of tilt that often leads players to uncontrollably bust their bankroll and as a result, if you have it, you need to make sure that you can develop a strategy that can allow you to gain control.

Even if that means seeking out professional help when the issue is so severe.

Next steps

You have to accept your biology and manage it. In order to do that, you have to understand what you can control and when you can’t control it. Because there are certain situations where actually biochemistry and biology are already working without you even noticing that, and you cannot fight it.

You can focus on and understand your own tilt tendencies. Without that knowledge, your attempts to correct tilt will be random.

In our next article, we will share:

  1. Easy-to-follow steps to control your emotions and avoid tilt
  2. Free reflection tool to identify the triggers that cause your reactions

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In the meantime, you can watch the community Q&A session “3 Easy Strategies to Avoid Tilt From a Poker Mindset Coach” hosted by our mindset coach Karina. Enjoy!