This week I had cause to re-examine the nature of “tilt”.
I’ve had a cold week, nothing mathematically impossible, it’s a likely situation for any regular MTT poker player, and nothing my bankroll can’t sustain, although with 40 average buyins burned away in 10 days, it can’t take too many weeks like that!
I’ve had a tough time of it emotionally, if I’m honest, my emotional bankroll has taken a serious hit.
I have worked very hard on controlling my tilty rage; I am naturally prone to getting very angry, I’m an angry sort of person. I’m always shouting at people on the telly for being idiots, if someone jumps a queue in front of me they will very much wish they hadn’t, and I’m like Basil Faulty on meth behind the wheel of a car.
I’m not too worried about my life rage, I like being ranty; I find it therapeutic to scream, shout and punch inanimate objects. Friends and family warn me about my blood-pressure, I warn them that it’s always the quiet ones that turn out to be the serial killers- supressed rage is lethal too.
I’ve worked out that rage in my poker sphere was costing me money, both in terms of how it was affecting my game and in terms of actual expenditure on hulk-smashed computer equipment.
I’m really proud to say that I have not had a poker tilt-rage explosion in months- cut me up on the M25 and I will have some very grotesque things to say about your mother, but when it comes to poker, I am now the epitome of calm. Sometimes I go from 95% equity to 0% in the flip of a card and I even laugh; peace from within, a-fucking-men.
As I detailed in a previous blog, when I have taken some unjustified slapping at the poker table, I often resort to study; I use the mental energy to learn, and I’ve been doing that a lot in the last ten days. During that time I came across a video session from a young man named “Weasel”, a strategy content creator for PokerVIP.com.
It was a three hour video for micro-stakes players to help them identify their leaks, and I got quite a lot from it, but the section that struck me most was the section on “tilt”.
Mr Weasel identified “tilt” as the number one leak affecting micro-stakes players.
At first, I thought, “Well not me, Weasel-chops, I’ve totally got a handle on my rage”, and then he went on to expand the definition of tilt to a level I just hadn’t considered before.
I have somehow taught myself that “tilt” is just jargon for when poker makes me angry; for when something I perceive as unfair happens, and I want to pick up a chair and throw it through a window.
The Weasel defines “tilt” as “anything that stops you playing your A-game, however subtle”, and this is a much broader and more useful definition than simply “tilt is when I get angry and shove all my chips in the middle with a junky hand”.
I decided to make a list of things that I could therefore reasonably consider as “tilt”. Realistically, I think there will be a slightly different list for different people, so you should make your own, but here’s mine:
- Anger: As I said I’m getting a handle on this, and most people are aware of this definition.
- Physical Detriments: Tiredness, thirst, hunger, headaches, tummy ache, having a cold etc.
- Distractions: YouTube videos, social media, reading a blog, TV, phone calls whilst playing.
- Fear: After a cold run I’m scared to play hands cos I FEEL like I’ll always get beat.
- Lack of Motivation/Concentration: Just not being in the best head space to play when I start a session.
- Confidence Problem: After a bit of a bad run, I assume I must be worse than every opponent.
- No Good Starting Hands/Spots For Hours: I overplay the first decent hand I see.
- Whiffing Every Flop: I start to bluff in ridiculous spots because I feel like they “can’t have it AGAIN”… even though it’s a different guy on a different table.
- Loss Of Logic: After 5 beats in a row, I think “I must be due to bink something now”, when logically, I know that’s nonsense.
- Push Back: Everytime I open, someone 3bet shoves, everytime I 3bet light, someone 4bet shoves- I end up calling off a stack with a hand that I know it’s not a good spot for.
That’s my top ten, although I’m sure there are more scenarios if I thought about it for longer.
In short, it’s safe to say that I have been “on tilt” a lot more than I have previously recognised, and have therefore been playing as badly as I do when I’m angry, but without knowing that I’m likely to be playing badly- very dangerous to the bankroll.
I’ve had to concede that at least a few of the 40 buyins loss over the last ten days have been due not just to a very present downswing, but also to tilt- now defined as any time I am not playing my A-game.
Some of them are very easy to address- if I’m tired, hungry or ill, I just shouldn’t play until I’ve slept, eaten or feel better.
There’s no need for there to be distractions, I can just close other browser windows, put down my iPad and turn off the telly.
The emotional tilts are harder to combat, and hand experience, being properly bankrolled and reminding myself of the cruel but consistent reliability of maths will all contribute to this. Keeping a check on my statistics will also help as seeing an overview of the truth that I am (slightly) beating my usual opponents in the form of a graph is physical proof that I am not out of my depth at my normal stakes.
I’m not trying to be The Oprah Winfrey of Poker and announce “LOVE YOURSELF”, but I’m a firm believer that illogical emotions can be combatted with logical responses, and a little bit of positive thinking.
When that dark little head-voice that we all hear sometimes is telling me, “you’re no good at this game”, “everyone is better than you”, “you never win with AA”, “he always has you beat, so don’t play him” I will start to respond to it.
I like to answer it out-loud with “No. You’re wrong. Shut the fuck up.”
Feeling sorry for myself is okay, and above all else it’s human, but I now recognise it as “tilt”, and I need to shut down that negative voice, certainly whilst I’m playing.
I noticed at one point this week that I was sitting at my desk, one hand on my mouse, and the other supporting the weight of my heavy head. I caught sight of myself in a mirror and I looked depressed. I lost more than I needed to in a pot because I called the river “just to see that he had it against me AGAIN” and gained less than I could in a pot because I didn’t value bet the river because “sigh he’s probably outdrawn me so I’ll just check back”.
Having expanded my definition of “tilt” the day before, I recognised I was on tilt. I sat out on my two tournaments and went into the garden and jogged on the spot, I said to myself (out loud) that the worst that could happen was that I lose both stacks and end up in bed early with a packet of Jaffa Cakes. I reminded myself that I’m damn lucky to be able to play poker at all, and thought about everything that is good in my life.
It sounds hippy as shit, but I when I came back to my computer, I felt better, I felt ready to concentrate and I went on to cash in both tourneys. The next time I caught sight of my mug in the mirror, I looked like I was engaged with what I was doing, and not like I was at the end of 15hour data-entry shift.
I can’t tell you exactly how to get a handle on your negative voice, I’m not an expert, and I’m suspicious of anyone who claims to be. The key thing is to recognise when that negativity is affecting your A-Game and causing you to lose more than you need to.
Find a way in yourself and for yourself to recognise this negativity as tilt, however quiet and subtle, and make moves to address it; it’s good emotional bankroll management.
Mathematical variance is wide and cruel, the donkeys are many and dangerous, poker is a game of fighting a war on multiple fronts, but there is nothing so threatening to your success as The Enemy Within; look him in the eye and shut that fucker down.