Solving Poker Tilt Pt. 2: The Two Tilt Syndromes and How They Cost You

Player

Tilt is, whether you want to believe it or not, one of the central issues for every poker player.

Most players associate, and suffer from, the following with tilt:

After a bad beat or an extended (real or imagined) downswing, you lose control over your game. You play too loosely because you are fuming.

These are all things that happen to all of us. But tilt is a much more general problem, and it means first and foremost that you're simply not playing your A game - for any reason.

Playing Emotionally Instead of Rationally

There are a lot of different factors that can trigger tilt – luck, bad luck, fatigue, despondency, depression, euphoria.

All of these things can be responsible for players playing more “emotionally” instead of “rationally."

Phil Hellmuth
Player A dislikes Player B

There are individual reasons for going on tilt and there are also varying degrees of it. But there's one thing that all player s have in common: we are all susceptible.

Some of us more than others, but it concerns everyone. Just a few ways an emotional poker meter can be tilted:

1. Player A dislikes Player B. The reasons are really secondary. Player A decides it's time to show Player B who the better player is. He starts confronting Player B with weak hands and plays too aggressively.

2. Player C takes a shot at a higher level. This puts him under a lot of stress and he plays with scared money. He becomes more careful and plays too passively.

3. Player D has had a fun night out. He comes home late at night and feels great. He opens his poker client and starts to play. Because of his “good mood” he plays too many hands and becomes careless.

These are but a few examples of how emotions influence your game. Bad beats and lost pots are or course right there, too.

The important thing is you have to find out for yourself why and when you're losing your A game. Understanding is the first step to improving.

Tilt Comes From All Angles

Player
The more you let emotion take over, the worse off you'll be.

This applies to many things in life, and tilt is no exception.

No matter which level you play on, if you are an ambitious player you have to make rational, reason-based decisions.

The more you let emotions take over your game the more your decisions are going to deviate from rational ones.

Playing emotionally over any period, large or small, will have terrible consequences for your bankroll. Remember to realize tilt comes at you from all angles and there are myriad ways it shows itself.

A player who is emotionally out of balance loses his game and as a consequence will make sub-optimal decisions.

There are a lot of different kinds of emotional disturbances for a poker player but we can put them all into two general categories consisting of opposite veins.

Tilt Syndrome 1 – Loose-Aggressive vs Tight-Passive

Loose-Aggressive Tilt is by far the most common. Every poker player is familiar with it.

You play too many hands and fall back into making beginners mistakes which you thought you had long overcome.

It applies to all forms of tilt that the damage it does depends on how long you are on it and how far you deviate from your regular game. These are typical factors that trigger tilt:


  • Frustration after bad beats
  • a bad run of cards/play
  • chasing losses to get back even during a long session
  • feeling unbeatable because of constantly good results
  • giving up on oneself, feeling “whatever," getting upset
  • being impatient and trying to make up mistakes quickly
  • feeling vengeful against a specific player
Player
Loose-Aggressive Tilt is by far the most common.

This form of tilt is usually rather short-termed. Players tend to calm down after lashing out, even if they lose a stack.

The opposite of loose-aggressive tilt is Tight-Passive Tilt. This is a much more placid form but still just as disastrous.

You stop playing your regular tight-aggressive game and become too careful and defensive. Typical triggers for this form of tilt:


  • loss/lack of self-confidence
  • a bad run of cards/play
  • feeling insecure (because of an unusual environment, playing a new game)
  • playing limits too high for your bankroll
  • "securing" your winnings (not being willing to risk money won during that session)
  • irrational fear (for example of specific hands we lost money with; superstition)

Contrary to Loose-Aggressive Tilt, which is fairly obvious and easy to spot, Tight-Passive Tilt is much more elusive.

Whereas loose-aggressive tilt is like a quick outburst of anger, tight-passive tilt can really creep into your game without attracting much attention and become a permanent problem.

This is why Tight-Passive Tilt is so dangerous – and so expensive.

Quite often, these forms of tilt correspond to a player’s personality, which makes it a little easier to detect them.

But there are cases where tilt brings out a hidden part of someone’s character, something that changes them completely and makes them almost unrecognizable even to their friends.

Tilt Syndrome 2 – Fancy Play vs ABC Poker

Player
Fancy play will get you too.

The phenomenons described above are the most common ones at the poker table. But there are several other forms of tilt that have completely different causes.

One of them is Fancy-Play Syndrome. It's not a very frequent form but there are players who get affected by it all the time. Typical triggers of it are:


  • Exaggerated self-confidence (having a good run, getting several risky bluffs through)
  • Narcissistic streaks (especially at live tables, when players try to impress others at the table)
  • Pushing for success (usually when being card dead for a long spell and then trying to bluff anyway)

Another – very frequent – form of tilt is the ABC Poker trap. It’s particularly dangerous because a lot of players fall into it all the time and don’t even notice it.

With players getting stronger and stronger today, nobody can afford that tilt anymore as it leads to permanent money loss. Typical triggers of this tilt are:


  • Underestimating opponents (thinking “ABC poker” is enough to beat them)
  • Lack of focus (simultaneously surfing the internet, checking the mailbox, making calls, watching TV, reading, etc)
  • Tiredness, Boredom
  • Being distraught
  • Lack of self-confidence

If you're an online player, you have to give ABC Poker Tilt a lot of respect. Very busy players in particular, who play a lot daily, often go on autopilot and lose their inspiration.

This is also the most difficult form of tilt to identify as players are not really doing anything “wrong." This also makes it one of the most dangerous.

Where Fancy-Play Syndrome is usually a short affair, ABC Poker can become a chronic disease.

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