How do you define tilt?
Answer: Any deviation from your A-Game. Yes, any.
- Player 1: Do you tilt?
- Player 2: No, I’m very calm when I play. Bad beats don’t affect me. I never tilt.
- Player 1: So, you always play your absolute best A-game, 100% of the time at the table, every single session that you play?
- Player 2: No, of course not. I’m human, not a robot.
- Player 1: Ah, okay. Then you do tilt after all.
Exceptional Poker — Learn. Master. Crush.
“Everyone tilts. It’s just a matter of how often, how long, and how bad.” —Tommy Angelo, Elements of Poker.
In 2011, sports psychologist Jared Tendler changed poker forever with his groundbreaking book The Mental Game of Poker. Like Doyle Brunson’s Super System, David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker, and Mike Caro’s Caro’s Book of Tells that came before it, Tendler’s work on the psychological aspects of poker revolutionized how us mere mortals should approach emotional control and tilt during play.
The first step to reducing tilt is recognizing that you are tilting. Fine, then what? What’s the next step? Answer: give your specific tilt demon a name. As it turns out, a simple—but powerful—technique to reducing tilt is to give it a label. Intrigued? Read on…
A few months ago I was approached by a blog reader who wanted some coaching. This happens frequently. I don’t actively advertise or promote my coaching services, as I primarily pick up students on referral, word of mouth, or via cold calls/emails like this one. To protect the guilty, this email came from someone I’m going to simply refer to as Mister-Z.
Yes, it’s true. I’m that rare, mythical beast: a long-term winning poker player. I primarily play No Limit Texas Hold’em (NLHE) at small- and mid-stakes online. For years now, I have earned a consistent average of $65 per hour at these tables. I also play online Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) at the micro-stakes tables, earning (a high-variance) $12-$15/hour. In total, I’ve played in excess of two million hands of poker. I have coached and advised dozens of blog readers and students to profitability, including two who are now full-time professional players. In all, I’ve been a serious amateur player for close to 15 years and have been consistently profitable the majority of that time. Looking back, I can identify ten specific factors that have contributed the most to my success. Today, and in the next few subsequent posts, I’m going discuss these ten steps I took in my poker education, starting with one of the most basic and powerful of all: Accepting RDM.
I received an email from a prospective student a few weeks ago. I’ll call this player Mister T. He is a mid-stakes online cash game player from Europe. He is a pretty decent player, makes good reads, knows the math, and executes good decisions. His biggest problem is that when he plays too long he ends up giving back his winnings. Here’s part of what he wrote to me:
“Can you help me? I play good online but return profit if I play too long. I am not knowing what I am doing wrong. I try to play good all time but can not make it stay. I play good poker for short time but then fall myself into bad poker habits. Then all the money I win early in play is gived back to other players.”
There was more to the email, and, in fact, and after a couple more exchanges I ended up taking on this student. We spent a little time on Skype talking about his game, skills, and general thoughts about poker, and then later I sweated him for a session on PokerStars. The good news is Mister T is indeed a solid, winning player– when he’s focused and fresh, that is. The bad news is his focus seems to peter out pretty quickly. For example, within ~45 minutes of starting our planned hour-long sweat session, Mister T went from being up a total of about $80 on three very easy $100NL game we table selected, to giving it all back, plus about half of his original stack. He started this session playing a cautious, TAg style game, but by the end of the session had loosened up too much in early position and wasn’t being nearly as aggressive as he was at the start. That’s when I stopped things and pulled out the tomato. The Pomodoro Technique tomato timer, that is. Let me explain.
Beginning poker players often make “crying calls” because they somehow think they’re priced in to do so– even when they are near certain they’re beaten. They say things like, “I already have so much money invested,” or “I had half my stack in the middle, so I had to call.” Frequently, these same beginners also defend their blinds far too much. They feel under attack whenever someone in late position raises what they think is “their” blind. They somehow believe that the chips they posted from the small or big blind belong to them. Guess what? Those blinds aren’t theirs. Neither is any money they spent on prior streets when they’re now on the river facing one of those “crying call” situations.
In this post, I explain the concept of sunk costs, why you should not think of your posted blinds as “yours,” and why you need to emotionally detach yourself from any other money you push into the middle of the table. Making solid math-based decisions in poker is entirely about the now and the future, and has nothing to do with the past or how much money you’ve already “invested” in the pot.
eXceptional Poker Tip: Taking the Best of It = Winning
Whenever you take the best of it, you’ve already won.
Here’s something that often blows a beginning poker player’s mind: You win or lose at poker at the moment you check, call, bet, fold, or raise, not when the hand actually plays out. In fact, the results of the hand itself are irrelevant. Seriously. Read on if you don’t believe me.
eXceptional Poker Tip: Don’t Berate Bad Players
Don’t Tap the Glass
Don’t teach, berate, lecture, or insult your opponents at the table, especially the ones who put bad beats on you. Poker players call this “tapping the aquarium glass,” and it’s a dumb, dumb, dumb move.
What happens when you tap the glass of a real aquarium? Answer: the fish will scurry away and hide. The same is true at the poker tables, but the fish there will scurry away with their money. Is this what you want?
An old boss of mine once chided a coworker after a particularly stupid, antagonistic thing this person said during a meeting. My boss turned to the coworker and asked simply, “What exactly were you trying to achieve by saying what you did? Because here’s what actually resulted: your boss is now incedibly mad at you. I hope this is what you wanted.”
Ask yourself what are you trying to achieve by telling a player who just bad beat you that they made a big mistake playing the hand the way they did? Help them to not make this same mistake again? Shame the fish into leaving? Show the rest of the table that you’re a bad sport and tilty?
Remember that suffering a bad beat should be a badge of honor; it means you played the hand correctly and made the right decisions in the hand. You got your money in good. Your opponent didn’t. So why blow up and correct that mistake in their play? Tapping on the glass usually means that you’re the real fish at the table, not them.
X-Tip Bottom Line: Don’t Berate Bad Players
More Poker X-Tips Can Be Found By Clicking Here.
Learn. Master. Crush.
“Sir, What is the secret of your success?” a reporter asked a bank president. — “Two words,” was the reply. — “And, sir, what are those two words?” — “Good Decisions.” — “And how do you make good decisions?” — “One word.” — “And sir, what is that?” — “Experience.” — “And how do you get Experience?” — “Two words.” — “And, sir, what are they?” “– Bad Decisions.”
You cannot control what cards are dealt to you, but you can control what actions you take with those cards. In fact, this is all you really can control. You have to think of a poker hand as a series of decisions, not results. You need to understand that in the long run you are graded in poker on the sum of good decisions minus all the bad ones, not on how much money was won or lost on a single hand.
You can control your decisions at the poker table, not the results of those decisions.