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Managing Tilt in poker

The worst thing to happen to poker players is when they give in to emotions. A poker player is at his worst when he starts making his plays based on his sentiments and not proper calculation and reading the other poker players. Reactionary gameplay in poker is destructive, to say the least. A short term effect of this kind of play is that the player loses his buy-in. However, that is nowhere near the amount of damage he does to his game.

A player playing Texas Hold’em Poker does not play just one hand at a time. Whenever a poker player plays a hand, it reflects on his past and future games. He may evolve, no doubt, but all future hands get affected by just one hand. The reason is simple. There are others watching you play the game.

So, whenever emotions take over a poker player’s game, the others on the table read it instantly. They now know his tell. They can and they will use it against that player whenever they play on the same table. Further, it reflects completely badly on the psyche of the player. By now, it should be apparent that the poker player being referred to here is a tilted poker player. And that’s the worst kind of poker player around. He might ruin the entire table’s game, or he might just make the other players’ day.

Tilt is a phenomenon in poker, whereby a poker player plays carelessly due to emotions, which may be caused due to a number of reasons. Some of the more common reasons are, being bad beat, table talk, losing to a weaker player, being card dead and bluffs being caught every time. However, these are only those reasons that can be credited to poker. There may be other reasons which are not the result of occurrences in a poker game. These reasons ruin a tilted player’s game.

A tilt is fairly easy to read. The player starts making random moves, and tilt shows on the face. The random moves are coupled with extreme raises. The tilted player goes all in, in a lot of cases. And that’s where the menace starts. Sometimes the titled player’s luck works in his favor, and because of the all-in, the other players lose their buy-ins. Now, the question arises: how to deal with tilted players?

1) Stop playing.

That’s the simplest thing to do. Once you stop playing, you’d have dealt with tilt like the way poker players play their best. Quietly and with your head held high. You don’t stand to lose any more money, and the tilted player can lose his way to glory.

2) Force him to stand up.

Table talk is the best way to go about forcing him to stand up. Annoy him further and he will make more random mistakes, making him lose a buy in. An all-in on two-seven more often than not, implies losing your buy in. Force him that way.

3) Talk him into saving the buy-in of the entire table.

If he’s a good player, he knows he’s on a tilt. But tilts are generally the result of anger. However, in cash games (this doesn’t work in tournaments, of course), you can tell him how being on a tilt will ruin his game more than anyone else’s. And if he’s a real good player, he’ll stand up and cash out.

4) Be patient.

One of the best assets that a poker player has is his patience. Be patient. You’ll hit a good hand, or even nuts. And then call the tilted player’s all in. What better than a win against tilted player? Give the entire table a sigh of relief.

5) Win!

The best way to deal with a tilted player is to win! Call his all in on a good hand and he’s a goner. And that’s the best thing for the table. 

And for applying all these strategies, and discovering more of your own, play poker as much as you can. A real shark should be one who can spot and strategize against a tilt while playing online poker. Freeroll tournaments are one way to go about it. The second best way, however, is to play on 9stacks!



Ankit Malhotra

Ankit Malhotra is an erstwhile practising advocate and an active poker enthusiast. He is professionally a content consultant, who happens to be a published poet as well.