How to Keep Tilt From Destroying Your Bankroll

John Mehaffey - June 29, 2012

Virtually all poker players will tilt at some point. Tilt is when a poker player is playing angry. Tilt often happens when a player suffers a bad beat. It can also happen if a player is not playing in the right state of mind due to issues not related to poker. This could be due to having a bad day at work, a bad family day, or after drinking too much.

When a player is on tilt, they are not playing their best. In fact, a tilted player is playing nowhere near their best skill level. A tilted player is betting angrily at the pot trying to get people to fold or chasing draws that are not mathematically good plays. This usually ends up with a player losing money as it is unlikely a reckless poker player has a good chance of winning. Not only are they playing poorly, other players at the table recognize that they are playing badly and will take advantage.

A player on tilt often feels an angry feeling. When a player is on tilt, the slightest issue can bring out even more tilt. This includes not making a straight or flush. Tilt can also increase from losing even a mediocre hand to a river card. Professional players know how to deal with tilt. These are some actions a poker player can take to escape tilt.

When a poker player has a bad life experience there can be an urge to get away from the real world and play some poker. That will work for some players. Players that have a tendency to tilt should never play when their mind is not in the game. The likelihood of having a winning or breakeven session is going to be much lower if a poker player’s mind is out of the game. If you know that you are susceptible to tilt never play unless your mind is free and you are completely refreshed.

Arriving at the poker table on tilt is avoidable for most poker players. Most poker players get themselves in trouble by tilting during the game. All it takes is a few bad beats or missing draw after draw and tilt can set it. Tilt seems to be worse in online poker than live play. It is so easy to steam bet and not realize that you are even tilting until it is too late because it is so easy to hit the buttons as opposed to picking up actual chips at a live game. If you feel an angry tilt coming or know it is there then it is time to do something.

The best thing to do is to leave the table immediately and go do something else. Go step outside and see the sun. Maybe take a walk or a bike ride. Exercise is always a great vent for tilt. Taking a break for a snack or meal can help too. Getting some food in you can help refuel you for your next poker session.

If you must play while on tilt, limit the number of tables that you are playing to just one or two tables. I also suggest playing at a limit well below your bankroll so that bad play will not affect your long term poker goals. If you have built your bankroll up enough to play recklessly at micro limits, I find it to be fun to go to the lowest limit games as possible and play like a complete fool until I bad beat someone the way I got bad beat at the higher limit tables. After a few orbits of shoving a minimum buy in stack every hand and hitting a few suck outs, I would feel it was time to return to my own limits. It is like my own revenge on my tilt.

One big mistake poker players make when they go on tilt is to play limits that are too high for their bankroll in an attempt to win back some losses quickly. This rarely turns out well. Not only is the player outside of their bankroll requirement, the skill level often increases at higher limits. A player on tilt will often be over matched in these games.

Some poker players will turn to casino games to try and win their money back when they have suffered losses to bad beats. It is one thing to play a casino game because it is fun; it is another to play a casino game trying to win money back. Tilted casino play can end in disaster. Before you know it, your entire bankroll can be gone after a bad blackjack run.

There is no worse feeling in poker than waking up in the morning after a massive tilt and seeing a $0 balance in your poker account. Tilt can consume entire bankrolls in hours or even minutes. If you are on tilt you should get away from the poker table as fast as you can and only return when you feel you are refreshed and your mind is clear.