Nine players of the same technical skill level play each other endlessly; who wins? Well, besides the rake of course, the player who can avoid tilt wins.

It is astonishing how tilt and the mental game of poker has taken a back burner for this long. Just recently has this area come towards the forefront. As technical ability has improved, and players continue to look for edges, the mental portion of the game has become ever more paramount.

Players, myself included, remember being young, playing online, and busting hard earned buy-ins quickly because of tilt. We would go up in stakes in attempts to quickly recoup buy-ins after running badly on the tables, or even just outright playing badly. Won’t lie, this worked sometimes. Most of the time, however, we would be slamming our hand onto whichever hard surface the laptop happen to be on; all the while yelling and busto. Ironically, those days if you played online, it was on Full Tilt Poker.

Three years later, and no Full Tilt, how far have we come? As a whole, not much. Tilt remains a major issue affecting amateurs, all the way to the top professionals. Mental Game Specialist have stepped up, and attempted to grab hold of the issue. However, I see players tilt all the time, and I’m sure I will see others do so tomorrow.

Unfortunately, tilt has become a badge of honor. Players state:

I played this hand, he sucked out, and then I tilted off for a couple buyins…

Players then proceed to talk about the hand in question. After much discussion in disgust, they agree that there was nothing Hero could have done differently, and therefore chalk off the loss to their opponent’s bad play. More importantly, they also brush off the other buy-ins as a result of that hand as well, and do not give that matter much thought.

Remarkably, the above discussion is performed backwards. If the hand in question was one in which Hero made no error but lost, then that should not garner much exchange. However, the tilt which ensued should bring about the most attention. This is the area of the equation which was under the control of the Hero, but Hero failed. As a result, the question at hand is: If we can control tilt, then how do we control it?

The truth is, I do not know the precise answer to that question. Before you throw this article away however, I will point you in the right direction.

Poker is a game of decisions. Whoever makes the most correct decisions wins. Nothing else matters, not even the money.

When you view the game through this lens, tilt will inherently subdue. You will be forced to focus solely on your own decision matrix, and nothing else, since nothing else matters. Fortunately, this same thought process accomplishes more than just tilt control. The mantra is also a serious way to approach the improvement in your technical ability. It forces you to take a hard look at nothing else but decisions at hand with brutal honesty. This will become helpful when things go awry, as you can be rest assured whether you made the correct decision or not.

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They are other ways to improve your success rate against tilt. Hypnotherapy in poker has risen quickly as a popular option, and Elliot Roe has been leading the way in that field. There are books, seminars, and extensive articles on the subject. The trend has gone as far as players wearing rubber bands on their wrist, and when faced with adversity, they would pull the rubber band and let go. This rubber band would then snap against their wrist as a representation that it is time to “snap back into it”.

In other words, they are all kinds of things one can do. For some, certain options may work better than others. Experiment and do what best helps your game. The key is to focus on this in conjunction to your overall strategy, as you may gain or lose an edge accordingly. Ignoring the issue, and possibly using it as a badge of honor, will cost you.

On a lighter note, I am all for a friendly needle towards a grinder. If it will get them off their respective game, by all means go for it. However, make sure you avoid teasing the recreational players, as this may be wrong ethically. Until then, see you on the felt!

If you have any questions about this article, you are welcome to reach me on Twitter, @ChristianPoker, or on the new RedChipPoker Forum