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Poker News | PokerWorks Op-Ed

Boot Camp: How To Tell if You're On Tilt

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In his book "Elements of Poker," Tommy Angelo makes a dangerous assumption.

He believes you're a good poker player.

He doesn't teach an A game in his book, perhaps the best poker book I've read. He assumes you have one. His tips will help you shore up your A game. But most of the book revolves around how to keep it there.

This means quitting at a good time - probably before you're tired - and, most importantly, avoiding tilt.

Angelo spends a good deal of time writing about avoiding tilt. In fact, you could easily draw the assumption that Angelo believes avoiding tilt is just as important as learning how to bluff against two other players in early position.

Think about the times you lost money. If you believe Angelo - and I do - you lost far more money when you were tilting more than the times you got sucked out on.

Suckouts will cost you money, but poor play will cost you a lot more, both in the money you lost and the money you should have won. And the best way to play poorly is to tilt. In fact, Angelo seems to make the assertion that you're always tilting when you're playing poorly.

That's a hard thing for most poker players to accept. We like to believe that if only our Aces hadn't been cracked three times in that session, we would have won money. But it's more likely we lost money that session because, at some point, we were tilting.

Angelo gives you many ways to help you avoid tilt, but I've got a few tips to help you recognize when you're on tilt. The scary thing about tilt is we usually don't realize we're tilting until it's too late. These tips may help you recognize it before you lose your buy-in.

• You're chasing your losses - This, no doubt, is the best way to tell if you're on tilt. You know you're stuck, and you know you're frustrated because you're stuck, and yet, instead of quitting because you're frustrated, you're continuing to play to get unstuck? If you find yourself obsessing about how you only need to win one big pot to get even again, you're on tilt.

• You set limits for yourself, but you don't follow them - You'll only play one more orbit, and then, an hour later, you're still playing. Why are you still playing? You're probably chasing your losses and on tilt.

• You're tired, and you know you're tired, but you continue to play.

• You're playing too many hands - There's such a thing as winning tilt. When you've hit a lot of hands, you start to feel invincible. That means you start to call raises with 8-7 offsuit in early position because surely you'll hit your straight. Eventually you'll give away those profits you've worked so hard to get.

• You've lost your discipline - You don't fold A-9 when you'll be out of position to the raiser pre-flop. Playing good poker means folding marginal hands out of position. Tilting means playing them.

• Calling when you are probably beat - You start to make awfukit calls, curiosity calls or frustration calls "because it's only $xx more."

• You're playing because you're bored - You're surfing the Web, playing four windows on Pokerstars, watching TV and chatting. Focus on the game or leave it.

• You're not having fun - You're mired in a series of dead cards, suckouts and a table full of douchebags. Isn't poker supposed to be fun? It's time to leave.

• You're feeling sorry for yourself - There's a certain social disease that infects poor souls like you and me, and that's the sorrow sickness. When we're infected with the sorrow sickness, we love to feel sorry for ourselves. So we play a hand like A-J to a raise and a re-raise because we can complain later about getting outkicked yet again. We're in a state of tilt, and it's going to be expensive to cure ourselves of it, unless you get up and leave.

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