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Keeping the Tilt at Bay

Going Tilt in Poker – How to Keep the Poker Tilt at Bay

Keeping the tilt at bay is a crucial ability in high stakes poker games. The angrier you are, the more likely you'll do something stupid.


What is tilting? The term actually get its origins from the old pinball machines that you used to see in bars and clubs. Sometimes players would flip out in frustration and start shaking the machine, tilting it. However, there were gyroscopes inside the machine to detect this sort of behaviour, and a big flashing signs saying, "Tilt!" would light up.

This is now applied to poker. When someone becomes extremely angry or frustrated, and starts to flip out, they are described as being "on tilt". This is usually the point in the game when they start to make extremely stupid decisions based entirely on emotional turmoil, lose all their chips, start screaming, waving their arms, and their heads explode.

Now, some poker players based in large part of their strategy on their ability to set other players on tilt. There's all sorts of ways they can achieve this - by being directly confrontationaly obnoxious, or by sliding in the odd cutting remark at the crucial moment, or by slow, constant teasing that goes just a little bit too far.

You can see the value of the strategy. But how do you avoid falling victim to it?

Keep breathing

Start by assuming that your opponents are going to try and make you angry. Be ready for it. Never engage with it, no matter how hard the temptation becomes. The player who is on your case is just waiting for you to react. The more that they perceive your stress level going up, the more they are going to try and continue to set you on tilt.

You cannot allow them to do this. Maintain your cool. Keep breathing. Realise that despite what an evil bastard that person is being, their actions are quite deliberate and calculated, and that if you let them get to you, they have won.

General anger management strategies are useful here. Try counting to 10 if it gets really bad. Do some yoga breathing. Find your happy place. Do whatever it takes in order to stay absolutely calm and looking at the situation objectively.

Some poker strategy writers have even suggested taking beta-blockers to assist in keeping the tilt at bay. That's a pretty extreme solution, and probably not a very healthy one, but it would also probably work.

Love your enemies, it really annoys them

Something to bear in mind while this obnoxious player is getting on your case. The longer that you fail to react to their childish attempts at getting a rise out of you, the more frustrated they are becoming.

In time, if you maintain your relaxed perspective and keep playing well, their failure to make you tilt can drive them around the bend, effectively putting them on tilt themselves. How sweet is that? They tried to make you mad and only succeeded in throwing their own toys when it didn't work.

And there is nothing more satisfying than taking a massive stack of chips off someone who's just been needling you all night.