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Avoiding Tilt in Poker Part 1: Identifying Triggers

From time to time, everybody experiences a bad beat. Whether it’s being caught out with a stray ace after the river, or some punk diving in with 6/8 and snagging a full-house from the flop, we’ve all been there. Unfortunately, it’s pretty tricky to stay cool — especially after putting your all into a tournament for two days.

The sad thing is though, if you lose your temper, you could end up losing everything. For that reason, we take a look at how to remain calm after experiencing a bad beat.

Identify your triggers!

When it comes to triggers, they usually fall into one of two categories — triggers that happen in game, or external factors which aren’t exactly part of the game. These don’t actually arise from the game itself, but can make you more susceptible to tilt.

Pre-Triggers (External Factors)

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First of all, let’s take a look at external factors, which generally arise from outside influences such as financial worries, alcohol, stress, family problems or lack of sleep. These can all leave you liable to tilting, and while these pre-factors aren’t absolutely certain to send you over the edge, they certainly help. If you head out to a tournament with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and decide to take the pressure away by having a few stiff drinks, this in turn becomes a catalyst for failure.

Imagine that all these individual components — stress, anxiety, alcohol — could combine to create a perfect storm. This is essentially the case when you bring baggage to the table and as such, you should definitely not drink before, or at the table. Without these pre-existing triggers, your bad beat might never happen.

What about those pesky triggers?

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Now we’ve gone through the pre-triggers, let’s talk about triggers which can send you from top of the stack to bottom of the pack. Those dreadful games where at one point you felt invincible, top of the world, but crashed down in a ball of fiery rage, after being beat by a 2/7. Whether you’re a seasoned-pro, or just a bloke who likes a bit of poker, we’ve all experienced one of the below:

Bad beats

Much like Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde after drinking a bad potion, good poker players turn nasty after a bad beat. Everyone’s been there, ‘it’s just poker’ you might hear, but it doesn’t make you feel any better. Bad beats are a quintessential part of poker though and as such you’ll have to get used to them. Sometimes, the cards just don’t go your way, regardless of the odds.

Bad cards

Imagine getting a string of 2s, 3s and mismatched high cards. You’ve been sat there for the last 3 hours and all you’ve been dealt is rubbish. That would be enough to infuriate anyone and as such, when you get that 2/5 for the fifth time in a row, you just flip. It essentially becomes a ‘straw that broke the camels back’ situation, apart from it’s your back, and your bankroll set to collapse. Fold after fold occurs until you just flip, go all in with a pair of 2s and get beat by a pair of jacks.

You don’t really experience this with online play as cards are dealt quick and steady. Unfortunately, since you’re part of more hands than you’d experience during regular table games, you’ll experience bad beats more often than not. It becomes less of a ‘if you’ll take bad beats’ and more ‘ how many you’ll take’. Since all the cash you’ve got is sat in your online bankroll, you’re one mouse click away from destroying everything you’ve worked for. Trust us, staying cool online is more crucial than ever!

Anything that’ll get your emotions running has the potential to cause tilt. Consistently winning can even do it, as you set yourself up with high expectations but quickly become annoyed when one hand doesn’t go your way. Losing connection online can also do it, or an accidental click on the fold button, when you wanted to raise. Coming up against an offensive player can cause tilt as well, with their trash talking getting right under your skin. Ultimately, anything out of your control can trigger tilt — you’ve just got to remain calm at all times.

That’s it for part 1. In the next part we’ll take a look at how to prevent tilt during a long gruelling session of poker!