Poker Life Hacks: How to Avoid the Tilt

female poker player holding up two aces
Whether you’re playing online poker or you’re at a casino, winning a tournament is about a whole lot more than being skilled at cards. If you want to know how to win poker tournaments, then you’re going to have to have a good grasp on three main areas: Fundamental skills, mathematics, and discipline.

There’s a lot that can go wrong in a poker game and no matter how skilled you are or what your mathematics capabilities are like, if you can’t control your emotions, then you aren’t going to be able to win. This is what is known as controlling “tilt.” In this article, we are going to go into more detail about what tilt is, how to recognize and prevent it, and how to mitigate its effects should you experience tilt at the table.

What is tilt?

Tilt isn’t just confined to poker tournaments but can also be experienced in games such as golf, where your mentality also needs to be at optimum levels to comepte. The term tilt is used to describe a scenario where players start to struggle due to emotional distress. Tilting can cause you to lose your temper and make poor playing decisions, which inevitably leads to bigger losses.

What causes tilt?

Tilt can be caused by a number of different factors; the first and the most common cause of tilt is in-game issues and the other cause stems from issues that are not related to the game, but that can still have an impact on players’ moods and decision-making. Let’s look at these in more detail:

External issues

Issues that are often not directly related to the cards can have a massive impact on the mentality of players and how they manage their game. These issues are often called pre-triggers, as they usually precede the game. Issues that may have an effect on a player’s mind include problems like break-ups and divorce, financial stress, lack of sleep, drugs, and alcohol. All of these issues cause players to run hot emotionally and mentally before the game has even started and could leave them all the more susceptible to tilt.

Although these pre-triggers may not cause in-game tilt, they do share a large portion of the blame. Rather than being the final tilt catalyst, these situations are putting together the perfect set of circumstances to make it incredibly hard to avoid tilt the moment that things stop going your way in the game. If your mind was in a good place and things started to slip somewhat, chances are that you would be able to keep your cool and make it through tilt without too much of an issue.

In-game issues

You’re playing a game and you’re playing it well. You feel like you are having to do a little bit of emotional management when things don’t go your way, but overall, you’re feeling in control. Then something goes very wrong. Although triggers for tilt are different according to individuals, one thing that is across the board is that it is always when the game starts to change course in a way the player did not expect. This twist of fate often leads to your rational side packing its bags for a couple of hours of holiday and letting your emotions and pride come over and house sit while it’s away.

The first and most common trigger for in-game tilt is a bad beat. Every player, whether beginner or pro, is going to experience bad beats. This could be a minor “oh shucks” bad beat or a complete soul-sucking crunch of a bad beat that takes every bit of wind out of your sails. Bad beats are an inherent part of any poker tournament and as such, they are a common tilt trigger and why one of the most useful poker tips is to learn how to deal with bad beats without getting emotional.

Another part of poker that has nothing to do with your skillset and everything to do with luck, and that is a common cause of tilt is simply having bad cards. It’s easy to get upset when you’ve got a terrible starting hand and you have been card-dead for a long period of time. This trigger is one of pure frustration and even the most emotionally in-control players have a hard time keeping themselves in check when in this situation.

When playing online, it’s a bit more difficult to endure a long streak of bad cards and this is simply due to multi-tabling options that allow you to play on other, more productive tables at the same time. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that you could have to deal with more bad beats when multi-tabling due to the sheer number of games and hands you are playing.


One of the key ways to beat tilt is by putting in a management process that prevents it from happening in the first place. Remember that prevention is always better than cure. First things first, you’re going to want to leave your baggage at the door on the way in. There’s nothing wrong with having a beer or a whiskey during the game, but if you are having emotional troubles and stress away from the game, then drinking before or during it is just going to make it that much easier to let your emotions get the best of you.

Remember that a good hand can be sucked out at any moment and you have to be prepared for that. Poker players are notorious for overestimating how good their cards are and this means that there’s a bigger emotional fall when their cards fail. Be realistic about the game and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of picturing how the game should go instead of focusing on how it is going. In theory, you should be able to see a loss coming before it happens and this will allow you to prepare yourself for it rather than flying off the handle when it does happen.

Beating tilt

If you haven’t managed to prevent tilt and you can feel yourself going into a full-blown tilt spiral, then there are a number of different things that you can do that will help you get back on the right level:

  • Set a stop-loss: This is an especially useful tool to use if you aren’t great at controlling your emotions yet, or if you’re just beginning to play poker online. A stop-loss sets a limit on the number of times that you can lose before you have to walk away. As a beginner, 3 buy-ins is about the right number and this can always be changed to more as you learn to become more in control of your emotions with practice. When you set a stop-loss on a game, you have to ensure that you honor it and stop playing when you are meant to.
  • Take a break: If you’re in the midst of a poker tournament, it’s going to be impossible to take a longer break but short breaks are imperative. Get up from the table, go to the bathroom, wash your face, listen to a calming song. Or watch your favorite video – whatever is going to get your head level again.
  • Walk away: If you’ve had bad beat after bad beat and you keep buying-in to try and chase your losses then it’s only going to end one way and that’s not a positive. By this stage, you’ve lost your cool and you’re making bad decisions that will lead to other players noticing that you’re on tilt and exploiting you, which will only worsen it for you. Move away from the table or computer and walk away from it. Don’t go back in a few minutes or a few hours. Try and take at least an entire day to get your head right and your emotions in check before trying your hand again.

These are just some of the ways that you can manage tilt in poker and at BetMGM, we encourage all of our players to be in the best emotional and mental state that they can be in order to enjoy their best online poker on our site. If you’re looking for a competitive, yet supportive and fun poker community, then look no further. Sign up with us and enjoy a whole range of online games with like-minded people.