On Tilt

Dear reader,

This is an excerpt from Elements of Poker.

(Now available in audiobook)


Tilt has many causes and kinds, but it has only one effect. It makes us play bad. It makes us do things we wouldn’t do if we were at our very best. And that’s how I want to define it, exactly like that. Tilt is any deviation from your A-game and your A-mindset, however slight or fleeting.

There are two reasons to define tilt in this way. One is standardization. All A-games are identical. Anyone who is playing his A-game is making the best decisions he knows how, and his mind is as right as it ever is. That’s what A-game is. It’s our best. And we all have it. So by defining tilt from the top down, we can draw a line for any player that cleanly divides his tilt from his non-tilt.

The other reason is that we aren’t just playing with words here. We are using them as shovels to dig for gold. And by using the word tilt to focus on our best, instead of our worst, we hit a lode: Tilt is non A-game. Tilt is anything less than your utmost. Tilt is suboptimalness. Defining tilt in this way, everyone tilts. It’s just a matter of how often, how long, and how bad.

And so we arrive at the three dimensions of tilt: frequency, duration, and depth. How often do you deviate from your A-game? How long does it last? And how far below your A-game do you go? Revisit those questions.

Tilt is all about you. If you think you should have taken the day off, or if you think you should have played at different stakes, or if you think you made a bad raise, then you tilted. Only you know when you knew better.
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2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.


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