The Tilt Factor

Poker players understand that tilt is a slang term used to describe the angry or frustrated emotional state of a player. We commonly associate tilt as the result of simply taking a bad beat or losing a big pot. But going on tilt can be caused by a number of things such as losing multiple hands, multiple sessions or just from getting annoyed by another player. Seasoned poker players have become somewhat resistant to going on tilt. The years of experiencing fluctuations of luck in the game are second nature. This is a big goal that every intermediate player should shoot to achieve so that tilt does not end up costing more money than a single bad beat.

How Can You Detect When a Player is on Tilt?

A player on tilt will typically start playing very fast and aggressive, with no regard for the quality of his hand. This is usually an attempt to immediately win back the chips lost. You may notice his face is flush, hear heavy breathing. Extreme tilt sometimes causes a player to completely lose control and start swearing or berating opponents. You may also hear the player make irrational accusations to the dealer, as if he has control over the cards dealt. An online player who is on tilt often easily identifies himself by typing insults into the chat box using all capital letters. Tilted online players will also show their impatience by telling opponents to speed up, or by simply typing “zzzzz” into the chat box which represents, “Hurry up, I’m falling asleep waiting”.

How Can You Stop Yourself From Going on Tilt?

If you start to experience some of the above symptoms, your only defence is to stop the train from derailing. It’s understandable to get angry – even the pro’s do. In fact, every competitive poker player has experienced the tilt factor at one point in time. What you do at this point will determine the overall outcome of your poker session and it is critical that you do not lose control. The following are helpful tactics for controlling your emotions when you may otherwise go on tilt:

  • Get up from the poker table and take a walk or go to the bathroom to cool off.
  • Do not use your break to call someone and explain the beat – this will further anger you, not calm you down.
  • Do not try to talk to your opponent and open the door for defensive comments that may fuel an argument.
  • Do not play the next four or five hands unless you have premium cards.
  • If you cannot get in the right frame of mind, cash in and do not keep playing – you may need a long break in order to get back to your best game state.

Taking Advantage of a Player on Tilt

Once a player takes a big loss, look for the signs and be prepared to capitalize on weakness that tilt creates. Remember that poker is all about analyzing a situation to make the best strategic decision. A poker player who lets his emotions drive his actions is typically not in the right frame of mind to make good decisions. This gives you an edge against your opponent. The following are helpful tactics for handling an opponent on tilt:

  • Do not try to bluff the player, but consider decreasing your starting hand requirements in order to play more hands with the player on tilt.
  • There is no need to slow play a good hand against a player on tilt – bet and they will typically call.
  • Do not be intimidated into rushing your play – take your time making decisions even if this further angers the tilted player.
  • Do not try to instigate a feud that may further disrupt the game and put you on tilt.
  • When playing poker online, refrain from engaging in a chat box battle with an irrational opponent. Personal insults make the tilted player look foolish – likewise, retaliation comments make you look foolish.
  • Do not try to rationalize your play when a player on tilt verbally attacks you – ignoring his comments will actually have a stronger affect.


A tilted opponent puts action into the game and often ends up giving away a large portion of chips. This makes it very tempting to try and keep the player tilted – however, keep in mind that tilt is a temporary state of frustration and as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end”. Poker, above all, should be played ethically. The following is a list of unethical behaviour that novice players sometimes resort to using in order to keep a player on tilt:

  • Laughing at a player for losing a hand or playing a hand poorly.
  • Telling the tilted player what he did wrong in the hand – therefore, explaining why he deserved to lose.
  • Singing, whistling, making loud noises while the tilted player is contemplating his move.
  • Slow-rolling a hand with the tilted player at showdown.

If you resort to using any of the above tactics you may keep a tilted player angry for a little while longer, and you may even make more money in the short term. In the long term, the educated players at the table will remember your opponent for his lack of control, but they will remember you for your lack of poker etiquette. Let your skill at poker drive your ability to earn chips – it will pay off in the long run. Remember that you are trying to win chips from all the players at the poker table – do not let your guard down by focusing solely on the tilted player.