What is tilt and why do players go on tilt?

Tilt is poker lingo for playing worse than you are capable of playing. Tilt is not the same as bad play. Bad players do stupid things at the table because they don’t know any better, players on tilt however do things that they know are wrong. Being on tilt means that you stop thinking through decisions and making the best play. Every poker player suffers from tilt and part of becoming a good poker player is learning to control the impact of tilt on your game.

There are many different ways in which tilt manifests itself. It is important to understand all of these so that you can notice when you are starting to tilt and also identify whether other players at your table are on tilt.

Loose Tilt

Loose tilt is the most common form of tilt and involves playing too many hands pre flop and not folding frequently enough post flop. Frustrated players who are down will often find themselves chasing weak draws trying to win a pot to get back on track.

Aggressive Tilt

A player on aggressive tilt will overplay his hands, betting and raising where he should just be checking and calling, or even folding. This can destroy your bankroll very quickly especially if combined with loose tilt.

Tight Tilt

Players on tight tilt fold way too often. This is often done to protect a win when ahead by tightening up and only playing premium hands.

Passive Tilt

Rather than betting and raising in the right situations, players on passive tilt check and call too frequently. This is usually caused by a bad session where you have lost a big pot and are now less inclined to take risks. Subconsciously, you begin to start thinking pessimistically and negatively e.g. that your opponent who has won the past 5 pots will hit his draw.

Fancy Play Syndrome

This type of tilt was coined by Mike Caro and describes plays that are too complicated. Players start overthinking situations and making deceptive plays when often it would be better to make the obvious play. Players who are on FPS tilt start bluffing and slow playing too often.

Why do good players do things that they know are wrong and start tilting? Although people go on tilt for different reasons, tilt can be generalised as being an emotional response to negative stimuli. Most players go on tilt when they take a bad beat or lose a lot of money in a big pot. Boredom, being drunk or real life problems that are on your mind are all also major causes of tilt.

Think of poker as a war within yourself. On side is your heart telling you to play the game the way you would like to play. On the other side is your head telling you to play the game the way it should be played. In normal circumstances your head will win the fight and have the casting vote in poker decisions. When you are tilting the little voice in the back of your head becomes loud and stops you making the best decisions because they are now controlled by your heart and not your head.

Tilt can be short term or can last many hours or even multiple sessions. No player is safe from tilt because everyone is human and has that voice, however quiet, somewhere within his conscience.

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