Life Tilt: Where's your head at?

We all know how devastating tilt can be in our game. You play well, you feel well, you go all in as a huge favourite, and suddenly boom, your hand is crushed and your opponent takes 'your' pot away. How cruel! How unfair! For a moment, shorter or longer, you feel annoyed and frustrated, maybe even angry. Some of your next decisions may be not optimal. More losses may follow. I guess we all know that feeling.

If you are good and experienced player, your tilt will be much smaller than other people's tilt. You may be even one of those players who had conquered their tilt and no bad beats are affecting your game anymore. That would be perfect! But there is something - in my opinion - much more disturbing than regular tilt. Imagine, that instead of having tilt for few minutes, you experience it for few hours, full day, or even a week! Sounds scary? Now let's think how is it possible.


Regular tilt is caused directly by poker hands and developments. You are not tilted until some unlucky - in your opinion - hand happens. The other tilt I have described above, let's call it life tilt, is caused by your personal experience. Maybe you had a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend, maybe had annoying phone call, maybe your favourite sports team just lost important game. There may be hundreds of reasons. Do you know that feeling inside your chest when something like this happen?

Now the question is, will that feeling affect your game? I think it depends how experienced player you are. But in general, my answer would be: yes, it will affect your game in a negative way. You need to be honest with yourself here and decide by yourself - am I calm enough to play well? I've play poker professionally for over ten years now, and it's easy for me to know when my life tilt is too big to play. Luckily, it doesn't happen a lot. For some reason, no matter what happens in the outside world, when I sit to my poker session, only good decisions matter to me and the rest it put aside.

However, I can easily imagine how some players react to life tilt during their play. 'Oh really? You are re-raising me for the second time in a row? Guess what, my sports team was very unlucky today and they lost by a last minute shot, so I don't care. Here! I go all-in with my K5o, because I deserve a lucky break after that!.' Or, 'Really, a 4-bet? My girlfriend was giving me hard time all day long and now this happens? You will not push me around!' Surely enough, your opponent will just play his regular solid game and will be really happy to see you on tilt. I have seen many unexplained in poker terms plays like this before.

How can you avoid playing with life tilt? The easiest answer would be to take a break. Blow off some steam. Go to the gym, for a walk, or a run. Maybe play a video game or just watch a movie. Trying to kill your life tilt by playing real-money poker game is definitely not the best idea. The games will be always there, and to compete at your best level, your mind needs to be clear and calm. Let's say the life tilt costs you one buy-in every two weeks. We are talking 25 buy-ins a year here! It's a large percentage of your potential winnings. Remember: money not lost is money won.

In my opinion life tilt is more costly than a regular tilt. And it's also more dangerous because for some players is much more hidden as well. And they have hard time finding out why they feel a little bit anxious during the play. You can avoid that by simply asking yourself a few short questions before starting your session: Is there something that bothers me? Is there something on my mind that I need to take care of first? Am I feeling comfortably enough to play? But you also need to remember that one of the keys to winning at poker is to be honest with yourself.

So maybe at the very end you should also ask yourself: 'Am I lying to myself and will that cost me money?'