This is Your Brain on Tilt!


The poker blogger Kieran ( earns enough playing poker professionally to live comfortably in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Kieran has earned the right to give advice on how to conquer tilt.

He writes, “Tilt was holding me back from accomplishing my goals in poker for a long time. I used to be the best at tilting: chasing losses, jumping stakes, open-shoving any two in a white rage and just praying for the rest of my roll to finally wander over to someone else so I can stop playing and stew in guilt and self-loathing.

“That’s what tilt does to you, it doesn’t just destroy your bankroll, it can make your life miserable as well. That’s why I advise any student that admits to having tilt problems to work on this part of their game the hardest, before it gets out of hand. It might start out as getting angry over a few bad beats, but if you don’t take action, that anger accumulates and your problems will get bigger and bigger.”

Here’s a summary of Kieran’s blog titled “5 Proven Methods for Fixing Your Tilt Problem.” I recommend reading the whole blog entry (and his other blog entries too). I’ve summarized his points here for those who only have time for a quick summary:

1. Understanding variance (bad beat tilt): In order to really eliminate tilt due to coolers or bad beats, you have to understand the nature of variance. After all, if you know that it’s a mathematical certainty that you will face bad beats on a regular basis, there is nothing to get angry about.

2. Understand the learning process (mistake tilt): Mistakes and temporary failures are necessary to achieve greatness. Every successful person out there has realized this, and so should you.

3. Exercise good bankroll management: One of the best ways to avoid tilting is having a healthy bankroll. … I recommend all of my students to have at least 50 buy-ins for the stakes they are playing, and to never ever jump stakes.

4. Take breaks: When you’re stuck in a downswing, not only are you prone to tilt, but your play is definitely worse than it normally is….If you feel like things are just too intense and that you’re not capable of playing good poker anymore, take a break! (Note: Kieran recommends a break from 2-3 days to 2-3 weeks, and says try not to even think about poker during the break.)

5. Get your life in order: Realize that there’s more to life than poker and that having other interests will improve your game…. the happier you are in your normal life, the bigger your chances of controlling tilt.

Was this helpful information? Does anyone else have advice on this topic?


Tilt is just another way of saying that someone can’t handle reality. As an objectivist, I never understood why people get mad at mathematical realities. How is it rational to believe you deserve results in a different proportion to what the probabilities dictate? Getting emotional about objective reality doesn’t impact that reality one little bit. All it does is cloud your judgement.

If you didn’t suffer from bad beats by bad players, that would mean there were no bad players left in the game. Short term losses are meaningless. Without the bad players making bad decisions, there would be no profit in the game. Expected value (EV) is a probability function, not a certain outcome.

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Play every hand as if you’ll have to play it again tomorrow. Because you will have to.


I enjoyed reading this, it was clear advice and not bound up in over elaboration. The last bit was particularly relevant and is often not mentioned. Most of us I am sure have household/family distractions which often prevent us from playing the totally concentrated game that the professionals achieve. Thank heavens I am not gambling with the housekeeping money, only my virtual chips!

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Thank you Grapevine. #5 “Get Your Life in Order” is very meaningful to me in my poker experience. When things are going on that are emotionally challenging (health issues for my elderly mother above all), my poker skills deteriorate. I’ve learned to accept and understand why I seem to make bad decisions at the table during those times.

I also appreciated #2 “Understand the learning process.” Early in my poker experience I would feel so much shame for bad plays or for folding a hand that would have been a winner. Finally, on my own I figured out I needed to be patient with the learning process. You’d think I would have known that already, having taught school for many years! It’s one thing to be patient with young people, another thing entirely to be patient with one’s own mistakes.