Tiltometry, measuring all the angles

A famous player, maybe Daniel Negreanu, said that the single most common cause of players losing money playing poker is tilt.

But can we ever disassociate our mental state from our play and be like computers.

Consider this: I usually play a 1-Million chip tournament in the early evening. Usually there are about 30 players in the tournament, so a total of around 150,000 chips. By the end of the first hour there are typically about 18 players left, so three tables (6-max) in play.

My estimate is that about 12000 chips at the beginning of the second hour of play is par for the course. You will not be leading, but you will not be in the ‘at risk, need to shove preflop’ group either.

Now consider two scenarios.

In the first you end up with 12000 chips at the break, having just lost a pot for 4000 chips. Up to this point you had been exchanging the lead with a couple of other players, but now you are back in the midpack.

In the second, you have been having a few setbacks, having lost a large pot early on, but have recovered, and on the last pot before the break you win 4000 chips, giving you 12000 chips at the break.

How will what happened recently affect how you play in the future?

Now you restart after the break with increased blinds, so your stack represents 25% less Big Blinds as a few minutes ago, your hole cards are AJo and you raise to 3BB and everyone folds. Or then again, your hole cards are AJo in early position, you raise to 3BB and the tournament leader 3-bets to 10BB, forcing you to fold and thus lose 1200 chips, or 10% of your stack.

How will what happened before the break affect the way you feel after each of these hands?

We might also consider transference factors. What is that?

In the context of psychoanalysis, a patient is thought to demonstrate transference when expressing feelings toward the therapist that appear to be based on the patient’s past feelings about someone else.

It seems to me that in poker it is possible that what happened recently with one type of player–big stack, small stack, calling station, table bully, wild bluffer, flop shover–is likely to affect play in the current hand. For example if you were recently bluffed off a pot you were leading at the flop by a big stack who had nothing, and showed his cards, then you might be more inclined to call a overbet on the flop by another big stack to show that you are not a sucker, when he really does have the goods.

A similar thing may happen at the crucial tipping point at the end of 40 minutes of play when the BB doubles from 100 chips to 200 chips, thus cutting stacks in half and changing the whole game. It seems to me that if your stack is fading, then you need to become extremely aggressive in the few minutes before the blinds double and maybe on the first couple of hands with the new blinds, before opponents have fully adjusted…

At 39 minutes you are cruising while BBs are at 100, but after only 21 more minutes of play, they have quadrupled. What does this have to do with tilt? Nothing directly, except that if you keep a close track of blind changes relative to your stack size, you will perhaps adjust your strategy accordingly and play according to principles rather than just playing off euphoria or despondency according to what happened on the last hand.