One of the biggest pitfalls faced by poker players is going on tilt. The madness that comes from tilt can throw even the best players off their game.
Losing your cool can be tough to battle because we can all be set off by different things. Some players will fly off the handle by a “bad beat.”
Others will try to stay calm while enduring a cold card streak but eventually break and start making rash decisions. When a poker player’s decision-making becomes clouded, their entire chip stack is suddenly compromised.
Online poker players are far from immune to the struggles of going on tilt. The solitaire nature of the game and the anonymity provided by avatars and screen names add to the growing frustrations.
Let’s look at how to keep your cool playing real money online poker. Staying on an even keel while in the online poker rooms will improve your poker winnings and make for a much more enjoyable experience.
Early Recognition Is Critical
There’s no better way to avoid going on tilt while playing online poker than catching yourself in the early stages. In addition to paying attention to your cards and other players, you should regularly be checking in on yourself.
These cues most often manifest themselves as minor annoyances before they grow into a significant problem. So, evaluating your headspace at regular intervals can help you stay on the right track.
However, ignoring the warning signs may have devastating consequences. When a player is already in a foul mood at the tables, a bad beat or missed draw could send them over the edge.
You’d be surprised how often spotting the tilt before it comes can help you avoid any further trouble. Still, merely knowing that you’re headed for trouble won’t always get the job done.
Get Some Fresh Air
Poker sessions can be grueling; I’ve forgotten to take breaks many times. Missing meals and skipping sleep will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your mental state.
I’ve always found that taking a break is an excellent tool for hitting the reset button in the casino. When playing online, taking a break to walk in my backyard or down the block will shed much of the negative energy I’ve built up in my body.
Online poker tends to take an extra toll on players for a few reasons. One of the main factors is the virtual element.
Players are forced to pay incredibly close attention to all other players because their bodies aren’t picking up on the cues you get in a live game. That may lead to added fatigue which may lead to a player losing their cool.
Make the time to take regular breaks. Setting an alarm is a great reminder to get outside and get some air.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Amateur poker players are prone to focusing on the now rather than the end goal. They look at every session as a must-win scenario.
If every poker session was a winning affair, we’d all be professionals. Except that pro poker players understand that poker is a marathon and not a sprint.
When you’re all consumed with immediate results, every negative tick is magnified. Losing a $200 pot isn’t an earth-shattering loss in the grand scheme of things.
This stage is where many online poker players will begin to unravel. If you can keep your eyes on the long-term goals you’ve set, you’re much better positioned to keep your cool.
Be Happy for Them
If you can genuinely begin to be okay when your opponent catches a lucky card to beat you, you’ll be tough to throw off at the table.
In casino poker games and poker tournaments, I hear many players congratulating their opponent after a bad beat. Unfortunately, it’s usually delivered with heavy sarcasm or meant as a backhanded compliment.
In online poker games, it’s much easier to merely ignore the player altogether. However, that’s not great sportsmanship either.
So, tell them “good hand” and mean it. Regardless of whether or not the other player even acknowledges your gesture of goodwill, it will keep you in a positive mindset.
You may be genuinely surprised at the warm reaction you receive from your opponent and other players. That is especially true after an awful beat.
If the rest of the table sees you respecting the game, you’ll gain respect. When you have care at the poker table, you can use that respect to your advantage.
Know Your Calming Techniques
I already mentioned how getting some fresh air can totally change your demeanor and attitude. However, that’s only one way to quell the growing anger.
Any activity that will direct your focus away from the source of your angst is an appropriate calming technique.
The blessing of playing online poker is that all of your favorite things are right there. I have a close friend that calls me almost anytime he gets a bad break.
He’ll go in his backyard where he has a putting green and calls me to give the play-by-play. By participating in an activity he enjoys and getting a second pair of eyes on the situation, he’s able to objectively look at the ordeal.
This step allows him to learn from almost every mistake he makes. I don’t know of the last time he went on tilt was because he’s changed his entire mindset.
Call It a Day
There are times when the best possible step you can take is to leave the table and fight another day.
Some beats and runs of cold cards can leave you reeling, and nothing but some time away will fix your ailment.
Walking away from the poker table is much easier for online players. Usually, casino players have made a trip to the casino. The sole function of their visit is to enjoy the poker rooms.
Leaving the game may mean a long drive home or lounging poolside for the rest of the day. Either way, it’s not what most of us have in mind for a casino trip.
Fortunately, online poker players are always a click away from being out of the game and back in their living room or home office. You really can’t beat online poker for taking the day off when things begin to go sideways.
Understand That Losses Will Happen
I don’t know a single poker player that’s immune to bad beats or cold cards. I’m talking about the entire spectrum; Daniel Negreanu to my neighbor Dale are all susceptible.
So, if the likes of Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, and Erik Seidel are going to face these tough breaks, surely we mere mortals are going to face struggles.
Losing hands are part of the game. Ted Williams is widely considered the best batter in the history of baseball, with an impressive career batting average of .344.
That meant that he got a hit slightly under every third at-bat. If a poker player put numbers up like that, they’d be nearly impossible to beat.
The goal is to have better wins than your losses. Still, if you lose a significant pot, you shouldn’t try to get it back on the next swing.
Avoid Unnecessary Chatter
In casino poker games, it can be challenging to ignore your opponents. A simple “nice hand” may be misconstrued as a stab after a bad beat and the conversation quickly devolves into a heated bit of trash talk.
I’ve seen players go at it to the point where security escorted both players out of the casino. In more minor games away from the casino, I’ve seen more than one fistfight result from needless chatter over a bad beat.
Online poker players that are close to losing their cool should simply leave the keyboard alone. Even if another player is trying to goad you into a fight, it’s much better to ignore the player than go on tilt.
The mute option can be an emotional poker player’s best friend. If you have an opponent constantly trolling you, mute them, and all of their power is instantly extinguished.
Learn to Laugh at Yourself
Stop taking yourself so seriously. Believe me, I understand the passion.
I take competitiveness to an extreme level. Luckily, I’ve also learned to laugh at myself from time to time.
Whenever I find myself starting to fill with rage, I try to laugh at how bent out of shape I am. Nothing will lower the blood pressure and put things in perspective, like having a chuckle at your own expense.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to how to keep your cool playing online poker. We’re all unique and have our own strengths and weaknesses.
The most critical factors are recognition and action. That’s to say, you must understand what your warning signs are as you approach the tipping point and must take action before the anger spills over into your play.