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Why Tilt is Your Best Friend

Tilt is a blessing for the modern Hold'em player. It forces players to take actions they would not normally take. It fosters and encourages irrational thinking. It allows a good player to effectively grab an weak-minded opponent by the reins, exploiting bad play at every turn. The fact is, that in today's strategy-centric poker world, most players come up focusing on the fundamentals of gambling- odds, equity, fancy play. One thing that still remains largely ignored by all but the best players is the psychology of the game. It's no coincidence that when you hear online pros talk about tilt, they mention it's minuscule effect on their psyche. This is because the online pros have all conditioned their minds to block out tilt at all costs- they realize that they can't afford to make bad decisions, and certainly can't afford to be exploited by sharp opponents. If you learn to avoid tilt yourself, and to exploit tilting opponents, you will see a great increase in your edge in all games online.

One trick to avoiding tilt is to know and understand the math behind the game. That way, when your made flush on the flop is beat by your opponent's chased 4-flush on the river, you can come to terms with the fact that hey- it happens! For example, say you hold the ten of hearts and the king of hearts, and the flop comes two, five, jack of hearts. You've flopped your flush, and you want your money in right then and there if at all possible. Your opponent is a bit slow, and you see that he holds the ace of hearts and the eight of clubs when the cards are turned up, and you both have your stacks in the middle. He's missed the board entirely, and is chasing the nut flush to trump your king high.


How absurd! Not to worry though, as mathematically you are an 84% favorite to win the hand. Here's where bad players tilt, and good players simply lean back in their chairs and sigh. The turn comes blank, but a heart falls on the river. Your opponent has sucked out to his runner flush as a 16% dog. Ridiculous, right?

Right, it is ridiculous, but it happens. 16% of the time, your opponent is supposed to win this hand, and you must remember that when you face a bad beat. Just because a certain hand is a huge favorite on the flop does not mean it's a lock to win all the time. You don't deserve to win anything any more than your opponent does, and you shouldn't act as if you do, or else you will fall victim to tilt. Instead of getting angry, or feeling sorry for yourself, you should be happy that you got your money in on the flop as a massive favorite. Your opponent made a huge mistake by taking you all-in, and in the long run, he will lose a ton of money for making that play. Likewise, you will win a massive sum in the long run by making the play. Learning to condition your mind to not respond to bad beats at all, either negatively or positively, will result in huge long-term profits as you are faced with more and more unfortunate situations all the time.

On the other hand you should be happy to find an opponent who can not control his emotions. Say you are at a table with a player who just experienced a horrible beat- his full house was beat by a higher full house. He feels as if he can never win a hand, as if the 'poker gods' are frowning upon him, and he feels wronged. Tilt. This is a perfect time for you to get involved with a few hands with this player. You'll find him calling down your top pair with the lowest pair on the board, and dropping his entire stack with hands he'd never usually consider playing preflop. You can make him hand you his money by exploiting the fact that he is on tilt and looking to get even. When faced with a situation like this, a player on tilt at your table, you should open up your range a bit. Try opening pots with marginal holdings- suited connectors and one-gappers are perfect. That way, when you flop a strange hand like a low two pair or a straight, while he flops his low-kickered ace, you can be sure he's handing you his money, whereas before he would not have stacked off with anything less than three of a kind.

In short, understanding and identifying tilt can give you a huge edge in today's games, by virtue of the fact that most players still ignore it while honing their skills. Psychological warfare is one of the only large edges left for a player to gain in internet Hold'em, and knowing how to use it will help you conquer any online game.