Top 10 Reasons Why You Go On Tilt (And How to Fix It)

why you go on tilt
One of the most devastating side effects of losing in poker is tilt. It happens to everybody, whether you are a complete beginner or an experienced pro.

Some people have a longer fuse than others and can endure more pain, but at the end of the day, most people can only take so many bad beats and coolers, before they finally crack.

In fact, as I have said before:

The entire game of poker is actually just one long exercise in maintaining your sanity. Those who can endure the most, they win.

Some people think I am joking when I say this.

But I am not.

I have played over 10 million hands of poker in my career and I can tell you that the ability to persevere no matter what this game throws your way is what separates the pros from everybody else.

This game will seriously mess your head at some point. And it has probably already happened to you, which is why you found this article in this first place.

So if you are like Phil Hellmuth and you just can't stop going on monkey tilt every time you lose a hand, I wrote this article specifically for you.

Here are the top 10 reasons why you go on tilt, and more importantly, what you can do to fix it!


1. Your Pocket Aces Got Cracked


One of the most common reasons why people go on tilt is because their pocket aces got "cracked."

As we all know, pocket AA is the best hand that you can possibly be dealt preflop in Texas Hold'em, and so therefore when you lose with it, it is especially painful.

In fact, many people almost feel like they are entitled to win big every time they get dealt this hand. Unfortunately though, the math and the reality of the game does not agree.

How to fix it:

Get over pocket aces. It's just one pair. You will lose with it sometimes.


2. They Hit a Two Outer on the River


One of the absolute worst feelings in the world is when you are betting your AK the whole way on a board like:

K95Q8

And some goofball is calling you down with a pocket pair like 88, because he thinks you are "bluffing."

And then lo and behold!

He nails his 8 on the river, puts in the raise, you call and scream to the heavens "what was this f%#^ing guy even doing in the pot?!?"

It's infuriating, believe me, I know.

How to fix it:

A "two outer" means exactly what it sounds like. They had two cards in the deck to save their life. They got lucky and hit one of them.

Yawn/laugh, move on to the next hand.

You can also remind yourself that you didn't take a bad beat as ridiculous as this hand!



3. They Hit Two Pair on the River


Another particularly annoying bad beat is when somebody calls you down with bottom pair and hits their two pair on the river.

Once again, all you can do is ask yourself what this guy was even thinking. But that's just the thing, it's almost always bad players who do this.

And guess what?

They don't think. They are just clicking random buttons because that is what fish do. They don't even have the slightest clue what a winning poker strategy look like.

And most importantly of all, they also pay for it BIG-TIME over the long run. Because the one thing you can't do in poker is keep fighting the math and expect to win in the end.

How to fix it:

So the fish hit a lucky 5 outer against you? Nice hand sir!

Yawn, next hand.


4. Running Your Pocket Kings into Pocket Aces


Alright this one sucks, I am not going to lie.

And sometimes it can happen several times in a row to really test your sanity. But running your pocket KK into pocket AA only happens roughly:
  • 3% of the time at a 6max poker table
  • 4% of the time at a full ring poker table

So in other words, hardly ever.

In fact, most of the time this is the kind of hand that they actually show up with:



How to fix it:

Running your pocket kings into pocket aces is extremely rare but it will happen on occasion. It happens to everybody in fact. And everybody goes broke in these spots.

So in the end it is basically just one big neutral EV (expected value) wash. In other words, no point in worrying about it.


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Why Do I Go On Tilt?
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5. Flush Over Flush


Ok here is another one that really sucks, I can't lie.

There is literally nothing worse on earth than flopping a flush only to play a big pot and find out that some other lucky guy flopped an even higher flush than you!

In some cases, like when you have a King high flush and lose to an Ace high flush, I am sorry, but there is no strategy on earth that is going to help you here.

Even world famous poker pros like Daniel Negreanu always go broke here as he talks about in his private poker training program.

However, there are a few cases where losing to a higher flush actually is avoidable though. And as usual, it just boils down to basic hand selection.

More specifically, I am talking about playing too many small suited connectors like this:

54
32

Not only do these hands make a terrible pair and are notorious big long-term losers, but they are also prime candidates for a flush over flush scenario.

Therefore, oftentimes, you are better off just throwing these hands away preflop.

How to fix it:

Fold your small suited connectors preflop. I know they look so pretty when you get dealt one, but trust me, these hands are big long-term losers statistically.

If you don't believe me, all you have to do is go into your poker HUD database and see the huge losses for yourself.

But just like with running KK into AA, flush over flush happens to everybody sometimes. They are gonna go broke to you when the shoe is on the other foot. So don't sweat it too much.


6. Straight Over Straight


Straight over straight is a little less common and also easier to avoid than flush over flush.

How do you avoid it? It's actually pretty simple.

I even have an entire section near the end of my book Crushing the Microstakes where I talk about why you need to stop chasing the ass-end of a straight.

By the way when I talk about the "ass end of a straight" I mean a straight draw, where if you make it, it will not be the best straight possible.

This is something that beginner poker players do all the time (chase bad draws), and it's why they get "coolered" with straight over straight much more often than experienced poker players.

For example:

You have J9 the flop comes:

KQ2

You shouldn't give a ton of action in this hand because if the T falls on the turn or river, you are just begging to get owned by somebody else who has:

AJ

How to fix it:

Stop chasing the ass-end of the straight. Only draw to the nuts!


7. You Lost to Trips With a Better Kicker


Losing with trips to another trips hand with a better kicker is also something that while frustrating, tends to happen to inexperienced players much more often than seasoned pros.

Why?

Because once again, they are ignoring the basic rules of starting hand selection.

The biggest reason why you get yourself in a situation to run trips into trips with a better kicker is playing poor hands in the first place like:
  • 86
  • J7
  • K5
Stop playing bad hands like this (yes, even if they are suited) and the next time you flop trips you will likely have a much better kicker and actually win the hand instead.

How to fix it:

Don't play trashy hands that are just begging to hit trips and lose to trips with a better kicker versus a player with superior starting hand selection.


8. You Made a Bad Play


Hey, let's face not every single time you go on tilt is because of some bad beat or cooler. Some people go on tilt simply because they made a bad play.

It definitely has happened to me many times.

And I think it is because I expect better of myself. I get frustrated when I fall for a simple trap set by a low level thinking player for example.

But sometimes with newer players it is fundamental mistakes once again like I explain in this video:


Fundamental mistakes like this hand are what I call the "Snowball Effect" and you want to avoid them at all costs.

But as an experienced pro, most of the time when I make a mistake, it is because I failed to see it because I was just too distracted by action on some other tables.

Or perhaps I was tired and shouldn't be playing in the first place. These are all preventable mistakes as well though, which I have discussed many times before on this blog.

How to fix it:

Learn to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes. If it is because you are too distracted or shouldn't be playing, then fix those problems first.


9. You Are in the Middle of a Lengthy Losing Streak


This one is a little bit more complicated because the truth is that most people lose at poker over the long run. This means that they are often going to be on a lengthy losing streak.

The reason why most people lose at poker is because they don't understand the fundamentals of the game and they also have poor emotional control (i.e. they tilt too much).

If that sounds like you, that is exactly why I wrote The Micro Stakes Playbook.

I wanted to provide struggling low stakes poker players with a step by step guide on how to play a fundamentally solid tight and aggressive strategy and finally stop tilting.

However, if you are one of the few people who is already a long term consistent winning poker player, then the only thing you can do is just wait it out.

Everybody goes through long downswings at some point in their poker career that feel like they will never end. There is unfortunately no quick fix. It will end when it ends.

How to fix it:

Most people can fix a lengthy losing streak by learning to play better and improving their emotional control at the table.

For long term winning poker players, they just need to understand that they are in a downswing and there is nothing you can do about it.

Just focus on making good decisions in each hand (like you usually do) because this is the only thing that you can control.

And believe me, it will end eventually.


10. You Are Tilted By Life


This last one is a bit difficult to fix also. Because honestly, some people are just tilted by life.

Maybe your dog died, you lost your job, you are going through a divorce etc. These are life events that happen to us all and they can be stressful.

It is important that you don't bring your life tilt to the poker tables. Poker is already a tough enough game to keep your cool in.

So you don't want to be playing a lot when you are stressed out over personal life issues. This is the time to take a break from poker and re-focus.

How to fix it:

Don't bring life tilt issues to the poker table. If you are going through a rough time in your personal life, this is a good time to take a break from poker and maybe pick up yoga or running or something.

Because success in poker requires a clear head to be successful. Make sure that you are relaxed and feeling good every time you decide to play poker, or don't play at all.


Final Thoughts


At the end of the day we all go on tilt sometimes. Heck, sometimes life itself is enough to tilt the crap out of us. Stuff happens!

So it is very important that you are aware of the situations that will cause you to tilt at the poker tables and be able to rationally move beyond it in the moment.

Some of the most common things that will make you go on tilt are bad beats like when they hit their two outer or five outer on the river, or when they crack your pocket aces or pocket kings.

Coolers can also easily cause tilt you like when you run your pocket kings into aces, get flush over flushed, straight over straight and so on.

But you must realize that in most of these cases they either got really lucky by fighting the math (which never ends well for them in the long run), or it's just a setup which always evens out in the long run anyways.

You also need to be aware that when you are on a lengthy losing streak, stressed out by life or you make a bad play, you might also start to feel tilty.

It is important that you learn to take a step back in these situations and remember that poker is a long term game. One bad play or tilty move won't ruin your results.

But a consistent pattern of letting your emotions affect your play absolutely will ruin your long term results. Just say no to tilt!

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Why do I go on tilt?