In the "Ryan Blows a Hand" thread
"I'm curious if there's any mental mantras you try to go through when you know you just made a stupid play and are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again. I've noticed that every once in a while I'll go on a binge of terrible calls and they all seem to be related to one another."
The general subject of tilt avoidance is a topic worthy of its own post. Here are my thoughts…
The first thing to do after a frustrating hand is to make a conscious effort to tighten your hand selection to the extreme, and to stay focused on the hand…at hand.
The second thing to do is to be self-aware when you are failing to do the first thing, and pull yourself from the game when that happens.
If you realize you are playing less than premium hands less than optimally because you are still distracted by the emotions or details of a previous hand, then you have to take a break. Playing tilty and refusing to get up from the table is like driving groggy and refusing to pull over. Both are dangerous exercises in denial:
"The fact that my eyes keep closing means nothing--there's no way I'm going to fall asleep on the interstate! Sure, I'm singing out loud and rolling down the windows to stay focused, but I can handle this."
"The fact that my mind keeps obsessing over that hand from last orbit means nothing--there's no way I'm tilting! Sure, I've made a loose call here and there lately, but I can handle this."
"I'm all in..."
Get up from the table and take a walk, go have a snack or a smoke, but get the hell away from the table before disaster strikes.
Another thing: measure your tiltiness not by your blood pressure, heart rate or rage levels, but by where your head is at. Some people don’t tilt in a visible, emotional way. Maybe you aren’t obviously flustered, but if you are playing one hand while thinking about another, you are probably tilting.
If you are adding extra layers into assessment of the current hand after a rough previous hand, you are probably tilting. He’s not raising because he has a good hand, he’s raising because he thinks I’m tilting, so I should reraise with my crap hand…
One way to avoid tilt if you are an emotional player, like I am, is to go ahead and vent the steam right away. I’ve been known to shove neat stacks of chips to the winner in a big messy pile (don’t splash chips around if you do this, though, that is way uncool), and vocalize my frustrations after a brutal hand.
I can contain this…I never do this at a casino, for example…but among friends, it can help me avoid tilt to let out the steam while it’s fresh. I basically fold the next couple of hands (barring monsters) while I grumble, mutter, shake my head, etc., so that I can clear it all out and move on. Do not sit there muttering about a hand for more than one or two hands after, though. After that, nobody will have any empathy or tolerance (if they had any to begin with), and you’ll just be the annoying dick who can’t take a beat. If you can’t clear the tilt in a timely fashion, get the hell up and walk away.
Opening up the vents can be a way to prevent a more damaging steam buildup, but I’ve been working on not needing to do this to avoid tilt. (Seriously, guys, when’s the last time you remember me do anything blatantly steamy at the table?) Despite being an emotional gamer, I’m also a very logical one, and I’ve been using my logical side to process potentially tilty situations. (“Decisions, not results, decisions, not results, decisions, not results…”) These days, I take bad beats fine when I made the right decision…it’s when I am angry at myself for a mistake that I need to watch out for.
The main thing, though, is to be good about knowing where your head is at, and be honest with yourself about it. One night, in a shorthanded game in which Martin schooled me first for all my sugar and then for all my chips, I was furious with myself for how badly I'd played. I stood up, put on my coat, curtly said goodnight, and bee-lined it out of there, obviously at full boil.
Maybe it wasn’t my classiest moment/exit, but the key here is that I did not reach into my pocket for another buyin. There was no way I could play anything even close to my A game at that point and I knew it, so I quit.
Know your own steam, and get away from the table if you can’t successfully process it after a hand or two.