Surprising Facts About Tilt

Before I launch into a whole blog about Tilt, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to what I mean. Tilt is essentially a more fun way of saying you have a problem with anger in performance. It’s a term that’s commonly used in poker and I think it should be used everywhere. If you’re going to have a problem with anger, you might as well try to have a little fun with it, right?!

Tilt is a problem because it costs you money. Anger has the power to compel you into making such poor decisions that it’s inexplicable how you could have done something so dumb. Anger blinds you from reason, and you feel justified in taking overly aggressive lines vs. an opponent who is constantly re-raising you, or jumping back into a position after getting stopped out for the second time. The cost of these, and many other mistakes, adds up over time and limits your ability to realize your potential.

When I was picking a theme for this month, I looked back at the blogs from the last two years and discovered I’ve written about a lot of topics, but not Tilt. Honestly, that surprised me given how common of a problem it is. And that got me thinking about what might surprise you about Tilt. So here are some of the most common surprises:

  • You may have a Tilt problem and have no idea it’s Tilt
  • Tilt often shows up after making progress or reaching a new level
  • There many variations of Tilt
  • Winner’s Tilt is not Tilt (This one Tilts me)
  • Anger can make you perform better

I Don’t Have a Tilt Problem

Surprise, surprise…you just might! The truth is some of you have a Tilt problem and don’t realize it because, for you, Tilt doesn’t show up in the way you expect it would. You’re used to seeing people display anger in large, demonstrative ways and since you don’t do that, that must mean you don’t Tilt.

For you, Tilt can show up in the opposite way, a very subtle seething, where irritation or frustration can cause you to shut down – you become distracted, quiet, disinterested, or bored. This is your way of trying to calm down, like taking a pot of water off of a hot stove rather than allowing it to boil over. If you stay in it, so to speak, anger would intensify and cause bigger blow-ups.

If you have struggled to identify what’s holding your mental game back, consider taking another look at Tilt. Don’t automatically rule it out. Broaden your view a bit and re-look at some of the “symptoms” you may have classified in another category.

I’m Doing Too Well to Tilt

Sometimes Tilt shows up when you are performing really well, which can be baffling. Let’s say you’ve made progress on any number of mental game issues such as fear, confidence, or discipline. As your performance rises, your standards and expectations also rise. The desire to hit the next target becomes even stronger. Suddenly every misstep, mistake, or loss feels like a step backward and you get angry trying to defend your position. When you’ve seen meaningful progress, your tolerance for mistakes can go down. Deep down you hate the idea of regressing and going back to the mistakes of the past, and that can cause you to tilt.

Another one to watch out for is Entitlement Tilt, which is caused by a belief that your prior work, knowledge, and experience means that you deserve to win. In other words, you’ve become overconfident. Which isn’t unreasonable, given how well you’re doing. You’ve just inflated what doing well means about your ability to capitalize on present and future opportunities. This overconfidence is hard to see, so many of my clients don’t see it until it comes out as anger when they lose.

The good thing is that you’re factually doing better than you ever have before. You’ve graduated to your next mental game problem and it happens to be Tilt.

So Many Ways to Tilt

When I wrote The Mental Game of Poker, I identified seven different types of tilt:

  • Run Bad Tilt
  • Hate-losing Tilt
  • Injustice Tilt
  • Mistake Tilt
  • Revenge Tilt
  • Entitlement Tilt
  • Desperation Tilt

In The Mental Game of Trading I took the first and last out of that list to narrow it down to five. Run Bad Tilt is really not a separate type of Tilt, because the anger you feel when in a drawdown or downswing is a consequence of a large amount of Tilt-inducing triggers happening in such a short amount of time that your mind can’t recover. So Tilt carries over day-over-day, making it easier and easier for you to Tilt. Desperation Tilt is the most severe form of Tilt and it always has a weakness in confidence as the primary cause, so I moved it to the Confidence chapter.

While it may feel overwhelming to see all these variations and recognize yourself in multiple ones, the truth is it simplifies your work because you have a path. That’s why I broke Tilt down into these separate types.

Imagine going to the doctor, feeling quite bad and their diagnosis is that you’re sick. Figuring out specifically what is wrong is key for determining treatment, and the same is true mentally/emotionally. When you can determine the type(s) of Tilt that are affecting your performance, you can better focus your efforts to find a cause and correction. That’s how my books are designed to help.

Winner’s Tilt is Not Tilt

This Tilts me. Especially when someone incorrectly claims that I use the term “Winner’s Tilt.” No one gets angry about winning. Anger comes after the winning stops, but this problem is caused by overconfidence or fear, not anger.

The word Tilt in poker is often overused in such a large way that it becomes useless from a diagnostic perspective. Sometimes Tilt is used to describe any reason that you’d perform less than your best, such as “I have distraction tilt” or “I’m suffering from focus tilt today.” Beware of that trap. When a term becomes so broad as to capture everything, it means nothing. And, frankly, it’s just lazy analysis. Be specific with the problem you are working on, including the terminology, to drive results.

Anger Can Help You Perform

Anger is not all bad. Especially for some people, who rely on anger to perform their best. A common example of this are the poker players or traders who start out the session with their energy being too flat. As a result they make a few mistakes and/or take a few losses, which pisses them off and drives them to focus and play/trade better.

I’d argue in a perfect world this isn’t ideal since they’ve become dependent on anger to perform well, but it does work. So it’s up to them to decide whether or not to make a change.

Next Steps

Here’s where the surprises stop. If Tilt is interfering with your performance, you have to work the system. First up, you need to understand what’s causing it. If you are just getting started, check out my free worksheets. You can’t correct what you can’t see. These worksheets can help you to profile and map your Tilt, so you can clearly see what you’re up against.

If you’ve been here before, go back and re-read the Tilt chapters in my books, update your maps and complete a new Mental Hand History to dig in and figure out what’s causing you to Tilt.

Tilt is costly, but you can put an end to it. While some of you may never completely stop yourself from getting angry, you can at least develop a mental game strategy that stops anger from costing you money and opportunity.


Written by Jared Tendler

May 8, 2023

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