It’s easy to record your results when you’re playing well. The trick is to record your results all the time. Every new site, every new variant, every level and in every state of mind or emotional wellbeing – drunk, tetchy, in love – there should be no excuses. If anything, you learn more about yourself and your game from those times “when you weren’t really playing properly”.
It has been said that all sub-optimal play brought on by some emotion or other is tilt. A recent foray onto another online site awoke me to just that phenomenon: new kinds of tilt that I had not considered before – types of tilt that perhaps only occur in those rather dodgy phases in between recording results.
New site tilt
An inevitable part of the game is to go looking for pastures new. With new sites springing up on an almost monthly basis, many offering tasty sign up bonuses, the incentives to jump ship are plenty. Beware – if you’re an online player, the chances are that you’ve got yourself into the zone where playing on your old faithful is concerned.
For example, multi-tabling might be easy on a site with a time bank, but go to a new site without one, and it could all go belly up very quickly. This difference, perhaps small on the surface, can produce a butterfly effect-like catastrophe when you suddenly have three decent hands to deal with.
“They’re all muppets” tilt
This can happen either on or offline, but is a common malaise. You can walk into a casino, or perhaps try a new site and find that the play is a lot weaker than you’re used to. Crack open the bubbly, you think. The trouble is that (a) not all those players are that bad/aggressive/tight/whatever; and (b) just because they are bad, it doesn’t guarantee you the pot.
The problem here is to remember just how well you know the players at your own site or casino. Play more nuts poker and don’t second guess too much in marginal situations. It takes many hours to get a decent read on any player – whether bad or good. Sticking it all in because your opponent seems to play just like all the other muppets is foolish. Patience is a virtue.
Just got paid tilt
We’ve all been there. A good run of sessions in a cash game or a huge stack in a tournament can make you feel like God. All of a sudden, you’re calling more and bluffing more than you used to. If your opponents are savvy, they’ll adjust their game; if they’re not, their game will stay the same – either way, you’ve strayed from the path and the chances are you’re heading downtown.
This is, in my opinion, the single biggest consumer of bankroll, and yet it’s not even referred to as tilt. The emotion here is that you’re indestructible: that you can call in position with trash and outplay your opponent on the flop; that you can bluff your opponent because you’ve got their number. Pride comes before a fall.
Just... a bit... further tilt
Many players give themselves targets, whether openly or subconsciously. For example: (a) they need to hit a certain amount in bankroll before they are ready to go up to the next level; or (b) they’ve never made it to the final table of such an expensive tournament. This distraction can play havoc with your ability to read the game properly.
If you’re playing with any kind of disquiet about the ramifications (financially or otherwise) of this particular hand, you will play sub-optimally. This law is universal. From rocks getting spooked that their second nut hand is not winning, to belt-tightening during the bubble of a tournament, it’s probably responsible for more bad folds than anything else. Remember, it’s all telephone numbers until, in the sober light of day, you analyse your results and ask yourself whether you’re winning here or not.
A few years ago, I set myself a target of a certain level of bankroll in order to play at a higher level. During the middle of a session, I found that I had reached that target. Conservatively, I decided to shut up shop and take my winnings. On the last table to be shut down, and on the last hand before posting the blinds, I was dealt aces. It would be foolish to fold, I thought. The hand went on, and by the time I found out that my aces were beaten, my bankroll had dipped below the requisite amount for me to play at the higher level. It took me two months to build my bankroll up to that level again.
I can afford to lose tilt
Many players give respect to the principle that they shouldn’t play at a level above their comfort zone, but there are as many mistakes to be made below it too. When it’s the price of a bus fare or a kebab at the end of the night just to find out what the guy had when you know you’re beat, that guy often gets paid off. If it was the price of a weekend away, you might decide that the knowledge is not worth it.
True, you’ll never break the bank with this mistake, but you will affect your figures and your mood. Often, the tilt experienced at lower levels when you don’t give a damn, is infectious. Whether it’s a bad beat or your own embarrassment at some appalling play, the spectre of it may well be with you when you next play “serious” poker.