Mental Game of Poker Excerpt 4 – Tilt Profile

The Mental Game of Poker
The Mental Game of Poker
by Jared Tendler and Barry Carter

This is the fourth excerpt from The Mental Game of Poker written by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter. The book is now available from and

Despite many commonalities, every player tilts in slightly different ways and for different reasons. One of the best times to understand your tilt better is immediately after a session where you tilted, because it’s so fresh in your mind. Of course, since tilt is so costly, your best bet is to spend time thinking about previous situations where you’ve tilted. Use the questions below as a guide to begin analyzing and identifying the details of your tilt. If specifics are hard to find, that’s fine; everyone has a different starting point.

  • What causes you to tilt? (Bad beats, losing to fish, running bad, etc.)
  • What are the things you say to yourself out loud, or to other players, when frustration starts rising and when tilted?
  • How do you know that you’re on tilt? What’s the first thing you notice?
  • How does your body react to tilt? (Head gets hot, body is sweaty, heart races, fist clenched, etc.)
  • Can you identify the point when tilt starts shutting down your thinking?
  • At what point do you take action to deal with tilt?

The answers to these questions, and whatever else comes to mind about tilt, form the baseline of your tilt profile. It is impossible to control something you don’t understand, so the goal at this point is to continue building your tilt knowledge base. While accuracy matters a lot when it comes to resolving tilt, simply increasing your knowledge often leads to at least some improvement. That may not mean you can control it at all times, but since increased knowledge or recognition is often the first of many small steps, you’re off to a solid start.

Think You Don’t Tilt?

There are players who believe they don’t tilt because they quit before they do. Does this mean they don’t tilt? According to the formula at the beginning of this chapter, technically yes, since they aren’t making mistakes. However, there’s clearly an anger problem that hasn’t been resolved and is being managed by quitting. Often, these players develop motivational problems because they aren’t getting in enough volume and eventually forget that tilt was the cause. Basically, they learn to live with the elephant in the room so well, they eventually forget it’s there.

Having a baseline for your tilt problems is also important because it gives you a solid point of reference to evaluate progress in the future. Tracking your mental game is not like tracking poker stats. There are times when the intensity of your anger feels the same as before, but in reality, your mistakes aren’t as bad, you recognize tilt faster, you take action against tilt earlier, you quit a session sooner, and the thoughts in your head are less negative.

Small improvements have to happen before many players are able to take full control of tilt. A tilt profile that’s written out gives them the ability to see the small improvements that are hard to see. It’s critical to recognize these small improvements so you avoid falsely abandoning a strategy that is working in slower or less significant ways than you would expect.

Seven Types of Tilt

The following list briefly describes the most common types of tilt:

  • Running Bad Tilt: The tilt that’s caused by a run of bad cards is not actually a unique type of tilt. Instead, one (or more) of the other types of tilt happens so frequently in such a short amount of time that your mind can’t reset itself before the next time you play. As a result, tilt builds up and hangs over your head like a dark cloud.
  • Injustice Tilt: Bad beats, coolers, and suck-outs are prime examples of triggers that make you feel cursed and make poker feel unfair.
  • Hate-losing Tilt: Many players hate losing even though they realize how much variance impacts results in the short run. Wanting to win is not the problem—the problem is how you handle the inevitable losses.
  • Mistake Tilt: Making mistakes is frustrating for many logical reasons; these reasons just happen to be flawed because of inaccurate views about learning.
  • Entitlement Tilt: Classic Phil Hellmuth tilt is caused by believing that you deserve to win for X, Y, or Z reason. Winning is a possession and you tilt when someone undeserving takes it from you.
  • Revenge Tilt: Disrespect, constant aggressive action, and opponents thinking they’re better than you are just a few of the reasons why you seek vengeance at the table.
  • Desperation Tilt: The urge to win your money back and get unstuck is so strong, it makes you play monster sessions, force the action, and jump-up-in- stakes.

Greater detail about each type of tilt is provided in the corresponding sections within this chapter. How you choose to read this chapter is entirely up to you. It may make sense to jump to whichever section fits your tilt profile the best. However, there are many reasons to read all of the following tilt sections. One main reason is that you may recognize tendencies and triggers in a type of tilt you wouldn’t have immediately associated with your game.

The Mental Game of Poker, by Jared Tendler & Barry Carter, is now available at and