By Merike TaalTTilty tendencies hound almost every poker player untrained in the art of Zen, but only a few admit it. One simple reason is that very often they don’t recognize their emotions as being out of kilter. Frustration, like horse blinders, compels them to keep playing, keep losing, and keep hoping for the luck to return.
One of the most successful female poker players in the world, Liv Boeree says that one’s propensity to tilt can be very intertwined with events in their external life. “If you’re going through a stressful financial period, a breakup, moving house or the dog died then what would be a mild reaction to a standard bad beat can quickly escalate to flipped tables and thrown chairs.”
The astrophysicist turned poker player, model and TV presenter earned her largest purse to date four years ago at the European Poker Tour No Limit Hold’em Main Event, a hearty £1,250,000. In this short interview, she reveals how she minimizes tilt’s decision making impediments.
ADANAI: How often do you experience tilt?
Liv Boeree: I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of tilt and felt the red mist on more than a few occasions over the years! I’d say it’s generally gotten better for me as I’ve matured more as a poker player (and in life!) and now I rarely get it around poker.
Tilt in it’s milder form is much more insidious, and the biggest problem may be that a player may not even be aware that she or he is on tilt. How do you recognise tilt?
The most fundamental way to recognize tilt is to know yourself. Assuming you’ve played a reasonable amount of poker, you’ll have experienced both up and downswings— try to think back to how you behaved during those times. Were you often yelling at your laptop in rage or cartwheeling around after winning a hand?
If yes, then perhaps you’re just a more emotional person than average and thus tilt isn’t too noticeable or bothersome to you. A deep underlying tilt can only be noticed when you’re seeing a prolonged change in behavior pre-, during and post sessions. Especially important is to observe your emotions just before you play. Does the thought of playing for a few hours make you irritable or pessimistic? If so, maybe tilt has gotten a deeper hold and it could be time to examine how and why that’s happened.
What are the best ways to combat tilt?
The best way to combat tilt is to simply recognize it and, as odd as it may sound, observe it as much as possible when you feel it rising. What does it do to your breathing? Heart rate? Are you sweating? What thoughts / images are in your head? Once you start observing it as an outsider it’ll quickly lose its power over you.
Do you have a secret strategy on how to keep you emotions under control?
My personal strategy is pretty much what I described above – I’ve come to accept that emotions are my natural response to what I consider good or bad things happening to me. You can’t fight them once they’re there, but you can take away their power and find a way to understand, accept and learn from them. This acceptance quickly leads to a calmer state, and boom, the tilt is gone!