Learn on Tilt

So like those f'ing teenagers I'm on the YouTube. (You can never show your age better than throwing a THE before something that doesn't need it, like "I saw it on THE Television (better yet call it The BOOBTUBE), maybe it was on THE Cable", or maybe " I found it on the THE Google--adding inappropriate ssss enhances the effect, "I was shopping THE Internets" ). and I found some pretty good videos from Dook University. Normally, I hate all things dook related but I love the mental aspects of poker and trying to understand decision making processes. They have six videos dealing with different aspects of irrationality. Lots of decision being made based on irrational thought process at a table so a lot to be mulled over.

I got a lot out of few of these videos applying them to poker. I will probably review them and some of the rather elementry lessons I took from them. In the first video, on arousal, they show how emotions effect motivations and decisions. Basically you are of two minds, the cool calm rational mind, and the tilting mind where emotions fuel your decisions. We learned that a little bit of arousal was good for stock-brokers (http://sleepwiththefishesdineonthewhales.blogspot.com/search?q=wall+street) and can apply that logically for poker players it might give you an edge to see something racy before playing. Anecdotally, Tao of Poker has something they call Procedure where they've profited from poker after strip clubs (http://taopoker.blogspot.com/) you may have to dig to find it but there's plenty to read.

So, with that in mind I watched this video with some interest. It went into a little bit different direction. It basically shows how state of mind dictates a decision, and to learn to make the right decision in that state of mind, it stresses, you need to learn it in the same state of mind. Take the American classic film Beerfest and yes I'm being somewhat sarcastic, where a character says I play much better when I'm drunk. That's an example of state-dependent learning which is similar to the video's point.

In college, I'd tell my friends who'd study drunk, they better be willing to take the test drunk because they won't retain what they learned drunk when they were sober. Yet, oddly had they taken the test drunk they'd have better recall of what they learned drunk. That really fuels the cycle. Can't remember what you did the night before? Get blackout drunk and you might remember again for a short-while. Hmmm... I know there is a movie in that somewhere. Shoot pool better after a couple of beers? You probably do, if you mostly play pool when you are drinking. You have no experience to lean on playing sober. Same holds true with poker. Pros like Gavin Smith will tell you they play better after a couple of beers--and they probably do, because they probably mostly played after having a couple of beers. You mostly play stone-cold sober and alcohol could kill your game. Obviously, with stimulants and depressors (red bull and alcohol) there are limits that each individual has. You get too wired you might not play your best, you get too drunk and you are sure to be playing worse then when you are mildly buzzed.

It falls short like the logic drunk drivers delude themselves with--I'm a great drunk driver. Yeah, but the drunker you are the more apt you are to drive even drunker and eventually you fall off the blank and end up like Mel Gibson or Norman Robinson locally. Though some pros like John Phan and Min the Master and John Hennigan are rumored to be at the top of their game when blitzed. Most people probably can intuit state-dependent learning from experience so I'm not saying anything that new. And those that don't know it should be exploited on the felt.

So, what'd I learn from the video? The research Dook did on arousal was more on state of mind impacted by emotions rather than substances. In their experiment, they noticed that when aroused (hot) people had completely different reactions, impulses, and decision-making abilities then in their rational state (cold) where hormones and emotions weren't effecting their brain. The example they used is you can teach people (cold) to put on a condom and they could learn and promise to do it, but it doesn't do any good because they make that decision when aroused (hot)--so, if you want people to learn to wear THE DAMN condamns (a THE and an s, plus a damn--I'm old it's a theme this week) you might be better served getting them aroused first.

So, to apply to poker Tilting (or being hot) not only is a state of mind where you are making emotional decisions (akin to arousal but in a bad way) but it is also a state of mind you can't educate when cold. How does that help? Well, it means you can't train yourself to not donk off chips when you are tilting... by teaching yourself when you are not tilting. You say you are never going to do it again and you do it anyway, it's because you aren't training yourself in the right state of mind. Here's some tips to teach yourself to play better when you are tilting--by teaching yourself when tilting.

1. Next time you are tilting after a sick online beat, pick up your poker book and read rather than play. I know the last thing I want to do is read while I'm tilting but it has two effects. It'll get me off tilt better and I'm educating myself so when I'm tilting next time I'm in a tournament and I take a sick beat from an utter donkfish, I might be able to reign myself in and apply what I learned in that state of mind ("like don't play AQ o/s utg at full table"--Kenny Tran, FULLTILT's newsletter-- that's a rule most tilters probably violate every chance they get because the rest of the quote is "because you can get into so much trouble out of positon that it undermines the value of the hand).

2. While you are still on tilt, record your hand-history (I'd advise moving to smaller stakes if you employ this) from that point on. Play 5 hands and review it, seeing any mistake you made (click the deal me out box) if any, and repeat until you are off tilt. Analyze youtr tilt factor, while on tilt and not rushing to make a hand.

3. I'd advise moving to smaller stakes or free stakes for this one. UBER-tilt yourself. Follow all your bad tilt impulses, with their predictably calamitous results and track it as you do it. Which presumably will put you further and further on tilt. After a point, review the costs of those actions while you are still tilting--if your computer survives the experience.

4. If you are a tournament player, you need to learn how to cope with tilting so don't follow this one, but if you are strictly a cash game player. Maybe you should not bother learning what to do on tilt, just don't play on tilt. Make a resolution every time you take a bad beat to walk around the casino twice, if online do a load of laundry or a chore you've put off. Need incentive while playing live? Create a tilt jar, where you sneak a couple of red birds off the table before you take your walk, put them in your pocket until you get home. Put them in a jar, keep doing that until you got a buy-in, play off the money you earned by not playing on tilt next time you get to the casino like a freeroll. Or save up and buy something with them.

Some people tilt, and donk off their chips other people clamp up like a vise when on tilt and miss opportunities. Everybody does both. I personally don't tilt much, I used to think I didn't tilt at all, but if I'm honest with myself, I tilt, everybody tilts and it's effects are damaging no matter who you are. What's deceptive is I go into vise mode on tilt far more than I do slinging chips around. Which is a cheaper form of tilt but not if you alter your play and miss winning opportunites. Course using the tips above you can train yourself to be the almost oxy-moron and be a good tilt player.

5. Another good coping strategy for me when tilting is I do an assessment of my table image. I can take myself off tilt quickly if I see everybody thinks I'm on it. I got enraged once in a tournament, when short-stacked in the big blind I look down at aces, action is completed by 6 players including folds, a limp and a bet (sweet), to have a player on the button request a misdeal after waiting to recognize he had three cards (after looking at them all). This was deep in a tournament. Floor came and ruled against me even though I knew I was betraying the strength of my hand by calling him. I was genuinely angry, and I still question the ruling, and I tossed my Aces face up. Then I saw everybody looking at me cautiously, and I thought whoa if I catch a hand in the next orbit or two they'll think I'm steaming. Everybody thinks this even on tilt, so that's not exactly new, but what I'm focusing on was paying attention to the other peoples image of me.

So, I kept bitching even though I had really put the hand behind me. It was funny because GeneD came over to calm me down and console me, but I had to whisper to him my plan. And yes, I managed to double up that orbit with a huge overbet post-flop after hitting top pair, and some tard called me with bottom pair.

Obviously, I'm never so transparent as those guys that catch a big hand and say, "I'm on tilt" and shove, but if I recognize the table thinks I've slipped, I'm praying to catch a big hand to get a big call from a marginal holding, and at the same time I'll bitch it ie using my tilt to advantage and at the same time venting. It's a good coping method. Don't just steam internally. Also, I recognize that I'm going to get a lot more calls, in the next orbit, so I'm not going to press with potential coinflip hands (if I don't want coinflips) or I will press with them (if I do). You focus on how you think your opponents would play if they think you are on tilt and use it as an opportunity instead of internalizing it. That's the worst thing about tilt, you perception is all internal and your focus is on you and not the game. So, train yourself to focus on what your opponents are perceiving.

Anyway here's the first video, check out the dudes heff attire. I guess he thought it was appropriate when discussing arousal. Hope this stuff is helpful even though I realize a lot of it is basic.


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