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by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Dec 19, 2018


There is a guy that plays at my local casino that seems to start tilting after he gets dealt a few bad hands in a row. When I say a few, I really mean it. He could get dealt six hands in a row that are bad and start slamming his cards and muttering. Of course, this is a Big O game, so six hands might be 20 minutes, perhaps increasing his tilt. I’ve tried to figure out the source of this just by talking to him and I haven’t been able to pinpoint it, which led me to try to pinpoint some of my own tilt issues. I turned to Jared Tendler’s writing.

Jared Tendler has written some great books that I’ve praised in my columns before. The ones I have are The Mental Game of Poker series. They’re excellent resources for making yourself better through an avenue that many poker players neglect. In them, he talks about different kinds of tilt.

I’ve admitted before that I trend towards entitlement tilt and injustice tilt. I have trouble when I’m playing in a game that I know I’m supposed to win money in and I go through long stretches without good results. “I’m supposed to beat these people, so why am I not beating them? It must be cosmic.” I had another type of tilt that I wasn’t quite sure how to define, but I think I’ve done so. I think I also was suffering from inadequacy tilt.

I’ve been making a living playing poker for almost 15 years now. I’ve gone from a cash game pro to a tournament pro to a cash game pro again. I’ve played regularly in games as high as $200-$400 limit and occasionally even higher than that. I’ve played many different games over that time period, making my living at limit hold ‘em, no-limit hold ‘em, pot-limit Omaha, mixed games, and now primarily Big O (five card pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better). I have only very recently considered myself good enough at Big O to confidently say I’m winning at a rate good enough to make a living in this game. Up until that point, I was very unsure of myself as a Big O player.

After having played so many different games and different stakes at a high level for so long, it was hard for me to deal with this most recent transition. It came about because the no-limit games at my local casino were getting worse and worse and with the high rake, I didn’t think they were particularly beatable anymore. This new game sprouted up and I’ve done well playing PLO and Omaha eight-or-better in my life, so I figured I’d give it a try. People weren’t playing very well in the game so I figured it would only take me a little while to become proficient enough at Big O to make a living at it. It’s a smallish game, so even if I had a tough time, I wouldn’t get hurt too badly.

It took me much longer than I thought to adjust to that fifth card. I was being too passive in situations where I should have been playing faster and too aggressive in other situations that warranted caution. I failed to account for the increased frequency of an opponent having the same high or low hand as me. I failed to realize the big advantage I have when I have the nut flush draw with an ace in my hand and a low draw on board. I was all over the place with the mistakes I was making. I was still making money in the game, but nowhere near as much as I should have been.

This resulted in me losing my cool when I made any of the above mistakes. I knew there were things I was missing but I just hadn’t quite gotten to the correct conclusions, so I lost emotional control. That always makes things worse. I eventually realized the cause of my tilt and worked to bring it under wraps by studying more. I made some breakthroughs and now it’s difficult to get me upset when I’m playing Big O.

I did three major things. First, I figured out whether or not I was tilting (yes). Second, I identified the source of that tilt (inadequacy). Finally, I searched for a solution to my tilt (learning).

Sure, I occasionally get frustrated in some situations, everyone does. The main difference is that it no longer has a lasting effect on my play and that’s another great breakthrough for me. The less time I spend tilting, the more time I can spend making money. ♠

Gavin GriffinGavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG