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What causes a player to tilt in online poker
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What causes a player to tilt in online poker

Date Published: 9th February 2020
Author: Lowell Forest

Much has been written about the tilt suffered by poker players and, in particular, online players. While all this content has its merit, I personally believe that we can summarize it in a single cause. A profound ignorance about the nature of variance how it influences our short-term results. We can write a thousand words and talk in detail about how running bad (or below the EV) or a series of bad beats provoke a negative emotional reaction in us. All of which leads us to condition our decisions at the tables based on these emotions.

That is, within specific parameters, what we understand by tilt in the world of poker. But it is only a poor understanding of the nature of the variance and its effect on our short-term results. Nothing more, nothing less than that. Don't get me wrong, I fully understand how a person can get upset and even angry after having abruptly lost a series of important hands in a humiliating and public way. Yeah, we get that. But this does not mean that we are going to let our emotions control our reasoning and, therefore, our decisions at the tables.

Poker Tilt

So…What is Variance in Poker?

Statistically speaking, the variance is the numerical quantification of uncertainty. The higher the uncertainty, the greater the variance will be and vice versa. You've probably heard this statement before, poker is a game of incomplete information. Well, this relates to that. The more information we have about a situation, we will be able to make the best possible decision that maximizes our expected value and; at the same time, reduces long-term variance.

Is Variance a Long-Term Concept? YES, IT IS! Variance is purely a long term concept. GET OVER IT! It is simply not worth spending any time studying and analyzing its influence in our short term results. We can play a hand perfectly and still lose or, play it in the worst possible way and still win the pot. If you are a winning player, you must adopt the attitude that once the chips go to the middle, nothing matters more than the decision you made. If it has an expectation of accumulation of positive chips/money in the long term that weighs the risk you are taking, what happens next should not matter to you.

Poker Tilts

How Can We Control Variance?

The best way to control the variance is through...

  • Focusing on the decision and, 
  • NOT focusing on short-term results.

Really, it is not as complicated as many people want to make it look. Perhaps, your aversion to tilt has more to do with your emotional and intellectual development rather than with variance. By this, I mean that, on the one hand, I understand that annoy you are busted AA by a pit of 100bb entering a final table of an important tournament. But from there to let that situation lead you to lose your mental state to the point of destroying the rest of your session that day or, even, the rest of the month, it is something that cannot happen.

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