Tournaments and Tilt

Friday, June 5, 2009 13:21 | Filled in poker

One of the things I pride myself on as a poker player is that I have an extremely high resistance to tilt.  At this point in my poker life, I have seen every possible way to go down in flames.  I’ve been called by terrible hands that had no chance to beat me yet somehow did, I’ve seen one outers on the river, flushes lose to straight flushes, AA beat AA, you name it.  I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve seen Aces cracked.  That’s just the way it goes.

In my best game, limit poker for cash, it is relatively easy to imagine that the long run will eventually catch up to the lucky player.  He still sits there with your money and you will keep making better decisions and get his money.  Even if you don’t get his actual money, there are many others just like him in the endless parade of poker players and you will get their money instead.  The stakes are the same.  One small bet here, one big bet on the river, it all works the same.  Each situation plays itself out a thousand times.  Math is cold and heartless and eventually the water will seek its level, etropy will relentlessly increase and I will accumulate their money.  There is absolutely no reason to get upset when fate deals you a cruel blow because it is just a tiny blip on the road.

I think tourney players tend to tilt more because their landscape is so much different.  They can shrug off some situations because they occur so frequently that the pattern can be easily discerned.  You hear it in the halls every day: “I shoved my short stack and he woke up with Aces.”  It is always said with the same “what can you do?” shrug familiar to all poker players.  People see this pattern enough so that they can let those go.

The problem for tourney guys is that many situations don’t happen often enough to allow you to have that precious distance from the result.  You will not be heads-up in a major tourney that often.  You will not be on the bubble of a $10,000 sat that often.  You will not get the chance to spring the trap that you have patiently laid over the course of the day a thousand times.  Your stack fluctuates and the other player’s stack fluctuates and always the blinds relentlessly increase.  The payouts rise preciptiously as you go deeper and deeper and the insults of fate dealing you the evil card when you are the 80% favorite bite much harder when you sit on the final table.  The beatiful never-ending sameness of limit poker situations promise a future where the bad beats will equalize.  The tourney player who reaches the final table of the WSOP may not ever be there again.

In my opinion, this is why the tourney players storm out of the room and curse and stomp.  They play all those hours for a few brilliant moments where the money is the highest and the pressure is the greatest.  When they lose in those moments, it feels different than the every day losses of the cash game grinder.

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