How Tilt Affects your Bankroll

The very mention of ‘tilt’ in poker probably has your eyes rolling because the subject has been covered to death.  And no matter how many poker strategy articles have stated that tilt should be avoided, every player still gets tilted at some point.  So rather than rehashing tips for avoiding tilt, let’s look at the effects tilt can have on your bankroll as a deterrent from playing poker when you’re upset.

Financial Havoc

Tilt can strike at any time, and when it does your bankroll will be at your mercy.  To illustrate the financial catastrophe tilt creates, let’s say you play $2/$4 No-Limit Hold’em cash games and earn $15 per hour.  Assuming you played 20 hours from Monday to Saturday, you’d have earned $300 playing poker.

But let’s say Sunday comes around and you’ve just had an argument with your best friend.  Angry and looking for a way to blow some steam off, you hop online and start playing poker for an hour – big mistake!  You make a total donk move by calling a $120 re-raise while holding a straight on a board that obviously shows flush possibilities; this one move costs you $150.  Still not learning your lesson, you call an extremely tight player’s $55 raise on the river only to find out they weren’t bluffing thus bringing your total loss in the hand to $75.

All other things being equal, you just blew $175 in a short session.  This leaves your total profit for the week at just $125, and it also means your hourly rate of $15 also dropped to $5.95.

Now some players might consider a $125 profit to still be a success, but this isn’t the point.  Assuming you are working with a $1,450 bankroll (after the $300 profit), you’ve essentially cut your bankroll by 12% in a single hour of play.  Money that could’ve helped you move up in stakes quicker is now lost because of one really bad hour.

Wasted Time

If losing a significant portion of your bankroll in one short session isn’t enough to get upset over, you should also consider the amount of time you’ve wasted by playing while tilted.

As mentioned before, your hourly rate will have dropped from $15 to $5.95 from the one hour you decided to play when angry.  To put this in terms of hours lost, you basically wasted 11 hours and 40 minutes by deciding to play the Sunday session when your head wasn’t into the game.  Sure the winning hours served as valuable practice time when everything is put into perspective, but they also could have represented $175 in profit too.

Dealing with Tilt

Seeing as how tilt can wipe out hours or even days of bankroll building, it is something that’s best avoided.  Most people suggest to simply recognize when you’re on tilt and go for a walk or play video games. Unfortunately, avoiding tilt isn’t this easy, which is why it is so devastating to a bankroll.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that most players will spend hours studying fold equity and how to put opponents on a range, yet spend 15 minutes reading about the best ways to deal with tilt.  Even when you do put some time into the subject, you will find that there’s no universal cure for tilt – i.e. going for a walk might work for some, but keep others thinking about negative things and lead them back to the poker table.

In conclusion, the best thing you can do is understand just how costly and devastating tilt is to your bankroll.  Tilt is just like any other leak in poker (maybe the most costly leak) and requires work to fix.  Sure you’ll never permanently prevent tilt and there’s no perfect cure, but you should spend plenty of time studying the subject to find a variety of ways to deal with the problem.