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Well I haven’t written a useful strategy post in a while, so what better time to write one than now!

Now you may chuckle at the title, critically exclaiming, “Impossible!” But I assure you, the concept explained in this article is very important if you want to maximize your profits from the playing of poker.

This concept that I am going to explain is the concept of taking breaks, and how you can use not playing poker to your advantage. Again, it does sound very strange, but it is so important and so many people fail to do this, essentially giving up potential profit maximization.

Why you need a rest

So why can’t a human being play poker profitably 12 hours a day, 7 days a week? Because of a little thing implanted in our brains called emotion. Yes, we all have it, even those weird goth people have it. And yes, sometimes we cannot control it. Every single one of us will have moments in which we cannot control where our emotions take us.

So how does this apply to poker? I’m sure you’ll all know – tilt.

Tilt commonly occurs, is commonly mis-perceived and commonly causes disaster. What an evil thing! Why would anyone want to have this ‘tilt’ you speak of?! Well, none of us want to go on tilt, but at some point in our poker careers (for 99.9% of people, a lot more than 1 point in our poker careers) we will go on tilt. Even the best players go on tilt (I’ll guarantee you that even soupie has gone on tilt before). It is something that cannot be avoided.

So what are the causes of tilt? The causes of tilt are a period of negative variance in poker, in other words, bad luck. Negative variance doesn’t just last for one or two bad beats. It can go on for days and sometimes weeks. It’d take a superhuman to not suffer some form of tilt after weeks upon weeks of constant bad beats. As much as we try not to let it happen, emotions do inevitably sometimes get the better of us, and in poker this is when tilt happens. So what are the effects of tilt? I’m sure it’s been explained to the players that are even first starting out, but I’ll reiterate again – reckless play. Your emotions cause you to essentially get pissed off at everything on a poker table, and you generally start making idiotic, -EV plays that will lose you a heck of a lot of a money. A lot more than you’d think in the long run if you are a repeat offender!

This is why a poker player needs to take breaks when he/she is suffering a run of bad luck. YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO GO ON TILT. No one can afford to go on tilt over and over again. That’s why you have to take measures to prevent it. This is why you need a rest, because you can’t control your emotions. You want to avoid tilt at all costs, so you run away and do something other than poker for a certain amount of time… which brings me to my next point.

How long is a break?

So taking a break to avoid tilt is all well and good, but how do you know when it’s time to go back and play poker again? Well, trust me when I say, you’ll know. And you will know, and I’ll tell you how you know.

I’ve told you already that tilt is when you get pissed off at poker in general, and when you get pissed off is the time you want to be taking your break. You’ll know that you’re ready to go back and put your ‘A’ game back on when you have a positive craving to play poker. You’ll know when it’s time to go back to poker when you have this craving, and you are no longer annoyed by any part of poker anymore.

So, in conclusion, there is no set time as to how long a break should be. It could range anywhere from a couple of hours to a matter of many weeks. The important thing to remember is that however long it takes, DO NOT PLAY POKER AGAIN UNTIL YOU FEEL YOU CAN PLAY YOUR ‘A’ GAME..

So I’m on a break, now what do I do?

Don’t play poker. May I recommend doing something physical (eg. running, swimming or kicking small animals), as this will burn off the negative energy you have and will prepare you to attack poker positively again.

I generally avoid doing other things that can have negative variance. That’s why I enjoy physical activities, as there’s not really any such thing as a downswing in those.

I just took a break and went back to playing my ‘A’ game, but I’m still getting bad beats. Life hates me!

Don’t sweat it. You are maximizing your profits to avoid tilt. Just take another break if you feel tilt is approaching, even if you’ve only just taken a break before.

I’m a pro and can’t afford to take breaks.

Although not taking breaks to counter tilt is highly frowned upon in my opinion, some people have to play poker all the time, for one reason or another, usually because it is their main source of income.

Well, I disagree. Even if you are a pro, taking breaks when you tilt is essential. Taking breaks when tilted is +EV, and as a pro you need as much +EV as possible.

But most pros can disregard this paragraph as their mentality is rock hard and they VERY rarely tilt at all, not like the 99% of the rest of us.


This last section summarizes the theory of taking breaks and focuses more on what tilt is and recognizing it.

Tilt is a HUGE factor in poker. In most cases it is the difference between a winning and breakeven/losing player. So it is therefore essential that you can recognize tilt and know how to control it. As I was a prime suspect to tilt for many months, I really had to work on controlling it and methods to control it, so that I could stop losing money in stupid ways. I hope to relay some of the things that I learned along the way to you. The methods certainly helped me almost eliminate tilt completely from my game.

The first and most important thing you must do is recognize when you are on tilt. If you don’t know you are on tilt, then you will not be able to stop it. You really do have to try to not think about big pots you lost a little while back, just play the hand as if nothing out of the ordinary (no bad beats) happened previously. This is the first step to killing tilt. If you cannot do this and you are constantly thinking about that lost pot, look closely at how you are playing. Think to yourself, “Would I raise that hand if I had not lost that big pot?” If the answer is “No” and you can’t put that bad beat behind you, then quit!
Go and do something else until you have forgotten about that bad beat and are back on top of your game, for as long as it takes. DO NOT go back until you are back to 100%.

One thing I find that helps get rid of tilt quickly enough is to take a break when you feel yourself tilting, and do something PHYSICAL. Go for a run, play some football, kick a dog, wack off to some porn. This will help burn off that anger that is built up inside you and I have found that it generally makes you feel so much better.

Also, set limits as to how much you can lose in one day. Say if you are playing $25 NL, you can limit yourself to losing 4 buy-ins in a day ($100). If you surpass a $100 loss, QUIT FOR THE DAY. Do this no matter what, even if you feel you are playing your best. This is because tilt is hardest to spot when you are down lots for a day and trying to make it back before the day is out. It’s times like these that you do little things, like missing a bet, misreading someone, that REALLY do affect your bankroll in the long run, and it is so hard to spot when you do this. So if you quit for the day if you reach your loss limit, then you are guaranteed to come back fresh the next day and ready to kill some fishies.

Remember, you don’t HAVE to play poker. It is there for you any time you want to play at the click of a button. Don’t play poker because you feel you are obliged to. Play when you are feeling 100% and when you feel you are on top of your game.

I hope this post helps you out. Remember, EVERYBODY goes on tilt. You’re not the only one. Learn to take measures against it to maximize your profits!

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