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Tilt: How To Conquer The Dreaded Boogeyman

Posted by vulcans

In order to conquer, we first need to understand what tilt is, and what causes tilt? Tilt is when a player’s frustration and confusion causes them to take less optimal lines than they otherwise would take. There are a myriad of possible causes for tilt. In many cases the causes of a player’s tilt is unique to the individual. Lets take a look at some common causes and solutions to tilt.

8 Causes & Solutions to Tilt

1) Aggression is one of the most common causes of tilt. Many times when the Hero is faced with an aggressive Villain and he does not understand the Villain’s aggression, it will cause him to make poor plays. The key is to analyze the Villain’s play and understand it so that you can make sure you are not being exploited and/or acting in an emotional reactionary manner.

2) Health & Food: I think this is often overlooked by players, but is also a common cause of tilt. It’s important for mental stability to exercise the mind and the body. Also, being hungry or thirsty while at the tables can be a recipe for tilt. Make sure if you are putting in a long session that you are well hydrated and have had something to eat. Keep a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts, near your desk to grab during those long sessions when you can’t get away from the tables to prevent hunger tilt.

3) Long Sessions: In my experience this is one of the more common causes of tilt (sub-optimal play). It is difficult to play at an exceptionally high level for extended periods of time simply due to mental fatigue. Generally, I find that after 2-3 hours my perception of game flow will start to slip slightly. One way to overcome this if you want to keep playing is to take a brief break and get your heart rate up. I have found that a few push ups or sit ups can help to shake the cobwebs loose and bring back my mental focus.

4) Losing: This is another very common cause of tilt. The strategy here is to first determine if you are you losing because of bad play or bad luck. If the answer is bad luck then you have nothing to worry about and should be able to maintain your level. If you are playing poorly then it could be the aggression of your opponents or some other factor throwing you off. If you examine your losses in an analytical fashion like this, you should be able to re-group and avoid tilting.

5) Winning too much! If you are running insanely hot it can be difficult to keep playing solid aggressive poker. One issue can be calling or shipping too light, since you feel like you are hitting everything. Another issue can be maintaining your level of aggression and fighting for small pots. Even if you are up a lot it is important to stay focused on the small pots and your red line (non-showdown winnings). Having a massively positive blue line (showdown winnings) on your Poker Tracker can be a warning sign to avoid this type of tilt.

6) Fear of Tilt: I think that in some cases poker players think that tilt is some weird boogeyman in the closet that will jump out and snag all their money. As a result they start playing bad because they are afraid of “tilting”. They think the last time I ran up a bunch I “tilted” and instead of focusing and making good decisions they are distracted by this fear of “tilt”.

7) Entitlement: Unfortunately, there is nothing in this world or this game that says you “deserve” to win. Just because you won $100k or $1 million in the past doesn’t mean you are going to win today or tomorrow. Make sure that if you start losing, it does not cause you to play worse than your normal level.

8) Wanting to win too badly. Just because you want to win does not mean it’s going to happen. The only thing that can help you to win is playing well and running well. Unfortunately, you can only control one of those factors. If your desire to win is too strong it can get in the way of rational thinking when you are losing (which will inevitably happen when you run poorly in NLHE). This can in turn cause you to “tilt” by turning a rational game into gambling. Not needing the money and being properly bankrolled for the level you are playing should help to address this kind of tilt.

There are a myriad of other factors that can also cause tilt. Consider network changes, personal life issues, etc. Make sure you always ask yourself why? Why is this factor tilting? Then ask yourself what you can do to address that issue.

(Tilt Is Not Mythical)

Be sure that you understand tilt is not some mythical thing. By turning tilt into some mysterious and mythical figure in the life of a poker player it implies that tilt is unavoidable. The reality is that tilt can be avoided and managed with work and discipline.

Also, there is no such thing as being a “good” player except when you “tilt”. At least if you want a hope of winning in the long run. Being good means that you know how to manage tilt/bad play and minimize it as much as possible. Many players say they are good until they “tilt”. However, in many of those cases their “tilt” moments are really just the times when they are running into the top of opponents ranges, and are in fact a part of their game. For example, they may semi-frequently run a poor bluff, but they only consider it “tilt” when the all-in shove gets called. This is the wrong way to look at the hand. It is either a good bluff or a bad bluff independent of the result. That is very important to keep in mind when trying to address tilt in NLHE.

The more you understand exactly what you are trying to do in every situation the less you will tilt. If you are uncertain that leaves room for poor decision making. For example, make sure that you are not just 5-Bet shoving 44 because you are frustrated with an aggressive opponent and end up getting snap called by 99. You need to understand why you are 5-bet shoving, and always remember if it is an appropriate play then it is not tilt….

Tilt is not an excuse. I hear so many players say that hand was excusable somehow “because I was tilting.” No! All hands are a part of your poker history and it is important to understand the bad ones (and what leads to them) as well as the good ones. The most important hands to analyze are your “tilt”/bad play hands. You may find that there were some very recognizable factors that led to the bad play. If this is the case you are well on the way to solving your “tilt”.

If you have any questions about my post fire them into the comments section on my blog here. Follow me on Twitter @PokerCapitalist


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Poker: The Part-Time Pursuit

Posted by vulcans

Sometimes you just know it when you see it. I always knew the day would come when I decided to not play as much poker, but I surprised even myself with how quickly I got to that point. For a few years now I have worked very hard on my poker game and achieved some incredible results. However, in the past few months I have realized that I am no longer interested in pursuing poker on a full time basis. It has been a gradual process, but my interest in the game has waned, and I have simultaneously been increasingly busy with other ventures. Going forward I intend to pursue these areas that are more interesting and meaningful to me. In order to do that I need to free up some more time and spend less studying and playing poker.

Over the past three years I have worked for, which is one of the best poker instructional websites in the world. Going forward in the new year I will no longer be producing a significant amount of content. I have a great relationship with the DTB, and plan to stay involved in a more limited manner going forward. I will pop in to the forums from time to time and check in to see how everyone is doing. DTB is an incredible website and resource for poker players, and in my time with DTB I have seen many players make huge strides in their poker games. The CEO (Hunter Bick) has done a great job of making the forums a friendly environment to learn in (unlike some other poker forums that we won’t name :) , and DTB has hundreds of videos of high quality poker instructional videos.
I have thought a lot about what I would do after poker. Somehow, I still don’t have the answer to that question, but I have some ideas. The transition doesn’t have to be instantaneous. I am happy to spend a couple of days a week playing some poker and the rest of my time pursuing other activities.

I still have a ton of poker knowledge and experience that I want to share, so I plan to continue to blog about my experiences in both poker and life, and possibly publish a book in the near future. So please stay tuned to for updates! You can also follow me on Twitter @pokercapitalist


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Beating the Regs

Posted by BlackRain79

As I continue to work away on my new book I have developed a deeper understanding than ever about the multitude of different regs that populate the micro and small stakes levels of online poker these days. More specifically their strengths and weaknesses. In the book, which is literally ALL about how to beat the regs at these limits, I have broken them down into six different categories:

  1. Super Nits
  2. Nits
  3. TAGfish
  4. TAGs (Tight and Aggressive)
  5. SLAGs (Slightly Loose and Aggressive)
  6. LAGs (Loose and Aggressive)


Good Regs and Bad Regs

I refer to 1, 2 and 3 as the "bad regs" and 4, 5 and 6 as the "good regs." However, with the LAG category I was certainly a bit hesitant to include them as good regs because many of them have huge leaks at these stakes as well. TAGs and SLAGs are generally fairly solid and among the biggest winners although you can almost always still find ways to exploit them as well if you dig around deep enough.

Keep in mind that these are just generalizations. There are plenty of Nits for instance at these stakes who are solid winners. As a whole though, most of them are not big winners and are often breakeven or losing and propped up by rakeback. This is even more the case for the Super Nits and TAGfish. They are almost never big winners and without rakeback they could not survive.

On the flip side, there are certainly many breakeven or worse TAGs and SLAGs as well. There are factors such as tilt that the HUD stats cannot tell us about that can affect the winrate of an otherwise solid looking player in a huge way. But in general these players represent the strongest opponents at these stakes. They are the ones who you will have the most difficulty exploiting.


Bad Regs ARE the New Fish

Since blatant fish (the 40%+ VPIP guys) become harder to find at NL10+ the bad regs really are the new fish at these stakes. You should be going out of your way to play against them. The great thing is that they out number the good regs by a fair margin at these stakes so it is not that difficult to find them. By using a combination of my new HUD setup and making liberal use of the popup display I am able to find ways to exploit them pretty easily.

But in the fast paced world of online poker which often involves 12+ tables at a time we don't usually have much time to check out every single little detail on our opponent. For this reason I am going to limit the discussion below to just the use of my HUD display (i.e., what is already on your screen). If you have not read my article on my new HUD setup which includes free downloads for Pokertracker 4 users it might be a good idea to at least skim it first so you know what the numbers refer to.

I will also be limiting the discussion to just the HUD stats because I want to show you how ridiculously easy it is to find huge leaks in your opponents at these stakes literally in a matter of seconds.

I am going to discuss all six reg categories below but I will use just a single example from either 6max or Full Ring for each so that this article does not get too long. All stats below are taken from real people in my database at NL25-NL100 cash games on Pokerstars. The player names are masked in PT4 for privacy.

Lastly, many of the stats that I discuss below, especially the turn, river and 4Bet ones, require big samples. You need to check the sample size before making use of these at the tables. I am not a statistician but common sense tells us that if your opponent's Turn CBet is 100% but the sample is only 1 that this is literally meaningless information. If the sample size was say 10, well now we are talking.

When in doubt hover over the stat in PT/HEM or make use of the popup display. You should always be doing this when making use of turn, river or 4Bet stats unless the sample on your opponent is literally like 10k+ hands.


1) 6max - Super Nit

There are tons of these kinds of players at NL2 and NL5. At NL10-NL100 there are less but enough of to still include a category for them. They are clueless beginners. Somebody on a forum, in a book or in a video told them to play tight and they took that as the holy gospel. They play far too few hands and throw away tons of potential EV as a result.

We can see that this particular player above has stats that are too tight for Full Ring let alone 6max. He plays just 12% of his hands. I suggest aiming for about double this in 6max. And he only raises with 8%. I suggest having a little bit tighter of a gap between VPIP and PFR and of course raising with way more hands in general.

These players are generally way too passive as well. The 4 point gap between VPIP and PFR, the Total AF of 2 which is actually ridiculously passive considering how few hands this guy plays, the 4Bet of 0 over a decent sample size etc.

Way too tight and way too passive sums these players up.


Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • Steals his blinds with any two cards (Fold to Steal of 88%)
  • 3Bet him wide (Fold to 3Bet of 75%)
  • Triple Barrel (100% Fold to River CBet)
  • Float all day (Massive drop in CBet between the Flop and Turn of 40 points)

2) Full Ring - Nit

So here we have the classic Full Ring Nit. He plays 12% of his hands and raises most of the time that he enters the pot also at 10% of hands. His Total AF is 2 which is fairly passive but considering how few hands these players play, it is really  passive.

These players tend to be way too weak just like the Super Nits. They fold to CBets and 3Bets too much, they don't 3Bet enough, they don't 4Bet enough and they wither to floats and additional pressure beyond the flop if they don't have the nuts.


Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • Steal his blinds with any two cards (Fold to Steal of 84%)
  • 3Bet him wide (Fold to 3Bet of 72%)
  • Float the flop a lot and take it away on the turn (28 point difference between Flop and Turn CBet)
  • Float the flop a lot and raise his Turn CBet (Fold to Turn CBet Raise of 100%)
  • Float the turn and bet the river (Fold to River Float Bet 100%)


3) 6max - TAGfish

The TAGfish is aptly named because it is a player who appears to play a solid TAG game but is actually very weak both preflop and postflop. This player type is pervasive at all levels of the micros and you can make a nice profit by applying pressure on them in the right spots.

The easiest way to spot them is to look for players who play about the same amount of hands as a TAG. This will be roughly 18% to 22% in 6max and 13% to 16% in Full Ring. And they will also have a small gap of 2 or 3 points between their VPIP and PFR just like TAGs.

That is where everything changes though. The rest of their stats will often be highly out of line with winning ranges often erring towards the weak side but sometimes too aggro as well such as with the player above.


Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • Steal his blinds with any two cards (Fold to Steal of 89%)
  • Double Barrel every time (Fold to Flop CBet is 0% but Fold to Turn bet is 60%)
  • Float often (35 point drop between Flop CBet and Turn CBet)
  • Raise the Flop (Fold to Flop CBet Raise of 75%)

4) Full Ring - TAG

TAGs are generally among the stronger players at these limits. They aren't found in quite the numbers as TAGfish and Nits especially at NL10 and NL25 but they do appear plenty. Their ranges are usually pretty well balanced across all stats and finding huge glaring weaknesses in their game is not nearly as easy as it is with the player types that we looked at before.

They still do have a tendency to be a little bit lost on the big money streets (turn and river) at the micros though. This is usually represented by being too weak when facing aggression and barreling far too aggressively when they have the betting lead. Tilt can definitely be a factor as well with this group as it is with all micro stakes players. I don't go out of my way to play with these guys but they are unavoidable at these stakes so you should have a close look at where the holes are because all players at these stakes have them.


Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • Steal his blinds often (Fold to Steal is 82%)
  • 5Bet shove with a bit wider range than normal (4Bet of 3% is significantly higher than most Full Ring regs at these limits)
  • Triple Barrel (Fold to River Cbet of 100%)


5) 6max - SLAG

SLAGs are also among the biggest winners and strongest opponents that you will face at these limits. SLAGs however are found in fewer numbers than TAGs and don't start regularly appearing until NL100 and higher. They are certainly still worth talking about though.

Like TAGs, these players generally balance their ranges well and have strong stats across the board. At the micros though everybody has weaknesses.

Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • Steal his blinds often (Fold to Steal is 82%)
  • Get it in preflop a bit lighter than normal against this player (3Bet is fairly high at 8% and 4Bet is really high for these stakes at 4%)
  • Double Barrel a lot (Doesn't fold much on the flop at 38% but does give it up 50% of the time on the turn)
  • Raise or float lighter than you would against most players on all postflop streets (This player is extremely barrel happy with a Turn CBet of 71% and a River CBet of 67% - he has air a lot)


6) Full Ring - LAG

There aren't that many LAGs at these stakes and as mentioned they often have significantly leaks. They can be among the best or the worst regs at these limits so it is a bit difficult to make generalizations. The player above is an example of a reg who is among the best though.

LAGs play a lot of hands and they play them aggressively. This is why they drive a lot of people crazy. But often there are big leaks in their game such as we saw with the TAGs and SLAGs above. This usually boils down to taking the aggression too far in certain spots or getting too shy when somebody fights back on the turn or river.

Here Are a Few Ways to Exploit This Specific Player

  • 3Bet him much lighter than most in LP steal situations especially (ATS is extremely high at 56%)
  • Triple Barrel (Likes to hang around a lot on the flop and turn but has a 70% Fold to River CBet)
  • Float the flop and turn and bet or raise the river (Fold to River Float Bet of 83% and a high River CBet of 68%)


Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped show you that all regs at these stakes have weaknesses in their game that we can find and exploit. With the bad regs it doesn't take much effort at all and that is why I will go out of my way to target them specifically. With the good regs you have to dig a bit deeper but there is always something in there that you can take advantage of as well. Effective HUD use is the key.


Let me know in the comments how you go about battling the regs at these stakes. What do you think of my categories? Would you add more or delete some?


Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.


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New Poker Plan

Posted by GiantBuddha

I love it when a plan comes together, but I don't have one. Technically, I've got two plans - to do 30 consecutive days of hot yoga and to write a novel in that same timeframe - but I have no poker plan. Assuming I spend 100 hours writing and 100 hours on yoga practice and travel, how many hours of poker should I play? I'm going for ambitious, but achievable. I want something to build on instead of something to break myself on. I'm thinking 100 hours, as light as that sounds, since a poker job includes more than just those 100 hours at the tables. There's at least another 25 hours of studying and reflecting to consider.

I'd like to say I'll make some videos and write daily blogs, but I don't want to over-commit and under-deliver. I've made that mistake in the past. (See: 100 Days of the Zen Madman.) Maybe I'll wait to launch a more ambitious poker challenge until the regulated sites go live in New Jersey.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Bueller?

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