Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tilt In Poker, Blackjack, & Settlers

The term 'tilt' in the world of poker involves being thrown off one's game usually after stumbling upon some bad luck. According to wiki: "Tilt is a poker term for a state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player knowingly adopts a sub-optimal, over-aggressive strategy." When lots of bad things start happening to you, especially after losing big hands where you had a large advantage, it is only natural that you start pressing a little. Every time a long shot hand beats you there is this little voice in the back of your mind saying 'if that hand can beat my monster one, maybe I can win by playing more hands like that too!' Although you may rationally acknowledge that those weaker hands will lose you more money in the long run, it is very difficult to ignore the sensory evidence that says the opposite. Before you know it you're playing far too loosely and losing more and more money. Overcoming tilt is one of the most difficult roadblocks to becoming a serious poker player. Recognizing the beginning of tilt in your game and having the emotional strength to correct it keeps you true to your strategy and gives you the greatest chance to leave the table a big winner.


Sometimes you just need to walk away

Although it is a poker term, tilt could be a useful concept when applied to other types of gambling and gaming. It might not hold the precise meaning of the original word, but certainly recognizing this type of behavior in any game will result in increased player effectiveness. I can relate this phenomenon to situations in my experience with blackjack. Blackjack requires a great deal of willpower--first to stick with your basic strategy and betting system, and then to follow through with your predetermined quit points. When high percentage plays start turning against you (dealer upcard of 6 vs. your 20 draws to a 21, for instance), and your session bankroll starts to shrink it is difficult to stay on track with a rational betting system. Often your gut reaction to these situations is to start making large 'inspirational' bets, desperately hoping to win a huge hand and recover a chunk of your bankroll in one big play. More often than not this type of behavior will bankrupt a blackjack player. Even if you win such a bet it sends the wrong message to your subconscious: that inspirational betting is a good strategy! Another key to blackjack success, quit points, can be very difficult to follow if you become frustrated and start to tilt. Once you have lost a predetermined portion of your bankroll the proper move is to step away from the table, swallow your pride, and accept your losses. As any blackjack player knows, however, when you are down big to the house it is very difficult to walk away! With a well timed winning streak, that small pile of chips left on the table could transform this into a winning session! While this is certainly a possibility, the most probable outcome of this line of thought is complete bankruptcy. The lower your bankroll gets, the less likely you'll be able to even make the proper bets to take advantage of weak dealer hands, and the more likely that the minimum bet at your table is much higher than a reasonable bet for your current bankroll.


The Dice...they hate me!

I even found myself exhibiting somewhat tilt-like behavior when playing Xplorers on Asobrain Games several days ago. Earlier in the week I went through a streak of about eight games where i won six times and placed second twice. All of a sudden all the good breaks that had been going my way started turning on me. Numbers stopped falling my way. Other players scraped up the resources for settlements blocking my way just before I could. Every development card I bought seemed useless to me. Nothing was going right. Of course, it's impossible to win at Settlers of Catan when everything is going against you, but the real problem starts when you start making bad decisions because of those uncontrollable disasters. I found myself basically going on tilt. Instead of spending resources this turn on a small advance I would wait another turn hoping to hit a big number and get back in the game. Invariably a seven would be rolled and I would be left with nothing at all. Once you get to that point where frustration starts to take over, many little mistakes follow. Maybe you make a poor trade, build a road in the wrong location, forget to play a soldier at a key time, etc. Maintaining control over your emotions is one of the most important aspects of game play.


Conclusions

It seems to me that this tendency towards tilt doesn't often appear in board games, probably because there is less at stake in a typical board game than in a poker tournament or at a blackjack table. My frustration level during this rough streak in Xplorers was higher than in most board games since I was playing ranked games. Every game I lost, especially by a large margin, cause my Xplorers rating to plummet. I went from about a 130 rating (excellent) to about 48 (pretty mediocre) in this one rough stretch. Even though this rating is a pretty foolish reason to become frustrated, it was enough for me at the time. Also, the fact that Xplorers games typically clock in at about 30 minutes rather than the hour+ of a live Settlers game, it takes a lot less time to lose a lot more games! I guess the lesson here is to always be aware of this tendency to tilt in games. When you begin to get frustrated during rough stretches, it is imperative to either regain control of your emotions or stop playing the game! By the time your next session rolls around you'll be back in control and ready to play at your best. Of course, for some of us, our best isn't exactly that good, but that's a story for another day.

2 comments:

jk said...

I’ve always been sceptical about gambling. At University friends did a lot in the casinos in the city and lost a load of cash to some dodgy people and places. But eventually a friend said “Play online casino”, and I agreed to give it a go (after about four hours and debating the risks). So I signed up and played my first game of online casino blackjack, I lost but it was fun! Kept playing and was lucky enough to break even until I got the hang of it!
Has anybody got any tips or any success stories?

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