Do not confuse anger with tilt

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A lot of people compare tilt to anger. While anger is a form of tilt, both concepts are complicated, but anger is not tilt. Anger is an emotion and tilt is a behavior. Tilt can have an emotional aspect or be an emotional reaction, but it’s the behavior that results from the emotion.

One can regulate the behavior, but not the emotion. Poker is a highly charged emotional situation.
Going on tilt can be caused by not being able to regulate anger. Tilt can be the result of a bruised ego. It can be the result of embarrassment. The result of what seems like stupid mistakes, fatigue and excessive competitiveness. Tilt can be a sign there’s a deeper issue and the tilter can’t regulate feelings or emotions. This area is problematic to optimal performance.

An understanding of anger and how one reacts is important because it can be regulated. The American Psychological Association summarizes anger issues: “We all know whatangeris, and we’ve all felt it, whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.”

Some simple steps you can use to learn to regulate anger are:

Some simple steps you can try:
• Breathe deeply from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming from your gut.
• Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as relax or take it easy. Repeat it while breathing deeply.
• Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from your memory or imagination.
• Non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax muscles and make you feel much calmer.

You can practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation. Some can be used at the poker table. Another important technique is cognitive restructuring. That is change the way you think about anger. There’s a several-step process to the regulation of anger: cognitive understanding and restructuring; understanding the arousal mechanisms and the behavior that results and then techniques and understanding for regulation.

This means changing the way you think. Angry people overreact, throw cards and money, and then become overly dramatic. In other words, anger at the table becomes tilt.

When you can identify these thoughts, you can replace them with more rational thoughts and even behaviors. Take a break, walk around, engage in rational self-talk. Tell yourself poker is a high intensity activity, that it can be frustrating, that frustration is part it, the world is not coming to an end and getting angry and tilting is not going to fix it anyway. Learning how to regulate anger will keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.