Emotions, tilt and other baggage

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Emotions and feelings can’t be controlled. We can understand how we think about them; we can understand what arouses a feeling; we can understand the behavior that’s the outcome of the arousal and we can understand provocation. We can learn to regulate behavior that results from arousal whether it is feeling mad, sad, glad or bad.

The impairing manifestation of emotions is anxiety and depression.
It has been said depression is when you don’t really care about anything. Anxiety is when you care too much about everything. And having both is just like hell.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting 40M adults.The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 16M adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. According to theWorld Health Organization, 350M worldwide suffer from depression. It’s a leading cause of psychological disability. Obviously, depression and anxiety are major problems and may need professional help. They can be chronic, acute or situational.

Tilt is the major psychological factor at the poker table. The parallels between anxiety, depression and tilt are numerous. Tilt is somewhat hard to define, but even if we can’t define it, we know it when we see it.

Let me suggest that tilt is the behavior correlation of the emotion that was been aroused by provocation. You can’t control the feeling, but you can regulate the behavior.

Tilt at the table is typically situational. If you’re suffering from anxiety and/or depression, you can’t play optimal poker. The poker game is not the place to alleviate anxiety or depression. If you tilt at the table, learn ways of dealing with it. Tilt is a term that’s used to describe your behavior, often resulting in the player adopting a less than optimal strategy.

Some quick fixes include:
• Be aware that something in you has changed.
• Do a quick self-inventory.
• Try a visualization.
• Utilize relaxation techniques, including deep breathing or focusing on a mantra.
• Take a break. Remember, you’re allowed to leave the table.
• Take a lap around the room.

Of course, check your real-world problems at the door; don’t bring them to the table; don’t use the poker table to “self-medicate” these problems.

The point of poker psychology is to help you keep your head in the game. You can’t do that if you have outside issues impairing your play and you can’t do that if you don’t have a tilt strategy.

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