Dealing With Tilt
As much as poker has progressed over the last few years, the ability of players to properly deal with tilt remains pretty much in the dark ages. Even many of the world's most accomplished players still struggle with this, and even the so called experts such as poker psychologists miss the mark to a large degree with their advice.
Getting upset at the table is considered to be a matter of emotion, as opposed to the rational side of the game, and this has led to the approaches being relegated to coping mechanisms. What has happened with this view is that the source of these emotions tends to be left unaddressed.
The root causes of tilting aren't the emotions themselves, they instead arise from a rather disturbed and illogical way of looking at the game. It is only when we address these root causes that we even put ourselves in a position to deal with tilt effectively.
Now there is no magic wand that we can wave that will make getting too emotional at the table go away completely, and even understanding the process that is behind this getting so upset and frustrated has its limitations.
However, it's definitely a good idea to try our best to be more rational when we play poker. Even newer players realize that poker is a game of skill, ultimately, but there are also random elements involved. So there are times when our luck is running well, and other times where it is not, and in the end the laws of probability even out and we are accorded whatever results that we are deserving based upon our abilities.
So with this said, when we get angry at the poker table we need to examine what exactly is making us angry. In all instances, we are angry at Lady Luck for forsaking us. We don't need coping mechanisms here, we need a firm slap in the head for acting so stupidly. All of these situations boil down to one thing, which is a heinous misunderstanding about the fundamental nature of poker.
If we go a little deeper, we find that players tend to focus on what they can't control, luck, versus sticking to what they can, which is sound play based upon long term expected value. Taking deep breaths, taking a break, or any other forms of coping, while they may help somewhat, just look to avoid the real problem here.
So in order to escape this serious myopia, we need to look to expand our vision to the world of probabilities and not just specific instances of it. For a lot of people this is easier said than done, as they may need to overcome a long history of uncritical emotional responses.
These bad habits must be replaced with correct ones, such as patting yourself on the back for playing well, or looking to improve in cases where you didn't. The temptation of judging things by individual outcomes, such as how much money was won or lost in a hand, is the real source of the problem here.
The ultimate goal, and something that every poker player needs to strive for, is not paying attention to short term results at all. This means not getting upset when you lose a hand, and also not getting too excited when you win one. You can't really get too pumped based upon the result of individual hands without creating the opposite emotion when things go less well.
There is a tendency to resist this as it does require that we change our thinking about poker, but this change is one from foolishness to sound reasoning, and that's always a change for the better. At the same time though we do need to be aware of our present limitations, and this for a great many people can be a fairly big challenge to take on.
So in the mean time, coping mechanisms can work, but the time spent collecting yourself needs to not only be spent calming down, it should also be used to come to terms better with the real reasons that you got upset in the first place. It is only when you do this that you can start to really move forward in conquering your confusion about the game.