Luckily for me I have never really had a problem with what people consider “normal” tilt. Very early on I realized that I could not control the cards that came out after I made my decisions and that even when I was a big favorite, usually there was still at least a 10-20% chance that I would lose in a particular spot. A lot of people don’t realize that AA loses to KK all-in preflop about 18% of the time. In fact when you win in an all-in situation and your opponent was not drawing dead you are actually running ABOVE expectation.
Typically, these are the situations when people lose it mentally. They get a bad beat, they get angry, and the overall quality of their play drastically decreases. However, there are times where winning over long, extended periods of time also cause us to play not up to our best. I call this (and I am not the first) “winner’s tilt”. Why would we possibly tilt when we are winning you ask? Well it definitely is not the same tilt as players with steaming problems. But when we win we tend to get a little bit cocky and overconfident. We take chances because we feel invincible and we do not realize that we might actually just be on a variance heater. We also might be willing to put our money in with the worst of it because the loss might not hurt as much because we have won so much in the short term.
In took me a long time to get out of this vicious cycle. I remember a few years ago looking back at my records it was almost to the point where I dreaded having extended heaters because I knew that it would be followed by a period of bad play and a downswing that was not necessarily attributed to variance. Now, I did not really “dread” the heaters but I realized that over other periods of extended time I had actually won more money when I did not have a crazy upswing. I realized that when I had more even, stable results I never had a downswing that was attributed to bad play.
With recreational players I see this more as a short-term problem. It could even be as short a time as one session. Sometimes players win a lot or get lucky in the beginning of the day only to get recklessly aggressive and cocky later on. These players usually end up dumping the money that they first won and inevitably end up in the red. Add to the fact that if they have bad loser’s tilt the tilt now is compounded because they are even more upset that they are down because they were up so much earlier on.
Now there is nothing wrong with being proud of yourself for good play and a solid session. And I have talked in other columns about how I think that these are the times that you should extend your sessions because of your likely good image at the table. But this good image does not give you the excuse to make sloppy, dumb, unprofitable plays and you must be weary that you do not fall into this common trap.