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Where poker tilt is concerned, prevention is always better than cure. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time, squandered money, and unnecessary grief if you can spot the warning signs ahead of time. To do this, you must learn to recognize your triggers – those things in the game that, for whatever reason, are so upsetting and offensive to you that they have the power to put you on tilt.

Tilt triggers generally fall into one of two categories: things that happen within the game itself, and external factors that are technically not part of a poker game, but which make you more vulnerable to tilt.
External Factors (Pre-Triggers)

Let’s look at the latter category first. Think of them as pre-triggers. Any number of outside influences – stress at home, financial worries, lack of adequate sleep, alcohol, drugs, etc – can leave you much more susceptible to tilt than you would be otherwise. While these outside factors won’t be the final catalyst that actually kicks off your tilt, pre-triggers still share a large part of the blame. If you come to the poker table already feeling out of sorts over problems at work or a fight with your spouse, and then you decide to unwind by having a few drinks while you play, you are setting yourself up to go on tilt the moment something goes wrong in the game.

Think of pre-triggers as creating a kind of “perfect storm” for tilt to occur. When you combine stress and alcohol in a poker game, it’s like you’ve got a cold high-pressure system moving in from the north, colliding with a tropical low-pressure system from the south. Now all it takes one nasty gust of wind – one bad beat – and you’ll have a full-blown nor’easter on your hands. Without those pre-triggers, the bad beat might have blown over harmlessly.
Now for the Actual Triggers

You’re in the game, playing well, perhaps having to work a bit at managing your emotions when the cards go against you, but you’re doing it. You’re in control. Then something goes wrong. Tilt triggers are different for everybody but the common denominator for all triggers is that they run deeply contrary to your notions of how the game is supposed to be. The end result is that the rational, thinking part of your brain takes a powder, leaving your pride and emotions in charge of the decision-making.
Bad Beats

The usual culprit for this ugly transformation is a bad beat. From the lowliest fish to the loftiest pros, from the mundane “that’s poker” beats to the soul-crushing, two-outer suckouts, bad beats are an inescapable part of the game. Which is precisely why they are such a common tilt trigger and why you must be able to deal with them emotionally.
Bad Cards

The second-most common tilt trigger is being card-dead for a long time. After an endless procession of lousy starting hands, missed flops, and draws that never come in, even the most patient of poker players would be tempted to snap. This is a straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back type of trigger, as the frustration just keeps piling on higher and higher with each successive fold, until it’s finally too much to bear.

Online, where games moves at the speed of light and multi-tabling is commonplace, tilt-by-cold-cards is rare. But that’s more than compensated for by the excessive number of bad beats you’ll encounter in the online games. Between the sheer volume of hands and the fact that online opponents tend to play looser, it’s not a question of if you will take bad beats, but when and how many. Add in the fact that your entire online bankroll is only a few mouse-clicks away and the ability to cope with suckouts becomes more crucial than ever.

Anything that gets your emotions flowing in as poker game has the potential to cause tilt. Excessive winning can do it. If you’re playing poker online and you lose a big pot because of a poor connection or an accidental mis-click, that can do it too. Offensive opponents also deserve an honorable mention as potential tilt triggers. But as a rule, obnoxious trash-talking opponents won’t really get under your skin unless they’re winning and you’re losing. Which brings us back to bad beats and bad cards. In one form or another, those are main triggers you need to watch out for.
Part Two: Prevention

By far, the most effective way to combat tilt is to never go on it in the first place. Easier said than done of course, but it all goes back to that old axiom: knowledge is power. To protect yourself against tilt, you must know yourself and know the game.

This can be difficult and slippery, if only because we humans have an incredible gift for deceiving ourselves. That’s why it’s so vital to know your triggers. Of all the things that can go wrong during a poker game, what do you find the most disturbing? So disturbing that it can prompt you to fling all your hard-earned poker knowledge out the window? Only you can truly answer that, although a coach or a poker-playing friend might be able to help you find some tilt-weaknesses from observing your play. Once you know your tilt triggers, this will put you in a much stronger position to side-step tilt before it has a chance to overtake you.
Know the Game

The more you know correct poker strategy, the harder it will be for you to stray away from it. The more you get in the habit of reviewing the hand and considering all angles – position, stack sizes, pot size, pot odds, betting patterns, playing styles, etc – before making any important decision, the more it becomes second nature for you to think this way, even during times of stress. By no means will this knowledge give you any kind of foolproof protection against tilt, but it does act as a very effective buffer.
Know the Probabilities

Remember, the number one tilt trigger is a bad beat. But what’s really sick about bad-beat-induced tilt is that many if not most of those beats were never all that bad to begin with. Poker players have a natural tendency to over-estimate the chances of their good hands holding up, which in turn makes it feel more “unfair” when another player draws out and rakes in the pot.

But realistically, good hands get sucked out on all the time and oftentimes the “favorite” hand is favored only by a small margin. An awareness of common poker probabilities certainly helps.  For example: against four random hands preflop, pocket Aces will hold up to win the pot about 56 percent of the time. Roughly translated, that means the best starting hand in hold’em is slated to lose about two out of every five hands when facing off against four opponents. Even if you reduce the number of opponents to two, pocket aces will still lose about a fourth of the time. Upsetting yes, but hardly cause for a tilt-provoking, god-I’m-so-unlucky pity party.

As senseless and wasteful as tilt can be, the sheer stupidity of tilt increases exponentially if the trigger that caused it in the first place is a run-of-the-mill loss the player should have seen coming. Worse still, some of these bad beats are self-inflicted hurts brought about by poor play, typically when the player is not aggressive enough and gives his opponents free/cheap cards to outdraw him.

But you can avoid this ignominious trap by educating yourself. If you know ahead of time that your hand will fall victim to a suckout every so often, you won’t be surprised or upset when it happens – let alone have a meltdown. If you realize that you made a mistake in the way you played the hand, you can acknowledge the mistake and learn from it, instead of railing against the poker gods because one of your opponents walked right through an opening that you yourself created.
How to Avoid Tilt

And so finally, how do you combat against tilt when it has already sunk its toxic little claws into you? If you have the insight and presence of mind to realize that you’re playing on tilt, that in itself puts you far ahead of most tilt victims. But you’re still left with the problem of what to do about it at that moment.
Two Words: Stop Playing

That’s it, really. The moment you become aware that you’re on tilt, get up and walk away from the table or turn off the computer. Your only defence is to stop the train from derailing. You need to regain your composure and that takes time. If you have extraordinary discipline, you might be able to cool down after a break of five or ten minutes away from the poker table.

What you do at this point will determine the overall outcome of your poker session and it is critical that you do not lose control. If you do have the discipline to take a short break then the following are helpful tactics for controlling your emotions:

    First, get up from the poker table (or computer) and take a walk or go to the bathroom to cool off.
    Don’t use your break to call someone to discuss a bad beat – this will further tilt you, not calm you down.
    Don’t try to chat with your opponent and open the door for defensive comments that may fuel an argument.
    If you cannot get in the right frame of mind, cash in and do not keep playing – you may need a long break in order to get back to your best game state.

Much depends on your individual personality and the severity of the tilt. If you have a mild case of frustration tilt – say, you caught yourself making a loose call or two – ten minutes might be enough time to get your head screwed back on straight. But if you’ve got a full-blown case of berserker tilt, no way is a ten-minute break going to do the trick. You’ll need at least a day away from the game, preferably longer.

Again it comes down to self-knowledge. This is a judgment call, made by you and about you. When you do return to the game, you must be brutally honest with yourself in assessing that you’re indeed ready to play again. If you’re not 100 percent sure, wait awhile longer. The game isn’t going anywhere.
Your Table Image

Another reason you should get up and stop playing is that your table image is almost certainly compromised. When you’re on tilt, any halfway-decent opponent is going to recognize your lopsided playing style and exploit it. Even if you do manage to un-tilt yourself with a short break, you’ll have a table-image problem to contend with when you return to the game. If you’re playing online, you might want to consider changing tables.
When a Long Break Isn’t An Option

Of course if you’re in the middle of playing a poker tournament, anything more than a short break isn’t really an option. But as long as you can afford to lose a few blinds, go ahead and take a break. Getting off tilt and back to your A-game is more important than playing your blinds. Take a walk. Get your mind off of whatever it was that was upsetting you so. Give yourself a pep talk, remind yourself that the players who sucked out on you were putting their money in with the worst of it. Whatever works to clear your mind and restore your sense of poker equilibrium.
A Stop-Loss Can be a Useful Tool

For some poker players, a stop-loss can be a useful tool in the fight against tilt. In theory, stop-losses shouldn’t be necessary since poker players aren’t supposed to be results-oriented. But realistically, if you’ve lost three buy-ins in a row you probably are on tilt at least a little bit – or tilt is lurking right around the corner, just waiting for one more loss. So until and unless you have the discipline to recognize the signs of tilt and stop playing on your own, a stop-loss can provide at least a modicum of protection.

What you don’t want to do is chase your losses. Ever. The poker graveyard is littered with bones of players who went broke trying to “get back even.” Even more foolhardy is the idea of temporarily moving up in limits to win your money back faster. This is exactly how a moderate loss turns into a bankroll-busting catastrophe.
Final Thoughts

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: It’s all one long session. This bit of poker wisdom is key to overcoming tilt. If you can keep your focus on the big picture – the long term – it will be much easier to let the short-term misfortunes of the game roll off your back. It will be much easier to take a break from poker when you’re tilting, confident that you’ll win your money back later after you’ve gotten your head screwed back on straight, instead of getting trapped in the desperate compulsion to get even again right now. Keeping good records and even graphing your long-term results is one effective way to accomplish this. Because if you don’t learn to control tilt, it’s only a matter of time before tilt will control you.

By Barbara Connors

This lesson assumes that you have a solid grasp of all the fundamental concepts involved in poker. Of these concepts, understanding position is arguably the most important because you are able to make decisions after you’ve gathered information from your opponent(s). As you progress and develop as a poker player, some of the largest gains in improving your game will come from increasing confidence playing position. It’s easy to play your strong hands, but it’s the ability to use position and play poker regardless of the strength of your hand which separates the good poker players from the great ones.

Keep in mind that in any poker game, you must play the tendencies of your opponents first. Making a move in position is irrelevant if the person you are playing with isn’t capable of putting you on a hand. Having said that, the concepts addressed in this lesson assume your opponent is at least capable of second level thinking – which is to say that in addition to his own cards, he’s also thinking about what you were dealt.
Pre-Flop Concepts

We’ll start by looking at some poker strategies and tactics that can be employed pre-flop by using the power of position. Be aware that one or two of the strategies that follow are more focused on tournament poker than cash games due to the increased emphasis on pre-flop action.
Buying Position

Irrespective of the poker variant or format, it’s common knowledge that leaning toward the side of aggression is more profitable in the long-run. One way to use aggression is to buy position. Let’s say one or two players have limped in ahead of you and you hold a hand like AJ, KQ or 77 in middle position. Depending on stack sizes and your reads you can certainly make an argument for calling, folding or raising. However, by calling you will often induce others to limp behind you, giving up position, and now you are forced to play based solely on whether you connect on the flop or not. By raising, you can force the players behind you to fold and you have now bought position after the flop.
Re-Stealing in Position

Many players re-steal from the blinds after someone in late position raises. This is most common in tournament poker. Players frequently re-steal from the blinds because they assume the late position player is stealing and cannot stand a re-raise. However, re-stealing has become more common from the blinds and people’s games are adjusting to steal from earlier positions such as the hi-jack and middle position so they give the appearance of having a bigger hand. This is where having position comes in. By re-raising from the button or cut-off position, it looks like a very strong hand. It puts significant pressure on the blinds and they will often fold a hand as strong as AQ and mid pocket-pairs. In addition, it also tells the original raiser that you have a real hand. Again, this goes back to reading your opponents. Don’t re-steal against the tightest player at the table or someone whose raise has committed them to the hand. Pick your spots versus opponents who are aggressive, have a wide range pre-flop and are capable of folding to a re-raise.
Implied Odds + Outplaying Your Opponent

Another benefit of having position is being able to get into pots with hands that have heavy implied odds against a pre-flop raiser. These might be suited middle connectors, small pocket pairs or low suited connectors like 5d6d. In these cases, you are calling a raise in position because it gives you multiple ways to win the pot. If you hit your hand, it will likely be well disguised and you can win a big pot. But more importantly, it also gives you the chance to outplay your opponent if you do miss your hand because you can make your play based on observing their actions first.

Freezing isn’t necessarily a poker play; it is simply another benefit of having position. By calling your opponents raise when you are in position it can freeze them in the hand. Their intention was to steal the blinds and now that you’ve called, they are going to proceed with caution. Calling the raise from an opponent who often raises in middle or late position can have both short term and long term benefits. In the short-term, they may put the brakes on and allow you to take down the pot post-flop. The long-term implication of this is that it sets a tone at the table that if they come in raising, they will have a fight on their hands, thus deterring them from stealing.
Squeeze Play

A squeeze play occurs when an aggressive player opens the pot, someone calls them in position and another player (often in the blinds) re-raises. A squeeze play is most effective when the original raiser has a loose range, the caller tends to be passive and the stack sizes involved do not commit the other players. The re-raise puts pressure on the original raiser because he’s not sure what the middle player is going to do and you are effectively “squeezing” the middle player. If the middle player had a very strong hand, he would have re-raised in the first place. Caution: squeeze plays should be used sparingly and rarely at low buy-ins. In low buy-in poker games, the middle player will call very often because they feel committed to the hand and feel the need to “look you up”. Make sure you have a good read on both players to maximize the effectiveness of this poker play.
Inducing a Squeeze Play

In certain situations, you can use position pre-flop to trap your opponents into thinking you are not strong. Ever since “Harrington on Hold’em” described the squeeze play people have added this into their poker arsenal. Because of this, you can use position to trap aggressive players in the blinds by calling a raise with a big pair such as KK or AA, inducing the player to re-raise over top. Use this play with caution, however, as the big blind will be getting good odds to enter the pot.
Post-Flop Concepts

We’ll now look at some of the key concepts of using position post-flop. These strategies and tactis are suitable for both tournament poker and cash games.

Floating refers to calling a flop or turn bet when in position in order to take the pot down on the next street, and is used in three primary situations:

    Pot Control

Let’s start with pot control. Suppose you call a raise in position with a mid-pocket pair such as 88 and the flop comes A64. Your opponent may or may not have an Ace, but they are betting the flop regardless. By calling here, many opponents will shut down on the turn for fear that you have an Ace. You can certainly raise here to see where you stand, but depending on your stack size, calling may be better so that you control the size of the pot.

Using the float play to bluff can be effective when you know that you are up against an aggressive player who almost always makes a continuation bet. You can call the flop with a wide variety of hands in order to read how your opponent reacts on the turn. Floating for this purpose becomes even more powerful if there is an obvious draw on the board, since you can represent the hand if it hits.

This same tactic can also be used to set a trap. Let’s say you flop a set or some other strong hand and you are up against an aggressive player who is capable of firing on the turn. While raising the flop might sometimes be the better play depending on your opponent; just calling the flop can make your opponent think you are weak (i.e. floating with a mid pocket pair) and cause them to bet the turn strongly.
Raising Continuation Bets

Just as you might float versus an opponent who you think might be making a continuation bet, you can also mix up your game and raise the flop as well. In this case, the assumption is that we have also missed the flop and are bluffing in hopes of getting our opponent to fold. Having position affords you the ability to read if your opponent is making a continuation bet based on his bet sizing and the texture of the flop.
Raising Probe Bets

You can also use the power of position against a player who bets out from the blinds. A player will often catch a piece of the flop or have called a raise from the blinds with a pocket pair and will place a small bet on the flop to “see where they are at”. Position affords you the ability to tell them exactly where they are – behind (or at least this is what we want them to think). This play is most effective if you originally raised pre-flop because you are continuing to represent a strong hand.

There are many ways to use position to your advantage. Poker players, for the most part, are acutely aware of the value of position but many squander it unless they believe they have a worthy hand to play. Position should be used as a weapon and only squandered when it appears hopeless to become involved. Position is a strong factor and when you possess it, all things become easier.

The concepts explained in this lesson are really just the tip of the iceberg. The only way to improve at poker is to trust your instincts and put yourself in situations where you can use position to your advantage. Once you have successfully made plays by using your position (and not relying on the strength of your cards) your confidence will grow and your ability to outplay your opponents will skyrocket.

At the beginning of the poker boom, USA Broadcasting cashed in on the phenomenon with a unique take on the game show. Find out more in this week’s Poker In The Media.

This is one that came up in an email discussion last week around the offices: back in the very, very early days of the poker boom, USA Broadcasting (whose stations are now all owned by Univision) aired a game show based on strip poker for one season. The show, creatively enough called Strip Poker, only lasted one season – from 1999-2000, and from what I’ve found digging around the internet, that’s probably for the best, even with the prospect of naked people dancing around over the end credits.
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Omaha Hi-Lo poker is definitely a game I recommend starting off in fixed-limit games, even if you're an experienced Omaha Hi player looking to expand their game a bit. There's a whole different style of play that you'll need to adjust to and these pointers can help you get ready once you've learned the basic rules for Omaha hi lo poker.

Position, Position, Position

As with any poker game, playing too many hands from early position ends up costing many players money in fixed limit Omaha hi-lo poker games. By choosing to play from late position, you have the advantage of seeing your opponents act before you need to make a decision. If several opponents raise ahead of you, then you'll know that that marginal hand you're holding isn't worth the effort. However, if your opponents appear weak then a timely bet in a late position can win the pot. Proper position-oriented play ensures that you lose less money when behind in a hand and get to build and take in a big pot when ahead. Read more…

Pretty much every online poker player starts at the low-stakes tables when they decide to move into real-money games, and the reasons are pretty obvious. A lot of players will tell you that low-stakes games aren't profitable, but that's generally because low-stakes players find themselves in on way more hands than the should be. It's possible and in fact practical to play low-stakes poker for profit if you are comfortable with a longer, slower burn at the table with less action. Think Tight Aggressive and crank it up to about 10% past your usual play.

Preflop Strategies

As with any hold ‘em game, position plays a huge factor in low-stakes online poker games. Early position preflop players want to restrict their play to only the absolute best hands: AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AQ and AK. Limp in with a pocket pair of TT or lower and AJ is always more tempting than it should be. You're better off folding everything else when playing from the blinds or immediately after.
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Released a few years ago, World Poker Tour for the Sony PSP is actually the best portable poker game made so far and some would argue that it's a better way to play the game than anything shy of a dedicated online poker room or live tournament.

The game's solid structure and realistic experience has been praised by reviewers and poker players alike and the artificial intelligence used makes decisions more than merely calling or folding based on patterns you've seen.

The experience starts early, when you create your character.
While you can base it on yourself (and I did, my first time through,) it actually adds a level of fun to the game when you go all-out with your designs, in particular the clothing and accessories that are supplied by a seemingly endless virtual wardrobe. Read more…

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