Poker: A rock that goes on tilt

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'GOING on tilt' is the occupational hazard of all poker players. It applies to strong players rather than weak, who are on tilt all the time. The expression means playing hands badly, usually chasing losses, which become even worse in the process.

What happens is that a player makes a bad move and loses a hand he should never have been involved in. Say you catch a pair of queens in the hole at Hold 'em and raise before the flop. An ace and two low cards come on board, so you bet the pot to test the opposition. Correct so far. But then, when one player calls, clearly indicating that he has hit a pair of aces, you go on chasing.

An alert opponent might fold in the face of strong betting from a well known 'rock', or very tight player, reading you as holding at least an ace with a high kicker, or two pairs. This particular opponent is not subtle enough to make such a fine judgement: all he can see is his own ace. You know this perfectly well, or to be more precise, I knew this perfectly well. But instead of checking the last card, I stuck it all in, and was called without hesitation.

At this stage of the game, the right thing to do is to take a deep breath or have a coffee, doing anything possible to take a proper grip on yourself. The wrong thing to do is brood about your foolish play, meanwhile seizing every opportunity to bet and raise weak hands in the hope of getting it back.

Everyone at the table will read you as on tilt and call every bet regardless. Finally, you catch a hand you really want to play, 9 - 10 diamonds. This sort of hand is very strong at Hold 'em, because it has both straight and flush possibilities and high deception value. One player raises, you call, and the last player 'limps in' to save his ante. The flop comes 4d 7d and 8c.

Way to go] You have a straight draw with a six or a jack, and a flush draw with a diamond. The first player to speak makes a hefty bet. You know he only stayed in for his ante, so it is quite likely he played weak cards such as a 5 and 6, in which case he has already hit his straight.

No matter. When you are on tilt, this is not a hand you can resist - your diamond draw is too tempting. So you raise it there and then, to make sure you get paid off. The better enthusiastically re-raises. Now you know he has a low straight, but with so much money committed, you cannot fold. Next card is a black deuce and last card a black queen.

That is how it is on tilt. A small loss becomes a disaster. As they say in Las Vegas, when a rock goes on tilt, it's an awesome sight.