Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bug Gutts and Tilt Hills

In my last post (here), I said I was going to retool my overall thinking on the subject of Tilt. The plan is to combine and refine the collective wisdom of experts like Tommy Angelo, Jared Tendler, Robert Plutchik, Alan Schoonmaker, Lou Krieger, et al into one big simple, cohesive, digestible lump; i.e., a unified way of describing, recognizing, and controlling tilt. Call it Bug's Grand Unified Theory of Tilt, or GUTT.*

To begin this process, let's start with Angelo's definition of Tilt, which states that any time you deviate from playing your best possible "A-Game," or let your thinking deviate from it's ideal "A-Mindset,"  you're Tilting.

Let's also bring in Tendler's main topic of his second book and combine it with Angelo's definition. In the second volume of Mental Game of Poker, Tendler focuses on getting into--and staying in--a so-called "Zone" of ideal play. In other words, I propose conflating Tendler's "Zone" with Angelo's "A-Game" and "A-Mindset." Let's call the result the A-Zone.

For illustration purposes, let's visualize a player's mental state as a location of a ball on a performance hill or cone. When you're playing poorly, you're off the hill, floundering around at the base, frustrated and losing money. As you get your act together and start playing better, the higher up the flanks of the hill you move. At the very top of the hill is a flattened summit called, surprise surprise, the A-Zone. When you're playing perfect poker you're crushing the game up here on top.

Ah, but then you get distracted and begin to slip away from your A-game-- and you roll toward the edge and fall off the A-Zone summit and begin sliding down the flanks of the hill into the abyss called Tilt, where you're back to losing your money. Lots of internal and external stimuli can push you toward and off the A-Zone edge and down into this abyss. Bad beats, coolers, mistakes you can't shake, trying to get unstuck by gambling, losing your patience, letting your ego dictate your play, etc, etc, etc... all manner of negative things can shove you toward the edge:

Back in the day, my old poker coach, the Guru, used to say Tilt was nothing more than 1+1+1. A bad beat pushes you toward tilt. You know you played the hand perfectly, but losing that big pot still stings. Then a few hands later you fold what would have been a winner to a big stupid bluff that a villain shows and gloats about. Then on the very next play your Aces get cracked by Kings... one plus one plus one equals tilt... and suddenly you're rolling down the tilt hill like a snowball gathering momentum on its way to hell.

Everyone's tilt hill is different. Some have wide A-zone summits, others are narrower. Some are dished at top, while others are crowned. Some have the equivalent of guard rails around the top, while others have crumbly edges ready to collapse at a moments notice. Some players only need "1" to get pushed over their edge, while others need 1+1+1+1+1... well, you get the idea.

In the next installment on this topic, I want to discuss a bit more about the different directions you can be shoved off the hill. And to help visualize that, we'll return to our old friend Robert Plutchik and his Wheel of Emotions.

All-in for now...
*The real Grand Unified Theory (GUT) is in fact one of the holy grails of modern physics, and often seen as the necessary stepping stone between our current understandings of physics (i.e., general relativity, quantum physics, and good old Newtonian physics), and the quest for a Theory of Everything (TOE). Seriously. Look it up.

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