Poker tilting and poker steaming explained

Tilt vs steam poker is a topic that is discussed regularly by poker players. This is because playing while tilting or steaming can severely damage a player’s performance and their bankroll.

A variety of events or circumstances can affect a poker players psychological state and these can lead to poor performance including tilting and steaming. This can happen regardless of whether they are playing offline or online poker.

To understand the issue of tilt vs steam in poker more thoroughly we need to know what tilting and steaming are, what their causes are and how to stop tilting in poker.

Tilt vs steam poker: Poker steaming and poker tilting explained

One reason why the tilt vs steam poker debate is so important is that players who are ‘on tilt’ or are steaming are unlikely to play optimally.

Poker tilting explained – Tilting occurs when, during a game of poker, a player deliberately changes the way they play due to becoming angered or frustrated with their perceived poor performance, or the success of other players.

Poker tilting is explained as an emotional response to a players perception of the game. Players need to be aware of those situations where tilting may occur. These include:-

  • Losing one or more hands despite having ‘strong’ cards.
  • After a significant run of poor cards.
  • In response to an opponent’s table talk (‘trash talking’) which may be intentionally or unintentionally irritating.
  • As a consequence of ‘going on tilt’, a player may:
  • Call even though they do not have the correct pot odds to do so.
  • Play more pots than they should, perhaps against a certain opponent in order to ‘beat’ them.
  • Try to play in higher stakes games in order to win back lost money.
  • Strategies to tackle poker tilting are explained later in this article.


Poker steaming explained – This is different from tilting. Poker steaming is explained best as being when a player responds to financial loss during a game by trying to win back their stake, using more money which they cannot afford to lose. Steaming players exhibit a generous element of desperation and steam poker is as common when playing in a bricks and mortar casinos as it is when playing online poker. A method of tackling poker streaming is explained below.

How to stop tilting in poker

If you are worried about steaming or going ‘on tilt’, the good news is that it is possible to learn how to stop tilting in poker games and tournaments. The easiest way to learn how to stop tilting in poker is to:

Be aware of your emotional state – Even before you start playing, ask yourself if you are ready to play your A- game! Be aware that playing while intoxicated, upset or angry, can make it harder to concentrate, and impair your concentration and judgment. This makes steaming or tilting more likely and stops you from playing as well as you would normally.

Recognise the signs of tilting – Try to recognise the warning signs that you may go ‘on-tilt’. Frequently, simply being aware of the warning signs, and making an effort to ignore the triggers for these feelings, is enough for you to regain control.

Take a break – If you spot the signs that you may be going ‘on tilt’ then sometimes the only solution is to take a break. In a tournament that might mean sitting out a few hands and if playing online poker it might mean taking a break from your computer or smartphone and going for a walk, instead.

Learn as much as you can about poker – Read books on poker strategy, learn poker odds and probabilities and review hands you have played on a good online discussion forum. Knowing the game well means that you will understand the odds of particular hands better, you will be less likely to play losing marginal hands and you will know your chances of winning every hand you play.

Set a stop-loss – This applies whether you play offline or online poker and is an essential component of bankroll management. A stop loss is simply the amount of money that you are prepared to lose before you stop playing. Setting a stop-loss helps prevent steaming because it is set at an amount that you are comfortable losing and are less likely to respond emotionally should you lose it.

Poker steaming and poker tilting is a massive problem that can occur whether playing in a casino, a home game or when playing online poker. If you apply what you have learned here to your own game, you will be able to identify the danger signs and minimise the impact of tilting and steaming on your performance, and your bankroll.

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