Poker is a very tough game at the best of times, but when things go bad you often feel very stranded with your game. The reason for this is simple- you take a few tough beats and get a little frustrated, it seems like it's been an eternity since you last had a winning session. You start to doubt yourself which inevitably results you in playing different.
So what is the best thing to do when you tilt, or go through a very long stretch of playing poorly?
Going back to basics
Firstly, you need to find the root of the problem. You may have been on a complete heater for a month and let your confidence overtake you, this is not uncommon at all and if you think you fall into this category then you are playing too many hands and probably playing them too aggresively. You can actually use this to your advantage if you are playing in the same games week in week out as opponents will have picked up on your recent changes. You can now go into that game playing ABC poker with premium hands and expect to be played back at. Perfect, you've changed gears without your opponents suspecting a thing.
Now say you have not had a winning session for a few days and have been getting very flop passive, you know, that "lost" feeling you get post flop where you feel a bit stranded in every pot you enter. You feel opponents are always playing back at you. This sure sucks and we've all been there! Trying to go back to ABC poker is a little tougher when you are playing badly infact the best thing to do is spend a couple of hours before a session reading some poker forums or perhaps a chapter of a poker book you've enjoyed reading before. This will let your brain make decisions rather than your emotions.
Be keen to learn
Being keen to learn is the best advice I can give to any poker player. The best way to avoid falling into the trap of playing too many hands from over confidence is to simply take a few hours a week of playing time and turn it into learning time. It keeps the brain fresh and eager to play. You don't want poker to become a chore surely? For most of us it is a hobby and even if it is your job, it would be great to enjoy it too!
I like to have a couple of poker buddys to discuss hands with, I also have a few bookmarks for poker forums. I suggest you do too.
Get into the right mindset
I think an easy way to slip into frustration mode is by getting annoyed with bad beats. Quite frankly I have never understood why people tilt when others play badly, whenever I have a muppet at the table sticking it in with no equity whatsoever, I feel kinda happy for him. I understand that it is impossble for him to be a winning player and that if he sticks around long enough, I have a good shot at taking money off him in the long run. A great tip I learned from a top pro is that if you ever take down a big pot it is important to stay completely calm, move onto the next hand, it will work both ways when you take a bad beat. I don't know why this works but I took his advice and it works great, infact I have yet to send a mouse to mousey heaven since.
If all else fails
If all else fails take a break, a week should suffice. Find another hobby that you can take some frustration out on, perhaps golf, football or chess.