Be Careful Who You Tilt

Poker is a game of many things: it is a game of math, it is a game of problem-solving, it is a game of nerves, it is a game of luck, and it is a game of psychology. Many times a player’s strategy will involve putting another player on “tilt,” which means to get them emotionally worked up so that they make poor decisions during the course of the game.

Because luck is such a huge factor in poker, the only way to really control whether or not you are successful at it is by consistently making the best decisions. This means that someone on tilt has a disadvantage. But do you want to try and tilt everyone at the table? While some players have success doing so, it can be a dangerous endeavor.

Take, for example, a few world-class players during the second season of the Professional Poker Tour. The man who won the very first Professional Poker Tour, John Juanda, was involved in the hand with another professional player, Mike Esposito. There was plenty of table talk – many of these players knew each other – and someone mentioned raising a hand with 7 2 off suit, commonly believed to be the worst possible hand to start with in the game of Texas Holdem. John, usually very quiet at the table, made the comment that he “never raises with seven two off suit”. He was involved in the hand at the time, however, and faced a huge re-raise by Mike Esposito.

John folded his hand and Mike turned over his cards, revealing a stone cold bluff. He then made some comments about bluffing the title defender. It turned out that was an ill-advised idea.

In the very next hand John incredibly ended up with 7 2 off suit, and promptly raised. Mike was the only one in the hand with him, holding something decent like King Queen suited. Mike re-raised John. John promptly went all in. In this tournament only the winner got paid and everyone was close to the final table at this point: Mike folded. John turned over his seven two off suit and said “if you had just taken your win and not said anything, I would never have played this hand.”

The lesson? First, like all poker players, John Juanda finds truth to be a matter of convenience. Second – be careful in who you choose to tilt, because they may come gunning for you.

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