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House of Cards
by Ashley Adams

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CORK! Tilting in poker

When I'm on tilt, I describe myself as "a cork, bobbing on the sea of poker." Here's how I went corking last night, and please note how my own good fortune triggered the event in the first place.

After hours of muddling through with no cards and no prospects, I finally picked up pocket aces in early position. Part of me said slow play! Having waited so long for big tickets, I wanted to make sure I got maximum value out of them. I knew better, though, and my primary programming kicked in: When you get the goods, bet the goods. So I did. Everyone folded, leaving me with nothing to show for my aces but the puny, puny blinds.

I know I made the right play, but even so, I couldn't help feeling like I'd wasted my aces. Worse, I let that feeling infect my play, and in that instant I started corking; I began to go on tilt. I looked at my next starting hand -- Q-T offsuit -- and imagined that I was going to win with the Q-T all those chips that I "deserved" to win with A-A. Have you ever heard such nonsense?

And can you guess what happened next? Q-T is no A-A, no matter how hard it tries. I pushed too far, and then chased too long, and ended up losing half my stack to -- guess what? -- a hand far superior to mine. And then I did the very same thing on the very next hand. With an even weaker holding this time! What the hell was I thinking?

Two hands after getting poker's premium hand, I was a full-fledged cork, bobbing on the sea of poker. Within two hands of getting a hand I thought should win me big money, I was losing big money. I was on tilt -- speed-tilt -- and heading for major disaster. I had to take steps.

So I did. Right out of the cardroom. And once around the casino. All the way around the property. Big walk. One that gave me plenty of time to think about what I'd just gone through. When I got back to the table, I had righted myself. The cork, as it were, was back in the bottle.

Can you do this? Can you detect the presence of tilt in your game and choke it off before it slaughters you? Can you tell when you're starting to cork, and get out of the turbulent sea while there's still time? Here are some ways to know if you're heading down that slippery slope:

  • The hand you folded an hour ago is the hand you raise with now.
  • You call the flop and turn with bottom pair, expecting to trip up because you're "due."
  • You run hopeless bluffs, trying to get well quick.
  • You know -- just know -- that the next buy-in will be the one that turns everything around. What other warning signs of tilt can you detect? Write them down. Learn them. Know them. Live them. Because a cork is a wonderful thing in a bottle of Beaujolais but it's useless and costly in a card game.
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