Jonathan Pechon

*Two "Top 8" Grand Prix Finishes

*Top 32 at Pro Tour Osaka



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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

06.09.04  A Slanted Perspective

ESPN has been showing last year's World Series of Poker during the day over
and over again.  During their telecast, they spend most of their time
highlighting the strongest players in the game, showing guys who spend as
much time refining their demeanor and composure as they do their mechanics
during a game.  These are people who have taken the way that they approach
an opponent and turned it into an art form, from examining the habits of
their opponents to keeping their own emotions and reactions under control.

Why is this relevant?  Well, reading several books on poker will show you a
number of topics that are repeated from book to book.  One of these is one
that I dealt with very recently, something that I want to address in the
hope that a large number of you will be able to recognize these tendencies
in yourselves.  It's a very simple, very common, very obvious thing when it


If you look up this term in Lee Jones's book Winning Low Limit Hold'em,
you'll see the following definition:  "To play wildly or recklessly. A
player is said to be "on tilt" if he is not playing his best, playing too
many hands, trying wild bluffs, raising with bad hands, etc."  You might see
this regularly in your matches but not understand why an opponent would go
haywire when you normally expect something better from them.  It's not a
spontaneous decision for them to champion crappy play; something in their
mind happens to destabilize them.

What causes this?  It depends on who you are, really, but generally this can
happen when you make a pivotal mistake during a match, or something doesn't
happen to go your way.  A game loss due to a deck check or failure to
desideboard can throw a wrench into the mental gears.  If it's a bad thing
that happens, it can throw you off of your game and put you on tilt.

To give a little more of an idea here, I'll describe a series of events
where I was suffering through an episode like this.  In a game three of a
league match online, I made a mistake that caused me to lose the game; I
used two creatures to kill an Arcbound Crusher with a Longbow, forgetting
that the two +1/+1 counters from the Crusher would land on a Myr Enforcer
that would kill me next turn.  I just missed it, and it ended up costing me
that match.

I was bothered though.and my next match was one that I shouldn't have even
started playing.  During the first game, I accidentally Shattered my own
Cathodion instead of the Tangle Golem that was preparing to beat on my face.
  The next game, I cast Fireball targeting my opponent's creature.and
clicked OK before I had managed to tell Modo how much mana I wanted to use
on X.  Therefore.Fireball for 0 at the creature.

Somehow, I managed to win both of those games due to some obscene draws on
my own part, along with some terrible draws from my opponent.  The point
is these are mistakes that I very infrequently make, and I managed to string
together several of them after a particular mistake started me along the
line.  I was on a sort of tilt, and it only took some incredible luck to get
me through it.  And, at the end of it. I was able to step away from the table
and get away from the game long enough to prevent a total and complete

But a lot of times, you aren't going to be in a situation where you are able
to do that.  Either the next round of the tournament will begin, or you'll
have to move to the next game, or any of a number of sets of circumstances
where there's simply not as much time as you might want to shake off the
cobwebs and get past it in order to play your best.  In order to keep your
balance, you need to be able to exercise some real discipline at various
times in order to regain your focus.

The worst time to get a bad beat is probably during or right after game one
of a match.  It can throw you off for the rest of the match, which can put
you even further off of your game and into the loser's column for the rest
of the day.  The most important thing to realize is that you can do some
simple things in order to alleviate the problems that arise here, and keep
you on your game.

The first thing to do if you make a mistake that you think might have caused
you to tilt is to slow down.  A trick that I use at times is to take a deep
breath and exhale between each play I make.  While it sounds a little silly,
it takes the rush of adrenaline and other impulses and funnels them outward,
rather than bottling them up and allowing them to come out in your play.  If
you're playing for some sort of prize, you want to be on your best; you need
to let out what you're feeling in a controlled manner.

Another suggestion might be to talk about it.  It really doesn't matter who
you talk with, whether it's your opponent, someone standing around, or just
a monologue.  It doesn't have to involve yelling or any angry words; you
just need to work the issue out in your head and elucidate exactly what
happened, and say something to the effect of, "I'm not going to allow that
to happen again."  While it sounds a little silly to do this, again, it's
about expending some of that rush of energy you get.

If this happens at the end of a match and you have a few minutes, it can do
you good to just walk out of the room for a few minutes and gather your
thoughts.  While it's not always an option, if you have a few minutes it can
do you a world of good to get some fresh air.  It's best if you have someone
to talk to about the situation; get their opinion and just vent at them. 
Wandering off alone for a bit also lets you accomplish the same goal, though
you should probably use the previously mentioned tactics on top of that.

These sound like really obvious things to do when you're disturbed; however,
the reason I mention them is that reason tends to be the most difficult
thing to accept when you've started to tilt.  It often times takes a voice
from outside to help bring the situation into some perspective and to let
you go on with your tournament.  Going into your next game or match with
your head out of whack just leads you into mistake after mistake, and the
problem feeds itself until you are out of money, out of time, or out of
luck.  It's better to cool off and try to get yourself back into the "here
and now."

-Jonathan Pechon
Sigmund' on IRC (EFNet)
Sigmund on Modo

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