The First Taste of Tilt: Feb 2020 Recap

Welcome to the February 2020 Recap post.

I got to play a fair bit in Feb and I worked hard to keep learning through everything I was doing.

I spent about 35 hours playing poker, and here are the lessons that I learned this month.

Lessons Learned

#1 Mindset Matters Most

I played at the Final Table Poker Club, it was one of those tense nights where I was between 9 and 15 big blinds for several hours. The risk of being put out was right around the corner for me, and we were real close to the money.

I was tense, and with 14 left (paying 12) I wound up running my 1010 into the big blind’s Jacks.  That left me with 1 big blind on the button.

I got it in on the cutoff when it folded to me and I had J9 suited (the fact that it folded to me was why I made that decision, I knew even if I got a better hand I’d have at least the same number of callers behind.)

I hit the flop and turn, had 4 bigs, and then had to do a UTG shove with 77s, which held through 2 callers (AT and KT).

Once my comeback was there, and I had 12 bigs again, I was alive. I felt happy. I went from feeling tense and anxious and tired to being happy in about 3 minutes.

Here’s what’s true:

  1. If I had never almost lost I would have stayed tense through the whole tournament.
  2. I could have been happy the whole time and I would have played better the whole time.

After I came back, my decisions were sharp, the game slowed down and I was able to work my stack up to 175k chips in 2 orbits. But, even if I had busted on the stone bubble, I would have been fine with that, because the lesson “clicked”.

I found the mindset I want every time I play.  If I had carried that joy through the whole game I would have played better.

I could have been happy the whole time and made my decisions based on the information available the whole time.

Lesson #2:  I’m not really tilt-proof.

You know those people that claim they are immune to poison ivy, but eventually learn that they arent?

…and we all get to feel schadenfreude?

Yeah, so like that.

I’ve carried a little bit of arrogance in my poker life. How could I not? I got 600 hours in and I’m already getting a sick ROI in live games.

I have a smug attitude towards tilt. I thought it was for cash game players only. Or the sign of a weak mind.

I always thought I was playing at the level of my skillset and mindset.

Well, I went to Wildhorse for a normal casino MTT and ran my KK into AA on a defensible hand against joe coffee. I still had a playable stack early on in a soft tournament, but I felt like I needed to get it all back quick, so I made some stupidly aggressive plays and lost the rest of my stack.

Fired a second and did the same thing. Gone in 60 seconds.

All because I was just trying to prove a point to the villains at the table that I was bulletproof.

So I got a tilted. Chased a loss and tried to make something out of nothing even though I know that I had 40% of my starting stack and had enough to make a complete comeback. This was after I had my Portland epiphany, so it’s not as if some magic bullet is going to make me perfect.

So yeah, I gotta put a backstop in place to figure out how to combat tilt.

Lesson #3: Value Bet Relentlessly

The other lesson I learned is to keep value betting when you make a good hand. TP/TK single way and 2 pair plus multi-way is usually a great place to start.

Seems kind of obvious, but I was too timid with my value bets and leaving a lot of chips on the table by floating the turn or just check/calling. Online this is probably truer than at the felt because there is not social shame when you call 3 streets with 3rd pair.

Yes, I get it.

Sometimes you’ll be betting into someone’s made hand.  But that’s only going to happen once in a while, and it’s generally a good idea to keep value betting.  On any given street they aren’t getting the right odds to call.

My Play

I got to play poker in 8 events in February. I fired 9 bullets, all MTT.

Bullets Fired: 9
ITM Finishes: 4
Money In the Middle: $665
Money Out: $2121
Profit: $1456
ROI after expenses, etc:

I also got staked for 10% at an event so I had the fun time of getting to pay someone out.

It also made me play better, which was fun.

What Went Right & What Went Wrong

What went right:

  1. I have a reference mindset.
  2. I was consistent with my after play sessions.
  3. I grew my bankroll.

What went wrong:

  1. I tilted.
  2. I didn’t study to my planned standards.


I got about 7 hours – total – of active study in Feb. I was launching new business, and I had a few sick days so I wasn’t great about keeping my schedule.

What We’re Doing Differently Going Forward.

Looking at the month of March, I want to change a few things:

  1. Stay on schedule every day.
  2. At every break and tournament level, I’ll have a mindset check-in. This will help me go back and remember the great mindset I had before.
  3. Play online a lot more seriously. Have my RFI charts and have a “standard setup” for all of my online play.
  4. Schedule play and not play while multitasking.
  5. Online do hand reviews after every session. What did I do? Was each decision correct? Was I value betting or bluffing?
  6. More multi-tabling and focus in MTT situations.

I’m going to play in my bar league and another live MTT type session, but the real trick is to get ready for the Pendleton Roundup. I’m ready to play right and run deep.

In March, I won’t play nearly as much as I did in Feb because I know where some holes in my game live and I can get them closed with some serious study.

So onward.

Christopher Patrick Johnson

Christopher Patrick Johnson is a ghostwriter, startup founder, entrepreneur, and a dad in the pacific northwest. He is more than a little obsessed with processes. He lives with his family of 4 in Richland, WA.