Andrew Lichtenberger: Tilt and the power of emotional control

Andrew Lichtenberger deep in thought during the WPT World Championships 2023
Andrew Lichtenberger
Andrew Lichtenberger
Posted on: March 14, 2024 08:56 PDT

Andrew 'LuckyChewy' Lichtenberger is considered one of the best high-stakes MTT pros in the game, with career earnings of more than $20,000,000. This is his first article in an ongoing series for PokerOrg, examining his approach to the mental aspects of poker.

What is tilt? 

There's a difference between consciously expressing anger and when anger unconsciously takes over your ability to express yourself. That’s a good definition of tilt: when you cannot control your emotions.

When tilt happens without your conscious consent, you have a problem, and your poker game will suffer. You could take it one step further and argue that becoming angry at any point while playing is an issue. 

Tilt will become less of an issue when you consciously release your emotions more healthily, because sometimes it can be good just to let the frustrations out. But please, not toward your fellow players or the dealers.

I would say that it's the same thing that causes many of the challenges we face in life. It’s similar to doing something you might know is not the right thing, but you do it anyway out of habit or act aggressively without considering the repercussions. 

Tilt antidotes

When you're playing poker and feel frustration rising, maybe that's the time to do a breathing technique. Sometimes, when we get frustrated, our breath gets short and very shallow, and that’s certainly not a recipe for success. So how do you regain a calm balance within yourself?

It’s simple. Slow down your breathing, and inhale and exhale deeply for a minute or two. This technique will bring a conscious awareness back to your breath and body, which can be very helpful.

When dealing with tilt and stagnant emotions, any type of physical movement can also break up that energy. That’s an obvious place to start: the physical body. Get up, stretch, and walk around. You will find that will be of great assistance to calm your mind and emotions.

Another technique I use is to affirm that I’m confident in my abilities at the table. I remind myself that I’ve studied long and hard to get here; there’s no reason to get angry or frustrated. Those emotions don’t serve you. They’re counterproductive to your success at the poker table.

Andrew Lichtenberger professional poker player Andrew Lichtenberger NEIL STODDART


If you allow tilt to get you off your game, you can miss opportunities you would have otherwise taken advantage of at the tables. 

One thing that has been very important to my success in the game is learning how to identify the source of my frustrations. My experience is that when I begin to have more awareness of myself, frustrations fall away naturally. I begin to see how inefficient and useless they are for my game. 

For me, it's more a function of realizing how I genuinely feel in any given moment when tilt creeps up on me. What I do is ask myself questions: Why is this happening? How do I feel? Where did it come from? 

To be honest, I think understanding where tilt is coming from is the most critical piece of the puzzle. Understanding the origins of your emotions is beneficial in dismantling the root causes behind them.

Once I've gone through that process, I tend to find that it doesn't make sense to feel tilted any longer. So, I don’t.

Tilt can be used as a tool

Some players can become tilted during a game and then use it effectively in their favor. They get frustrated, they get angry, and then they continue consciously playing off that tilted image to their advantage. Phil Hellmuth (below) is very good at doing that at the table when he gets tilted. 

I personally don't do that, but it's worth mentioning.

Phil Hellmuth at the 2023 WSOP

Accept losing

Part and parcel of this discussion about tilt is learning to become a better loser. There's a clear difference between intellectually understanding that loss is a part of poker and experientially understanding it. 

Sooner or later, you have to be OK with losing and accept that reality. It’s essential to understand that it’s just a part of the game. There’s not one successful player that will tell you any different. 

Stay tuned for my next article: Strategy and tactics.

Andrew Lichtenberger recently co-founded a poker community and training site called  Octopi Poker with Nick Schulman and Victoria Livschitz. Octopi Poker uses GTO tools, drills, coaching, and streamed hand histories for an all-in-one integrated platform for collaborative poker study. Follow Andrew on Twitter/X.

Images courtesy of the WPT