When you see advertisements for the casino industry, the players are perpetually smiling as they sit behind a mountain of new chips. Everybody looks to be having a grand old time, and the shared sense of excitement seems to be contagious.
But if you take a look around a typical table game pit in Las Vegas on a Tuesday afternoon, you won’t see so many smiles. Instead, grumpy and disgruntled gamblers can be found frowning, sighing, and muttering as they bemoan their bad luck.
Letting losses at the casino lead to frustration and anger is a phenomenon known as “going on tilt,” and it can spell disaster for managing your bankroll. Read on to learn about five basic triggers which can signal an impending tangle with tilt.
1 – You Just Lost a Big Bet Despite Having the Odds in Your Favor
By far, the most common source of tilt while gambling at the casino is the classic bad beat.
The house always holds an edge over players when it comes to the long-run, that’s all well and good. But occasionally, given short-term samples, the player finds themselves enjoying a rare statistical advantage. Suddenly, those previous losses are forgotten and a well-deserved windfall seems to be in the works.
Picture the following scenario and put yourself in the player’s shoes: You’re playing blackjack and decide to up the ante with a larger bet than usual. Your intuition appears to pay off instantly as the dealer delivers a king and a queen for 20 to your spot on the felt.
With a smile already spreading across your face, you see the dealer has drawn a tough 6 up card to go with a 10 underneath for 16 total. They’ll have to hit of course, and the only card which can cause your 20 to lose is a 5 for 21. Any 2s, 3s, or 4s bring the dealer to an inferior total on which they’ll stand, while anything higher than a 5 causes them to bust.
Even better, a quick scan of the table shows a trio of 5s already dealt to various player hands. You’re in the catbird seat now, with the dealer’s already slim array of “outs” reduced even further. Based on the odds, you’re a massive favorite to dodge the deck’s remaining 5s and collect a badly needed winner.
But lo and behold, Lady Luck had other ideas on this day. The dealer coolly turns over the 5 of hearts to find one of the most fortunate 21s possible.
And now, the time has come to feel the tilt flow through you. As you mutter invective under your breath, you start mental script familiar to every gambler:
“I should’ve had that hand! How in the world did she find a freaking five there? That’s just my luck, anyway, get a damned 20 to start and still can’t win a dime. Well, if she can get lucky like that, so can I… I just need to bet a little bigger to take advantage when my time comes.”
Enduring losses in any gambling game, even a skill game like blackjack, is par for the course at any casino. Even so, suffering unlikely losses even when you appear poised to win still manages to sting.
If you’ve just been victimized by a cruel bad beat, take a break from the action to keep tilt at bay.
2 – You Win Plenty of Hands, But Can’t Break Even
Another surefire sign that tilt could be on the way occurs even when you’re notching your fair share of winners.
Because of the back-and-forth nature of most casino games, you’re likely to win just under half of the bets you make. That obviously means you’ll win a little under half of the time too. But in many cases, these winners aren’t enough to keep your head above water.
Slot machines and real money video poker offer the most distinct example of this trend. You’ll see a slot light up for a series of $0.75 “winners,” but when you’re betting $1.00 per spin, your credit count slowly slips downward anyway. And even when you hit a full house or two along the way, all the fruitless hands in between erode those profits in a hurry.
When you find yourself riding this sort of roller coaster, going up a little and down a little more over and over again, a sense of restlessness can soon set in. Here you are, passing chips back and forth between yourself and the dealer, but your stack grows smaller while their tray fills up.
Tilt compelled by struggling to get even or into the black isn’t as explosive as the bad beat variety, but it’s still quite dangerous.
3 – You Missed Out on a Winning Wager Due to a Dealer Mistake
These episodes are fortunately pretty rare given the intensive training required to become a casino dealer. Nonetheless, stuff happens and mistakes will be made from time to time.
Maybe the poker dealer accidentally exposes the river card that would’ve completed your flush. Or the roulette croupier fails to count a single-number bet you nailed because it was placed a microsecond after he waved his hands.
After all, the dealer likely feels way worse about their mistake, so why compound everybody’s misery by complaining?
4 – You Can’t Stop Watching the Brute in the Next Seat Cash in Big
Speaking of misery, nothing compares to the agonizing helplessness of watching someone you hate win in spite of themselves.
Fellow players who disrespect the dealer, treat the table like trash, and generally annoy everyone around them are a dime a dozen at the casino. But when one of them starts getting on your nerves, it’s only natural to feel as though they have it out for you and you alone.
Once you’ve made a nemesis like this, watching them pile up chips while you can’t seem to catch a break is tough sledding indeed.
To avoid envy driven version of tilt, it’s best to simply walk away and find another game where friendlier faces await.
5 – You Leave After a Long Session and the Next Player Collects a Jackpot
I’ve had this happen to me far too many times to care any longer. But I’ll be honest, those first few instances hurt like hell.
Imagine you’ve spent hours patiently grinding on a slot or video poker machine, hoping against hope to land a major progressive jackpot. You know the odds are long, so you’re not exactly expecting to win big, but a gambler can dream, can’t they?
If only you had stayed a few spins longer. If only you brought a few extra bucks. If only nobody won the damned thing at all. If only…
Regrets and lamentations like this can be soul-crushing to say the least, leading to the type of tilt that can linger for a long while.
Humans are emotional creatures by design, and the casino is an environment designed specifically to enhance the emotions of a passionate gambler. Everything is bigger and brighter, and when you’re winning, it’s all so much better.
On the other hand, when the cards just aren’t cooperating and losing is on the agenda, the negative emotions which fuel tilt flow freely. Every gambler has their own methods of coping (or not coping) with tilt. By paying attention to the triggers described above, hopefully, you can find the tilt-avoidance tactics which work best for you.