Formulaic tilt simply means that you are playing "by the book" without adapting to the game. In essence, you are effectively playing on autopilot, without thinking hard enough about the specific situation you are in. For example, you might fold A-J to a raise, a standard play, but you don't notice that there are no other callers and the raiser has raised nine out of the last ten pots. Another example is folding a mediocre hand on the button even though both blinds are extremely tight and almost never defend. In other words, you will be playing uninspired and predictable poker.
Some players might not consider this a type of tilt, but it most certainly is. Going back to our definition, tilt is the act of playing worse than you are capable of playing. When you let things distract you and don't adjust to the game, you are on formulaic tilt. The most common triggers of formulaic tilt are as follows:
Boredom - When bored, we all know that our mind starts to wander and we are easily distracted by other things. When boredom sets in during a poker game, you will start to do the minimum you think is necessary to beat the game, rather than trying to beat it for the maximum possible. Poker is a game of small edges. A player who is generally a winning player could turn into a losing one when he loses focus, or at least win a lot less.
Tiredness - Tired people cannot concentrate as well as rested people. The more tired you are, the harder you will find it to concentrate, which results in playing your cards more than playing your opponents' tendencies.
Distractions - In a similar vein as the triggers of tiredness and boredom, any distraction will prevent you from focusing 100% on your play. In a casino, the distraction could be anything from your team playing on the TV to an obnoxious player sitting next to you. Internet players have a whole minefield of potential distractions, including the Internet, email, phone, TV, or a family member or friend talking during play.
Something on your mind - Distractions can also come from within. You lose focus when you are thinking about other things going on in your life not related to the poker game at hand. This is especially true when you are not actively involved in the hand, as your mind will start to wander. Contempt - Sometimes formulaic tilt is caused by not having sufficient respect for the game you are playing. This might be because you have just moved down a limit to a game you consider beneath you or because you have consistently beaten the same game for a long period of time. Whatever the reason, you won't concentrate fully when you think you can win by simply going through the motions.
Fortunately, formulaic tilt is usually not too costly, at the lower limits at least. If you are a winning player, you should still be able to beat the game, albeit at a lower expected earn rate. In fact, many Internet players play many tables simultaneously in a formulaic way to increase their overall earn rate, even though their earn rate per table is less.41 Once again, no-limit players have to be more careful because each mistake can be more costly. For example, an "easy fold" to a large bet by a rock might turn into a call if you weren't fully aware that the player was a rock.
The danger of formulaic tilt is that it can affect your every decision and is something that can creep into your game as a natural inclination. If you play against weak players, you can win by playing on formulaic tilt, which means it can be habit-forming. The more you play on formulaic tilt, the harder it will be to concentrate in the future. While you may still be winning, you will not be fulfilling your potential, nor will you be developing some of the finer skills of the game. When it comes to moving up limits, you may get a rude awakening as to how lackluster your game really is.
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