McHaffie: MCU lesson 066 / “Law of Least Tilt”

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2005.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 66: The Law of Least Tilt to the rescue

Mike says that poker players will sometimes allow their emotions to get the best of them in a game. You may think that all professional, high-rolling poker players have great self-discipline, but Mike says that is not so. This comes as a big surprise to me. I mean, they are playing for high stakes frequently, right? They need to have great command of their game, good control over their emotions, in order to play these stakes time and again against the same strong opponents, right?

Well, Mike informs me that most of today’s top players have suffered emotional upheaval in their games and have played worse than they were capable of quite often.

Avoiding pitfalls

Mike teaches that you should make a commitment to yourself to “play your best game all of the time, come hell or high water.” In this way you can avoid the devastating pitfall of allowing your emotions to rule a game.

Once you have made this commitment, you may find yourself straying, and if you do, you must get back on course. The secret is not to treat this occurrence lightly. This is an alleyway that can get you off course and you don’t want that. It can definitely affect your bankroll. Mike describes getting off track “like getting a scratch on your new car, and saying Oh, well, it isn’t perfect now, so it doesn’t matter anymore. What’s one more scratch?”

Mike says, “The secret is to be willing to accept tiny variances in your course and as quickly as possible steer back toward your goal.” In other words, he’s telling us to stay on course and be as consistent as possible, playing our best game.

Quite a few years ago Mike published Caro’s Law of Least Tilt, and I believe this concept has saved thousands of poker player’s their careers.


Tilt is a term poker players use to describe how their emotions have caused them to become upset, going off course, and therefore playing poorly. Mike informed me that this term originated from pin ball machines. As I haven’t played pin ball machines, I asked him to explain. He says that if you shake them too hard, the word tilt will start flashing at you, the lights on the machine will go out, and the flippers cease to work!

Mike laughed and said this is the same thing that happens to poker players. Their lights go out and their flippers won’t work. In other words their emotions get in the way of their better judgment. They cease to think rationally.

Taking turns

We think of professional poker players as being stable and focused. After all, they usually have lots of money at stake. Why would they allow their emotions to rule? But, yet, we’ve seen this happen repeatedly. It almost seems as though they take turns going on tilt. It has ostensibly become almost a socially accepted behavior, almost expected among some of the players. That’s where the Law of Least Tilt applies. Mike points out the obvious, that among these matches pitting equally skilled players against one another, the ones who go on tilt the least will win the most money.

So, Mike says, “Applying the Law of Least Tilt means basically that when players around you appear to be taking turns being on tilt, the secret is to simply pass your turn.” Well, once again, it often seems that the most obvious advice is usually the best.

Important concept

This very important concept from MCU can quite possibly save both you and me a considerable amount of money in the future. We should pay heed to the advice of the greatest poker teacher in the world.

So, remember, don’t allow your emotions to dictate your actions, stay the course, and play your best game all of the time. And if it’s your time to be on tilt, pass. If you practice this advice consistently, you’ll probably lose less money and quite likely build a bigger bankroll. — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU series


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