‘Temper’s the one thing you can’t get rid of, by losing it.’

–       Jack Nicholson, Anger Management

Just imagine for a moment: you’ve landed a spot in a prestigious poker tournament. Amazingly, you’re ahead of the pack, and you can see the Promised Land: You’re in the final table, and 11 players are standing between you and over $8 million. But there’s one, weasel player that gets under your skin; you lose your cool, make a reckless play or two and –viola! You suddenly find yourself in 11th place. You still win a respectable prize, but it’s a far cry from the millions and 1st place trophy that went to somebody else instead.

Poker is an intense game – your probably know that by now. Especially when the stakes are high and the TV cameras are rolling. Sometimes a player can be so wound up  a small spark such as a careless word from a fellow player or a lucky runner river card by a ‘donk’ can cause a player to ‘lose it’ – either on the table itself, by suddenly throwing chips into obviously hopelessly situations, or worse – verbally or physically. In one memorable scenario at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, one player literally attempted to strangely a fellow player for daring to win the pot with a lucky river card. With a single blunder, such as eve misreading your own cards, you can trigger a meltdown that can wipe out in an instant the earnings of a long poker session.

Meltdown in online poker games

Online poker meltdowns can be worse. In live poker, the most you can maybe lose is one buy-in. However, in online poker, with no witnesses or other factors to restrain your actions, you can lose you your entire bankroll. You may be easily tempted, spurred on by sudden, horrendous losses, to move to higher stakes games after you suffer a meltdown. About the worst thing you can do after a meltdown at your regular game is to step up to a higher-stakes table. It’s also one of the easiest things to do.


Poker is a game. It’s not an episode of Mission: Impossible. There is no requirement for anything to self-destruct – on the contrary, once you start feeling the ‘smoke coming out of your ears,’ if some other player gets under your skin or a particularly bad beat sits right there on the table seemingly mocking you, maybe it’s time to take a break.

Preventing the Meltdown

Just as is real life, when something, or someone, as more likely the case in live poker, gets you on ‘tilt,’ the easiest thing is to get up and walk away from the game. It’s even easier online, when you can simply shut off the computer and get out of the house for some much-needed fresh air.Once you’ve polished your poker skills and learned to manage your bankroll, you will eventually climb up the stakes and even win at occasionally.

So while we may find watching poker pros ‘lose it’ at the table entertaining, remember there’s nothing funny about it when you lose hundreds of thousands in a blink of an eye – and remember, it could easily happen to you…

How to react when another player is on a ‘poker tantrum’

Easy: ignore. It just makes them even more upset, they’ll play more badly, and you’ll calmly scoop more of the pot.

Got rid of your ‘melt’? Time to get back to the felt!