When playing poker do you have trouble going all-in? Does your vision blur when you get check-raised? If so, you may be suffering from tilt. As many as five out of five poker players spend their lives coping with this debilitating disease. If you or someone you know shows signs of tilt, seek immediate help. Your bankroll depends on it.

Playing “trouble” hands in poker shouldn't be so nerve-wracking. It's just a game, after all. But we're human beings, and when we find ourselves in difficult situations, our fight-or-flight response and our emotions cloud our judgment. It only gets worse the further you move up in stakes. Fortunately, there is a cure – several of them, in fact. Here are three things you can start doing right now to improve your performance when your back's against the wall.
 

1. Fold More Often

Many of the “trouble” hands you'll play in poker are marginal situations where you're not sure whether to raise, call, or fold. By definition, the difference in expected value among these three options will be small – that's why it's so hard to figure out the right play. If you put your opponent in this spot, you've probably done something right.

When you're stuck with a hand like this and you don't know what to do, folding makes a lot of sense. Folding lowers your variance by preventing you from getting into a virtual coin-flip for your entire stack. It also keeps your adrenaline and your emotions in check, freeing up your brain to make smarter decisions. This is especially important in poker tournaments, where survival is key and the payouts get bigger the longer you last.

 

2. Study Poker Situations

The more you've studied and practiced what to do in a particular spot, the better decisions you will make. But don't get too hung up on those marginal hands. Spend more time working on the other kind of “trouble” hands – the ones where you know what you should do, but the risk makes you nervous and you're prone to playing either too passively or too aggressively.

Analyzing these spots gets simpler every day. New software is always coming out that will help you figure out when you should be pulling off big-time bluffs and how much you should bet. These programs get easier and more fun to use, as well. Even if you're on a budget, freeware like Equilab can help you figure out these spots and take your game to the next level
 

3. Play Lower Stakes

Bankroll management isn't just about making sure you have enough buy-ins before sitting down at the table. You could have tons of money in your account and still get the shakes when you run into a difficult hand. Exposing yourself repeatedly to these situations can lead to stress-related issues. Play at a level you're comfortable with, and build from there. Don't let poker actually become dangerous for you.