Every poker player goes on tilt once in a while -- we all face bad beats and players that just get under our skin -- but the best players recognize when they are on tilt and use different techniques to refocus so they can get back to their poker A game. Here are some things to try if you feel you're playing less than your best.
Get up and take a break
The easiest way to get off tilt is to put some literal distance between you and the poker table. Get up and take a short walk, go to the bathroom, or have a snack or drink. If your at a casino, you can usually take a 45-minute meal break without losing your seat, so if you're really losing your cool, consider taking advantage of that time, even if you don't go eat. When you sit back down, try to imagine you're just sitting down for the first time at the table and treat it like a fresh start.
Vent about your bad beat
Let off steam and get comfort from a fellow player by rehashing the horrible hand. You'll calm down and maybe even gain insight to how you could have handled it differently or if it was just plain bad luck.
Sit out a round at the table
If you don't want to get up from the table, just resolve to sit out a round or two and not play any hand unless it is one of the top 4 hands -- Even when you are in the blinds. Just sit back and focus on observing the other players and predicting their hands. You may pick up a poker tell on a player that will help you win more when you re-enter the game.
Don't obsess on "getting back" at one player
If one player has dealt you most of your bad beats or is just generally annoying, don't make the mistake of focusing all your energy on teaching that player a lesson, getting your money back, or refusing to leave the table until you win a hand against him. The sad fact of the matter is that even the worst players get on lucky winning streaks and that the good guys don't always win. If you focus just on one player, it may only make your frustration build as he continues to win against all odds and behave like a jackass.
Move to a new table or game
If you simply cannot stand another player at your table or you just can't forget the cruel beat she laid down on you after trying some of the other ideas, ask to move to another table. You may have to wait a little bit, but it will be worth it to sit down at a fresh table with no baggage where you can concentrate on your game.
Sometimes you might even want to switch up what you're playing -- if you're playing no-limit Hold'em, try limit or even try seven-card stud to really jar you into a new mindset.
Keep it in perspective
Remember that poker is not a game about single hands, but about sessions of playing, that all make up one long game of poker. Sometimes you deal out the bad beats, and sometimes you receive them. You've probably sucked out on players just as often as it's happened to you.
Also remember that in the long run, superior play will win out over donkeys, even if this one night it seems that only the worst players can win.
Stop playing for the day
If all these tricks and tips leave you still in a mad, bad, sad funk, call it a night. There will always be another poker game another day, and even if that day seems like a long time away, you aren't going to get there any faster if you keep playing and lose another big wad of cash. You may be down a bunch, but playing longer on tilt probably will only sink you further down the hole, and that's just going to send you deeper on tilt.