‘This is just so unfair!’: A qualitative analysis of loss-induced emotions and tilting in on-line poker


Poker is a game of skill and chance, where players often experience significant monetary losses. Detrimental out-of-control poker decision-making due to negative emotions is known as tilting. A qualitative assessment of losing and tilting was conducted by analysing stories about significant monetary losses, written by Finnish on-line poker players (N = 60). Thematic and narrative analyses uncovered five themes and a narrative structure underlying the aetiology and phenomenology of tilting. Tilting, in the narratives, was often instigated by dissociative feelings (‘unreality’, disbelief) following a significant monetary loss. Thereafter, moral indignation was experienced, followed by chasing behaviour, in an attempt to restore a ‘fair balance’ between wins and losses. In the aftermath of tilting, self-focused feelings of disappointment, depression and/or anxiety, and sleeping problems were experienced. It was also observed that experienced players, as compared to inexperienced ones, exhibited in their narratives a more mature disposition towards encountering ‘bad luck’, and losing in general. The results are relevant in better understanding psychological processes related to losing in the multifaceted game of poker, thus contributing also to existing knowledge on detrimental gambling behaviour.

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