Our penultimate section of poker 101 for dummies shows you some common poker mistakes you are likely to come across in your poker career.
Check them out below to improve your game, get you off to a winning start at the tables and avoid some of the worst poker mistakes you can make.
If the terminology isn’t clear to you make sure you check out Poker 101 for the ‘dictionary’ of poker terms.
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Common poker mistakes:
- Chasing draws without the odds to call. When calling with a draw you must have the correct pot odds and equity to call. For example, if you are facing a full pot sized bet with 4 outs to a straight (called a gut shot), e.g. 87 or JT5 board, you are not getting the correct odds to call. A fold would usually be correct in this situation but oftentimes new players will call hoping to get lucky. Calling without the correct pot odds is a long term losing play. Check out more on pot odds here & this video on pot odds.
- Not folding to aggression is another major leak with new poker players. Oftentimes, players won’t fold with their marginal hands hoping that villain is bluffing. Most low stakes poker players do not bluff often enough for you to be able to bluff catch with marginal hands. If you are facing a lot of aggression on it usually a sign that you are beaten and that you can happily fold. This is especially true at the low stakes where opponents are typically much less aggressive than they should be.
- Playing above your bankroll. Sitting down at games within your limits is key to becoming successful at poker. Playing outside your bankroll will increase the chance you will go broke. Read up on correct bankroll management strategy for more information on how to devise a good bankroll management strategy and put it into use.
- Learn to control your emotions! Poker can be a stressful game which oftentimes can cause you to tilt even if you are one of the most composed of players. Tilt induces poor play by not allowing players to think clearly. Keep a level head and your emotions under check. One simple strategy is to step away from the table for 10 minutes and get some air when you feel you’re not in the right mindset. You will come back feeling fresh and ready to play. Check out The Poker Mental Game [ Powerful Tips For Resolving Tilt] & this video on resolving tilt at the poker table:
- Using the same bet size on every street: For example, betting 5$ into a $10 pot on the flop and betting $5 into a $20 pot on the turn. Your bet sizes should be relative to the pot; as the pot grows in size so should the absolute size of your bet. Not increasing your bet size as the pot grows means you will either miss value or your opponent won’t fold to your small bluff. This was covered in more detail in our Texas Holdem strategy section.
- Not taking notes on your opponent: Poker is a war of information. The more information you have on your opponent the more likely you will be to win. Start paying attention to your opponents tendencies and make note of something you can use to beat him in the future. It might be his demeanour when bluffing, or how he acts confident when holding a strong hand. Even if you don’t take a notepad to live games, make sure you take a ‘mental note’ of anything useful. Check out this great guide for taking notes on opponents.
- Fancy play syndrome: It is often thought that you have to outsmart or trick your opponent when playing a game of poker. New players often replicate this by playing the opposite of the way they should i.e. betting all their weak hands and checking and calling their strong hands. Essentially, poker is a game of making good decision after good decision. Don’t over complicate the basics by getting too fancy!
- Don’t slowplay strong hands: When an inexperienced player gets a strong hand (such as AA or KK preflop) they are tempted to slow play their hand to not fold out everyone from the pot. This is the wrong attitude; it often leads to winning a small pot or losing a big one when your aces get cracked. Hence, raise and reraise your strong hands, a big hand deserves a big pot!
- Overvaluing the strength of Ace rag: Small aces such as A6 and A2 are known as Ace rag. Often, inexperienced players see an ace in the hole and think the hand is much stronger than it actually is. Weak aces are dominated quite often by other opponents stronger aces which means you will either lose a big pot or win a small one. There is a time and place to play weak aces. Make sure you know when by reading up on position is king. Check out this video on playing weak aces for more information:
- Chasing losses: one big mistake made by new and experienced players alike is moving up in stakes to recoup losses. This is a huge mistake and can often lead to you losing your whole bankroll. If you find yourself tempted to move up in stakes to chase losses, quit your game and go find something else to do. You will be greatful the next morning, I promise 🙂
- Not having a plan: when calling a bet or calling a raise you should have a plan for what you are going to do on the following streets. Are you going to call or raise? On which cards are you going to fold if your opponent bets? Similarly, when betting you should also know what to do when your opponent calls or raises. The more you can think about future streets, the more easily you will be able to exploit your opponent.
- Playing for long stretches without a break: Poker is a difficult game, and as a result, we tire quickly when playing. Make sure you take a break every hour for a few minutes to freshen up. Even going for a 5-minute conversation about non-poker related stuff will allow you to refocus. Your bottom line will thank you for it.
- Not working on your mental game: your mental game is almost as important as your technical game; however, the majority of inexperienced players completely neglect developing it. Controlling your emotions, recognising when you are tilting and playing in the zone are all part of your mental game. To find out more see the blog post on mental game.
- Playing when you are not in the right mindset: we all have lives outside poker and unfortunately, it can affect our poker game in some cases. Have a fight with your spouse? Your boss on your back? Not sleeping right? Now is not the time to play poker as you are vastly more likely to have a losing session; hence playing poker will only make matters worse.
- Not making the most of online offers: a common poker mistake you can easily avoid! Poker rooms offer bonuses for new players which can be a real bankroll builder. Make sure you seek out all the top bonus offers and take full advantage of them. Sometimes, they can even double your bankroll if you find the right offer. Bonuses do require a certain amount of play to be released, however! Check out our best online poker sites page for more information.
- Playing hands because you are bored: boredom can be a real issue for some players; this is especially true when playing live as so few hands are played when compared to online. But the simple fact is that if you are bored you aren’t paying enough attention to the action around you. Try follow the action even when you aren’t in the hand to discover opponent’s tendencies or work out what hands they are holding. Playing poor holdings to suppress your boredom will only cost you money in the long run. So make sure you aren’t tempted.
- Calling 3bets out of position: Playing OOP is difficult; playing OOP without the initiative in a 3bet pot is even more difficult. Oftentimes players believe that because they raised a hand that they should continue with it versus a raise. This isn’t true and you should be folding the majority of your hands when facing a 3bet OOP. If you call the 3bet you will typically end up folding on the flop or turn resulting in an even bigger loss! Tighten up vs 3bets preflop to improve your profits!
- Cold calling 3bets too wide: Cold calling is the act of calling a raise when you have yet to invest in the pot. When a player raises and then another player reraises (3bets) they are both likely to only continue with very strong hands (88+, AJ+) so cold calling with a hand such as QJo is extremely unprofitable. When facing a raise and a reraise you should be only continuing with premium holdings such as JJ+ and AK.
- Playing weak hands from early position (EP): EP is a difficult position to play from as there is so many players left to act; any of whom could have strong hand. This means that you should be playing a very narrow and strong range of hands from this position. Hand such as weak pairs, weak aces and offsuit broadway hands shouldn’t be played from this position. For more info see Position is King.
- Not taking table image into account: Table image is the how you are perceived by your opponents. If for example you are seen as aggressive your opponents will be more likely to call you down light because they think you are bluffing frequently. Conversely, if you very rarely raise your opponents will know to fold when you do start raising. Inexperienced players do not take into account previous history and table image very well. Make sure you understand how your opponents have been playing and use it to your advantage.
Bonus: Chasing draws with suited rags: beginners often overestimate the strength of their draws (i.e. likelihood of completing the draw) and as a result, pay too much to see the turn and river. Rag hands such as 84s and 53s are classic examples. This is made worse by the fact the ranks of the cards are also poor, meaning if you miss your draw you have very little chance of taking down the pot. Fold them rag draws!! Thanks to @VenicePaulie for the shout out for this one 🙂
Follow up common poker mistakes with Real money limits, stakes and types of poker games.
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