The competitive world of poker is fierce. These days, beginners are spoilt for choice when it comes to strategy guides, video tutorials and expert content, making the ‘weaker’ players a damned sight stronger than those who came before them.
For players to prosper in today’s game, it isn’t just important to make consistently good decisions, but also to keep mistakes to a bare minimum. To help you improve your game, we’ve highlighted some of the most common mistakes.
Going on tilt
What’s the easiest way to throw all of your chips away? Suffering a bad beat on the river? Flopping a strong hand against a monster? Guess again. Being put on tilt (a state of anger) by an opponent can cause you to make irrational decisions and chase unnecessary pots. To avoid letting your emotions get the better of you, walk away from the table (or computer), take a deep breath and reflect on what your opponents are trying to do.
Not considering position
Have you ever raised from early position (the seat just after the big blind) with a mediocre hand? If so, you may be underestimating the power of ‘position’. Playing out of position in poker is like fighting in a dual, only to give the other cowboy your gun. It’s really that important. Playing in position means you are last to act, giving you the opportunity to assess the previous play before making an informed decision. You should be considering your position before every hand.
Over-valuing your hand
One of the most common errors made by beginners is over-valuing their hand. For example, if you have a weak top pair on the flop and two players go all-in ahead of you, there is a strong chance your hand is no good. You shouldn’t be calling here. This is also true pre-flop, where some novices play far too many hands and end up being crushed. To avoid this, carefully consider the ranks of your cards and position at the table. By avoiding the mistake of calling to see the flop with any two cards, you save chips in the long run.
Over or under-betting the pot
Before making a bet, you should be asking yourself two questions: what am I trying to achieve and how does my bet size reflect my goal? You could have the nuts (the best hand), but if you don’t size your bet appropriately, you run the risk of not getting paid off. If you are playing tight and aggressive, you want to ensure you extract the optimal amount of value when you’re in a good spot.
Not paying attention
If you’ve been sat at a poker table for a good while, it can be tempting to switch off and turn your attention elsewhere. Here’s one piece of advice: don’t. The best players will closely monitor how their opponents play, looking for any weaknesses or potential tells. This is of considerable importance when a hand goes to a showdown, allowing you to see what cards your opponents are holding. This information could be key for future pots, so make mental notes.
Showing your cards
Win or lose, showing your cards is commonplace among beginners who don’t understand just how much information they are giving away. Put another way, showing your cards is like handing a burglar your house keys or giving someone your computer password. You’re effectively handing the opposition information you don’t need to. In certain situations, showing your cards can be effective if you choose to do something different in that same position later on, but it is still a risky strategy. Unless you have to, keep your cards to yourself. As the old adage goes: knowledge is power.
This one is simple: if you think bluffing is risky, don’t do it. If you have bluffed on a couple of streets and have a bad image, you need to know when to let the pot go. Unless you have a fantastic read (and we mean fantastic) on your opponent, you should be asking yourself whether they would really be calling every raise with a nothing hand.
What mistakes do you see poker players making? How have you learnt to plug any leaks in your game? Let us know!