Five mistakes poker beginners often make, and how to avoid them

by Jun 9, 2019Poker News

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Sadly for most poker novices, it's difficult to learn from mistakes – all of which are costly.  

As a general rule, errors you make will cost you a little pot and, in many circumstances, the mistakes will eat away at your stack and ultimately send you to the rail.  

There are five common mistakes that many beginners make, and avoiding them doesn’t need to be difficult.

Going into a hand looking for a coin-flip is a sure way to find elimination sooner.  They look good on TV, but most cash players know that they need to be avoided. Other than in uncommon events of players being on uber-tilt, or simply being ready to throw in the towel, the main hand's players will push with pre-flop will solely be comprised of A-K or high pocket pairs.  Hoping to get lucky on a coin-flip pre-flop is almost always a losing proposition.

Another normal mix-up made by novices is exaggerating their hands.  Observe players who are new to the game and a majority of them will never fold a hand that is equal to, or better than, top pair.  There is almost a palatable difference in the reaction of a novice or a pro flopping bottom two pair. Don’t overplay the hand and always understand what the hand odds are, and how your opponents might react.  Only with rare exception, unless you hold a high-ended straight, the hand is marginal at best and you don’t need to expect to win a huge pot. 

In playing a drawing hand, you hope to hit your draw and, if successful, make the pot swell – no one plays a drawing hand to pick it up just to check.  Once the draw is hit, the player is committed; however, opponents that call or raise are most likely looking at strong hands, as well. There’s always a chance that hitting the draw will result in only having the second-best hand, so don’t assume that you have won and throw all your chips into the middle.

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Many beginners will go into a hand and play thinking that they cannot afford to lose what they have already committed.  Known as playing on “scared money,” a more experienced player will recognize this and use it against the player. Don’t confuse the chips in the hand with what you have in the bank.  Successful players know how to disconnect what’s needed to play, but be ready to use your entire stack when the time is right.

In the event that the wagers you make give your opponents an undeniable image of the hand you're holding, at that point they will never commit any errors. In the event that they’re never committing errors, you're not going to profit.  Many novices will consider just a single part of betting, overlooking all the others. Subsequently, their bet sizing turns into an inconvenience as opposed to an advantage.

Whenever you play a hand in a manner that earns less value than what would be possible, you are losing money.  With pocket Aces, for example, the win margin could be as great as 8-1 and you want to make sure your opponent calls your re-raise.  Your position needs to be small enough to make them want to stay in, but large enough to maximize the effort. If your re-raise makes your opponent believe that you’re bluffing and, as a result, moves all-in, you have just gained a powerful edge – moving all-in from the start considerably weakens that edge.

All too often, beginners believe that it’s necessary to win each hand.  This is a fallacy and an impossibility. The goal is to win the game, not the hand, and this is only possible with perfectly-timed squeezes, patience and an understanding of your opponents, as well as an understanding of yourself.  Don’t become too excited too early; let the cards fall and bide your time, waiting for the optimal moment to strike.

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