10 Common Poker Mistakes

"Poker is a lot like sex, everyone thinks they are the best, but most don’t have a clue what they are doing!" – Dutch Boyd

1. Playing Out of Position

There are times to play marginal hands and times to avoid playing them. Unless you have mastered complex play, avoid playing weak hands unless you are in a very late position (the last or second last player to play a hand) and it is cheap to call. If you call in an early position, a later position may raise, forcing you to either abandon your earlier bet or waste more money on a marginal hand. Later positions allow you to read the strength of other players’ hands and therefore make informed decisions about whether or not to call.

2. Bluffing Unskilled Players

Take time to figure out the skill level of your opponents before attempting to bluff. Unskilled players are often incapable of grasping bluffing, play very loosely or simply don’t know whether or not they’re holding a strong hand. Nothing is more frustrating than having your all-in bluff called by a player who has paired with the lowest card on the board.

3. Weak Betting into Pots

A common mistake many poker players make is to raise their bet by the minimum amount when they make a hand. If you think you have a hand, bet at least double the minimum, otherwise you are simply offering players aiming to make high pairs, straights or flushes on the turn or river, a low cost opportunity to call and make their hands.

4. Showing Cards

Unless you’re using the showing of your cards as a psychological element of your play, avoid showing your cards. Players on the blinds who show their cards after a whole table has folded around their rags are simply inviting the rest of the table to raise bets next time around. A poker player’s biggest asset is unpredictability – never give other players an opportunity to know whether they’ve been either bluffed or squarely beaten.

5. Going All-In With Strong Pocket Cards

Some players can’t resist going all-in every time they hit high pocket pairs or suited connectors. One of the results of this is to turn the subsequent hand into a coin-toss and set the scene for a bad beat. The other result is to discourage other players from putting their money into the pot. Unless you’re playing for your life in a tournament and aiming to double up from a call by a bigger stack, it’s generally a good idea to let other players into the pot, and then play to get as much value from your hand as possible.

6. Lose Focus

If you’re not concentrating on a poker game you’re not absorbing information about your opponents that could be crucial at a later stage. Playing three games at a time or wiling away the early stages of a tournament watching your favourite movie is a sure-fire way to find the rail.

7. Talk

Apart from polite acknowledgement of others’ hands it’s a good idea to stay out of chats while playing poker. At best you’ll get distracted, at worst you’ll end up getting involved in endless verbal sparring with other players at the table. Having a personal vendetta against someone at your table is a definite way to put yourself under unnecessary pressure when playing crucial hands.

8. Stop Betting If You Don’t Make Your Hand On the Flop

Many beginners will check rather than bet if they haven’t made a hand on the flop. If you do this, you are not only telling everyone seated at the table that you don’t have a hand, you’re also losing the opportunity to place a bet and either read the strength of your opponents hands by their reaction, or to take down the pot when they fold their own weak hands. The best time to play a check and flat call game is when you’re holding the nuts and want to give your opponents enough rope to hang themselves.

9. Play too many hands

Putting money into the pot to see every flop is a very common mistake. Sure you may hit the occasional straight or full-house, however, the odds are that your stack or bankroll will steadily dwindle until you’re left making minimal gains when you do hit a big hand. Playing too many hands also seems to encourage many players to pay that little bit extra to see the turn or river hoping that they’ll make their hands – another sure-fire way of burning money.

10. Play tight predictable poker

If you only ever enter a hand when you’re holding pocket pairs or high-value suited connectors, or check/fold every time you don’t make your hand on the flop, you will find that before long even the dimmest player will start pushing you around. Mix your play up a bit by playing marginal hands in position or check-raising when you have strong hands to avoid becoming predictable.

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