10 Sep 2020

5 big poker mistakes to avoid

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Poker can be a tricky game to master. From understanding the statistics behind the game to learning how to bluff effectively, there’s a lot for new poker players to learn.

Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process, but if you make the same mistakes over and over, it can start to hold you back.

Here’s our rundown of the most common poker mistakes beginners make. By watching out for these common pitfalls, you’ll find your game starting to improve in no time. 

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1. Playing too many hands aka “Playing too loose”

One of the most common mistakes new poker players make is playing too many hands. 

Why is playing too many hands a problem? Playing every hand is a sign that you’re unwilling to fold when you have a weak hand.

While folding is seen as “boring” by some, knowing when to fold is a skill you must master to become a successful player. By being more selective with the hands you play, you’ll not only improve your win rate but also make your post-flop decisions easier.

2. Playing too few hands aka “Playing too tight”

If playing too many hands is a problem, playing too few can also be a major mistake. “Tightening up” your game can be a great decision – and help you win against loose players – but over-tightening will cause you problems too.

Playing too tight can cause you to miss out on a number of marginal but profitable spots.

Avoid making the mistake of playing too tight by widening your pre-flop ranges and achieving a good balance between value hands and bluffs. If you’re hard to predict – mixing good hands and effective bluffs – you’ll be a hard opponent to beat.

3. Playing the same poker strategy over and over

​​​​​​There are dozens of poker strategies out there. 

Some players are all about playing the odds. Other players are all about the bluff. Some players are loose and play lots of hands. Some play a tighter game and fold when they feel outmatched. 

A common mistake many beginners make is finding a single playing style that they like and then using it all the time.

For example, a player may like tight-conservative gameplay and then always play this way. Sticking to a single style of play is a problem for two reasons:

  1. Different strategies will be effective in different circumstances – and with different opponents. Being fluid in your playing style is key to being successful.
  2. Playing the same way over and over makes you predictable. If you think players aren’t evaluating your playing style, think again.

4. Playing without a defined strategy

​​​​​​Everyone knows that chess requires a strong strategy that looks a number of moves ahead. Yet too many beginners fail to understand that this applies to poker too. 

Too often, new players make decisions without considering how they will affect their hand later on.

By not considering the long-term effect of choices, new players often find themselves in challenging spots. By looking ahead, you can make post-flop play simpler.

So when you’re making a decision, always think about why you are making it and consider your plan for the rest of the hand before taking action.

5. Not checking heads-up displays (HUDs)

Every online poker pro makes the most of the information on heads-up displays or a ‘HUD’. A HUD app shows data about other players - their past performance and styles.

Used correctly, heads up displays can help you make the best decision possible by revealing how your opponents are likely to play.

That said there are risks when using HUDs. A common mistake made by players is to base decisions on insufficient sample sizes. If the HUD is displaying data from only a small sample of a player’s hands, the stats can be misleading. 

So, while a HUD can inform your decisions, it should never dictate them. Trust your instincts and get a feel for players’ styles – then use the data to guide you.

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