Poker is a thinking person’s game. The more experience you have playing the game, the better you become at it. As legends of the game always say, if you can’t spot the sucker at the table you’re it. Beginners have a tendency to follow the same patterns, time and again. For example, the most obvious mistake that all novice poker players make is playing too many starting hands. They feel that if you’re dealt a hand you should play it, and bluff your way to victory even if it’s a shoddy hand.
When you are putting real money into the pot, there is no room for mistakes. Poker players should only play premium starting hands, or simply fold. You may be enduring a bad beat, or you may be playing on tilt, possibly even trying to recover your losses. These are some of the many rookie mistakes that players make in games of Texas Holdem, Omaha Hi-Lo, 7 Card Stud, and others. Another big mistake that greenhorns regularly make is bluffing excessively. We all want to get the better of our competition, but a bluff is only effective when used infrequently.
Let’s look at the top 5 most common poker mistakes that greenhorns make in cash games and tournaments:
- Don’t Defend Blinds at All Costs
If you’re a seasoned poker player, you know what it means to defend blinds. For novices, this concept needs a little clarification. Every time you buy into a poker game, there are a series of mandatory bets known as blinds. These include the big blind and the small blind. If there are 6 – 8 players per table, at least 2 of them will pay these forced bets, and as the button moves around the table, each player gets an opportunity to pay the mandatory bets. Once you’ve paid your blinds, you may feel that it is your duty to play your cards so as not to simply fold and forfeit the blinds.
There are other mandatory bets that all players may have to pay known as antes – these bring in bets are required to buy into a game. You don’t have to play every hand that you are dealt, because that simply means you going to be throwing good money after bad cards. Rather cut your losses if your starting hand is weak and live to play another day. Remember, the blinds can increase as you move into the latter stages of a poker tournament, and by that stage, you certainly want to keep a close check on your bankroll.
- Don’t Repeatedly Cold Call
Cold calling is a poker term used to describe the act of matching a raise and/or a re-raise. It’s a weak approach to playing your hand, especially if it is a poor hand. By simply agreeing with the going ‘bets’ at the table, without conducting due diligence as to the strength of your hand you’re being foolhardy. It reflects a lack of discipline and an inability to manage your bankroll well, or to understand the nature of the game. Of course, cold calling can work if you are holding a premium-value hand, and you’re waiting to build up the pot by meeting other raises and re-raises around the table.
- Avoid Going on Tilt
Tilting has nothing to do with falling over, or drinking too much. However, neither of those pastimes is advised when you’re playing real money poker games. Going on tilt is a reference to playing emotionally-based games. This is not a good way to manage your poker sessions, since it assures only one outcome: manic behaviour where you chase your losses, or think that a purple patch will continue indefinitely. You should always play with your head, and not your heart in poker. This is one of a few casino card games where skill and strategy means more than gut instinct.
- Don’t play Low-Value Pairs in EP
Your position at a poker table is a lot more important than you think. When you’re in early position (EP), you don’t know what cards other players have, or what decisions they are going to be making. When you are in middle position, you have an idea about how players are betting, and by late position, you can watch everybody else and make the most educated decision about the hand. Therefore, it is ill-advised to play low-value pairs – however rare they are – in early position. In early position, you’ve still got the Flop, Turn and River to go. It’s always best to wait and see what happens. Always play premium-value hands in early position.
- Play the Players and Your Cards
Poker is a game of psychology, not numbers. Well, actually it’s both. It’s equally important to play your hand as it is to play the players seated at your table. Every now and then, you should change things up to confuse your opponents. Throw in all weak starting hands as a rule, never play weak pairs in early position, and don’t put too much into the pot with poor hands. However, if you suspect that your opponents are concealing a week hand, you may want to challenge them every now and then. The last thing you want to be at a poker table is predictable. The more enigmatic you are, the more likely you are to bamboozle your opponents and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.