Poker is simple on the outside but is incredibly deep and intricate the more you learn about it. While the game can be learned in minutes, mastering it is a different story. Poker strategy has many factors that vary from game to game, which is why it is so complicated. There are endless scenarios at the table, all influenced by your position, opponents’ playstyles, the community cards, etc. All the best poker players constantly adapt their strategy every game, and there are so many possible scenarios that even computers have not fully solved poker.
For beginners, learning about this depth of strategy may be daunting. Thankfully, there is no shortage of resources for learning how to play poker, from books written by professionals to the many articles online. After learning the rules and beginner concepts like the four poker playstyles, a great way to improve your gameplay is to identify and eliminate the common mistakes you make as a beginner. This poker guide will give you a list of pre-flop errors and ways to stop making them. That information will significantly help you as a beginner, and you might still be making some mistakes even as an intermediate player.
Often seen as a “cardinal sin” of poker, limping is one of the simplest and most common mistakes beginners make. Limping is slang for entering the pot by calling the blinds instead of raising or folding. There are several reasons why limping is discouraged, and a limp often paints you as a bad player that gets isolated and focused on by the better players at the table. It does not give you a direct way to win the pot, unlike a raise that would potentially get others to fold. It also does not put any pressure on the other players, allowing them to see the flop easier, and giving them better odds. Many players limp to disguise the strength of their hand, but that can backfire easily if your opponents get to the flop for free with a drawing hand.
Position is a concept most beginners are unaware of, but it is one of the most critical things to know when playing poker. Your seat at the table determines when you act compared to the other players. Playing late gives you a tremendous informational advantage since you can see everyone’s actions before they see yours, and it guarantees that you can close the action and move to the next round. A later position allows you to play more hands and get more information, so you should aim to maximize your profits from a late position. Likewise, you should tighten your range from an early position since you are unsure of how the players acting after you will respond.
Becoming attached to hands
Another prevalent mistake is getting too emotionally invested in a hand. Sometimes you just do not want to let a hand go and will continue calling until you get to the showdown and lose. That can stem from wanting a draw but not knowing the odds or being unable to accept that what was once a strong hand pre-flop completely missed the flop. Regardless of why you do this, it is always a mistake. Not only will it result in you losing lots of money, but it could also get you tilted and ruin your mental state if you lose at the showdown.
Not playing the blinds properly
The blinds are some of the most misunderstood rules in poker. Despite having a positional advantage pre-flop, they are first to act post-flop and are forced to contribute to the pot, making them one of the worst positions in poker. Many people play very loosely from the blinds, which is not advised because you act first post-flop. However, some people fold too often from the blinds. That is a steady loss over time, which is even worse in 6-max since you play from the blinds more than in full-ring. While you should not be playing very loosely, you must still take opportunities to defend your blinds. The big and small blinds have better odds when deciding to call and see the flop thanks to the bets they have already put in the pot, meaning you can afford to call more than you would normally. Do not overuse this, though, as better odds do not justify playing too many marginal hands out of position post-flop.
Overly passive play
A common theme throughout most of these mistakes is that being unassertive is not good, which is mostly true. A passive strategy is generally inferior to an aggressive one, and many players rely on calling or folding too often. Aggression gives you a different way to win the pot besides having a good hand at the showdown. It also gives you information since you can see if your opponents call, raise, or fold to your bets.
Ignoring your opponents
The final mistake beginners make pre-flop is not paying attention to their opponents’ playstyles. To succeed, you must change up your playstyle depending on how you see your opponents react to it. If you notice your opponent seems tight and will rarely call your 3-bets, you should start bluffing with 3-bets more often. You should constantly attempt to steal the blinds from someone who does not defend them, as good steals keep you winning. As a beginner, your opponents are likely to make these mistakes too. You want to look for them to gain an edge.
Practicing poker online
We hope this article taught you how to play poker better by eliminating your mistakes. To practice what you’ve learned, you should play on sites like GGPoker, the world’s largest poker room. Online poker is superior to physical poker for learning, as it is more convenient and faster-paced. Perhaps the biggest reason to play online poker is poker tracking software. That software analyzes you and your opponents to provide helpful insights for improving your game.