No poker player is infallible. If you play enough poker, you are going to make mistakes. It is how you adjust to the mistakes and what you learn from them that make the difference between a winning and losing player. One could never list all the mistakes that poker players make so this article is going to look at the most common mistakes that players make on a routine basis. You'll learn what they are and how to pick them out as well as how to correct the mistakes you are making.
Mistake #1 - Raising with marginal hands in early position
This would seem to be only a mistake a beginner would make but you would be surprised to learn that experienced players raise with marginal hands in early position all the time. How often do you get a hand like A-10 or K-J suited under the gun and think “this is the first good hand I've had in 45 minutes, I have to play it” and open the action with a raise. Don't kid yourself... you know that you do this... everyone does. What exactly then is the problem since everyone does it?
The problem is that when you act in early position with a marginal hand you have to react to your opponents rather than them reacting to you. If your opponent re-raises you, you have basically thrown away the chips you've already put in the pot. Why? Your opponent understands that you have raised from early position and the range of hands they put you on is most likely pretty high. They have this information available to them and yet they have still raised you. This generally means they have no fear of your reaction to their raise. They like their hand and are going to play it. Now your hand is no good and the chips you have raised with are gone. Another big mistake is calling these re-raises but most capable players will fold marginal hands in these situations because of the logic dictated above.
Mistake #2 - Giving away information about your play
There are advocates that say you should vary the size of your opening raise based upon your position, the strength of your hand, and the tendencies of the players left to act. These same experts say that you should do it randomly so you don't give away information about the strength of your hand. The problem with this logic is people have a natural tendency - no matter how hard they might try, they fall into predictable patterns. You might think that you are raising four times the big blind 75% of the time, but most likely you're doing it more frequently.
The most common mistake players make is to bet a certain amount based on how strong their hand is. Some players will bet big with their great hands wanting to reduce the size of the field, while other players will do the exact opposite to encourage callers and action. If you are consistent in doing one of these, it's fine. When you start to vary what you do though problems will occur. For example, if you are the type of player who likes to bet less when you have a great hand but when you are trying to steal the blinds you raise more, then an observant player is going to pick up on this and fold their good hands (or when the stacks are deep, call because of the high implied value) when you have a good hand, and re-raise you with anything when they know you are stealing. By varying your bets you are giving your opponents information that they can use against you.
Mistake #3 - Not making proper sized bets
Poker players often bet either too much or too little. When a player is betting they usually have three purposes in mind:
- One, to get their opponent(s) to fold.
- Two, to get them to call for value when they feel they have the best hand.
- Three, to induce a raise from their opponent when they feel they have the best hand.
Whenever you make a bet you have a desired/intended result. The bet that you make in these instances will depend on whether you are bluffing or betting for value. When bluffing, you should bet the least amount possible to get your opponent to fold. When betting for value, you should bet the highest amount possible that your opponent will call.
How to determine the amount to bet will depend on several underlying factors. What are your opponent’s tendencies? Do they often fold when facing a bet? If so, you can make a smaller bet when bluffing. Do they often call when drawing and you have top pair? If so, you should make a larger bet. There will be times you will make a bet to give your opponent the appearance that you are weak. Like with everything else, this will depend on your opponent. You need to know how they have reacted to other small or large bets. If a large bet is weak to them and you have a strong hand, you should over bet the pot or something along those lines. The same is true if you run into an opponent that thinks a small bet is weak... make a small bet so they will pay you off or come over the top of you. Using observation of your opponents and their betting thresholds is how you add to your stack when you have it and lose less when you don't.
The Main Holdem Strategy Index: The Great Game of Holdem