The game of online poker has changed a lot over the years, especially when it comes to strategy and study methods. Some things never change, however, so you’ll often find recreational players making the same common rookie poker mistakes they were making back in the day.
If you’re looking to plug some leaks in your online play, or you just want some casual pointers that will help you out in your home game this weekend, here are the most common mistakes when playing poker that you should try and eradicate from your game.
Your position on the table in relation to your opponents is one the most important factors when considering playing a hand, yet it’s often overlooked by many, particularly newcomers.
For example, picking up pocket fours from late position and opening is a fairly standard play. Open with them from under the gun, however, and with eight other players left to act after you it’s highly likely you’ll be called or three-bet before the flop arrives. When it does, unless it contains a four, you’ll rarely see a flop you like. Making matters worse, you’ll likely be out of position post-flop too.
Having position on your opponents allows you some flexibility to play hands more aggressively. If you are going to three-bet out of posiition pre-flop–from the small blind versus a cutoff open, for example–you might want to raise more than you usually would in order to give your opponent worse odds to call and see a flop.
Bad bankroll management
Before you register for a tournament or sit down in a cash game on online poker sites, ask yourself this question: can I comfortably afford to lose this money?
While it’s fun and exciting to take a shot in a bigger game than you’d usually play every now and then–heck, even the player who won last week’s $109 Sunday Million for $111K, Vinicius Perri, told us his average buy-in is $35–you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Pinning your hopes on the outcome of a single game, let alone one that you can’t really afford to play, is going to hinder your judgement and prevent you from playing your best.
Make sure you’re always comfortable financially in the games you’re playing.
Playing too tight / too loose
Unlike live poker down your local casino, online poker moves quick and lets everyone see more hands thanks to the time limits placed on every action. However, don’t get too comfortable. Waiting for big pocket pairs and ace-king is all well and good, but if you’ve dwindled down to a short stack by the time you finally pick them up, then even if you double up you’re still not likely to be in a strong position.
If you watch the likes of Lex Veldhuis, Fintan Hand or Benjamin Spragg play on their Twitch streams, you’ll see them mix it up by opening hands like suited connectors from mid-to-late position from time to time. This not only gives you more opportunities to build your stack, but it also keeps your opponents guessing too.
Of course, don’t take the above advice too far and start opening everything from any position. You might pick up chips in the short term–look at Lex Veldhuis’ ‘all-in every hand’ tournament, where he often builds a monumental stack before giving it all away again–but in the long run it’s a surefire way to burn through your stack.
Missing value and sizing badly
The min-raise is a move you’ll see frequently in home games with your mates. Y’know, something along the lines of “I’ll see your ten, and raise you another ten” (we’ll forget about the string bet for now).
While there are occasions that min-raising can be a reasonable play, doing so often means that players miss out on tons of value they could have got had they bet bigger. If you’ve got a strong hand, bet big and hope they call!
When you’ve seen a flop, try and form a plan in your head for how you’re going to act on the turn and river. If you have a very strong hand, this could mean calculating your bets so that you get to shove all-in on the river, thus getting maximum value.
On the flip side, if your hand has whiffed everything there’s no need to bet the pot. Take a stab by all means, but give yourself an easy decision by betting smaller. That way, should your opponent raise you can get away from it without too much damage to your stack.
Take a look through a recent hand history and see if there were opportunities for you to get more value, or reduce your risk by betting smaller.
Letting emotions take over
There’s one thing in poker that has caused more players to go broke over the years than anything else.
You know what we’re talking about. The dreaded “T” word.
It’s easy for tilt to get the best of you when your pocket aces are cracked by jack-six offsuit or your opponent hits that one-outer in a chip leading pot. Bad beats can be brutal.
Just know that there will always be another game the next day, next week, or next month. If you no longer feel like you’re playing your best, walk away and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Your bankroll will thank you the next morning.
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