Poker is a diabolically deceptive game. At first glance, it looks very easy to play. After playing just a few hands, however, most people realize that there are many—many—complexities that aren’t initially obvious.
Even veteran and professional poker players will readily admit that they don’t know everything and are constantly learning in order to improve their game. From complex math and combinatorics to the fine art of reading other people’s intentions, the subtle nuances that help separate the winners from the losers can seem to be infinite.
Where does that leave the novice and amateur poker players, though? If even the pros still find themselves missing some answers, what chances does an amateur who plays a few nights per week or month have of coming out a winner?
The answer is, “Much better chances than you think.”
In the meantime, you can find my favourite online casinos to play Let it Ride Poker from home. Or you can keep reading about the most common mistakes when playing poker…
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The thing is, most recreational players aren’t going to come up against professional players very often—if ever. If you play for fun on the weekends, the great majority of the time, you’re going to be playing with people just like yourself. You don’t need crazy moves or a degree in mathematics to win consistently at the recreational level. All you need to do is follow some basic guidelines and you’ll drastically improve your chances of leaving the table with a bigger stack.
So, if you’re a recreational poker player that’s been struggling to win, we’re here to help you turn the tables on your opponents. By eliminating some of the most common amateur poker mistakes from your game, you can minimize losses, maximize wins, and start building a bankroll instead of draining your bank account.
Below is our list of the top seven poker mistakes that many amateur players make over and over again. Eliminate these bankroll busting bad habits from your game and you’ll see your results turn around immediately.
Don’t Play Poker On Tilt
“Tilt” is a state of anger and/or agitation brought on by bad results, bad beats, or just plain annoying opponents. There are many different things that can bring on tilt, but the bottom line is that once you’re playing on tilt you’re going to bleed money.
One of the most important aspects of playing good poker is that you absolutely must keep your emotions in check. Poker is a game of logic and probabilities. When you let your emotions get in the way of making logical decisions, you’re going to lose.
Making matters worse, playing on tilt often leads to a vicious circle of trouble. You get mad about something that happened and start making bad plays. Then you get mad because you’re making bad plays. Your anger causes you to play poorly which causes more anger and the cycle feeds itself.
If you want to become a better poker player, it is crucial that your learn to recognize when you are playing on tilt and do everything you can to eliminate it from your game—even if that means that you need to stop playing until you’re in a better state of mind.
Don’t Play Too Loose
A major mistake many novice poker players make is to play too many hands. Some believe that the more hands they play the more chances they have to win. Others just get bored of waiting for a good hand and start playing bad hands just to get in on the action.
As far as the odds and probabilities go, there are far more losing starting hands than there are winners. Most professional poker players will readily tell you that the way to winning big is not knowing when to play but knowing when to fold.
Don’t Play Too Tight
On the other side of the coin, it’s also important not to play too few hands. Many players don’t realize it, but if you always wait for the absolute best cards, paying the blinds will slowly drain your bankroll. You not only need to win, but you also need to win enough to get back the money that you pay into the blinds.
The blinds might not seem like much in a game where you can take someone’s entire stack with one hand, but they add up to a significant amount of money over time. For that reason, you need to make sure that you are giving yourself the chance to win when good cards come along. You’ll have to play at least a few hands that make you uncomfortable sometimes. You can’t just sit back and wait for the absolute best cards.
Don’t Get Tricky
Many players think they have to pull off wild moves and make courageous bluffs to win. They see it on TV and want to emulate the pros. This is a recipe for disaster.
When you’re playing against recreational amateurs, it’s best to play a straightforward game. Bet big when you have it and don’t be afraid to fold when you don’t. That’s it.
The thing is that big bluffs only work on players who are thinking about what’s going on and trying to figure out what you have. Recreational players aren’t thinking that far ahead. They’re only looking at their own hand and then deciding if they want to fold or go to the river.
If your opponent doesn’t fold to your bet on the flop, he is most likely not going to fold if you bluff and bet bigger on the turn or the river. You’ll just be throwing money away.
The right way to take advantage of a player like that is to fold when you have nothing and bet big when you have a good hand. His unwillingness to fold is what you need to exploit. To do that, you should only bet when you’re most likely to win the hand at showdown.
Don’t Play Without A Strategy
You don’t need to design complex, hard to remember strategies to win, but you shouldn’t just play it by ear either. You should have an idea of what hands you want to play and how you will play them.
As a base, you should know which hands you want to raise with preflop and which hands you want to call with. From there, you should always know what you want to do once you’re in the hand. For example, if you get into a hand with AJ, before anything else happens you should be thinking something along the lines of:
- If I get reraised (3-bet) preflop I’m going to fold.
- If I connect with the flop I’m going to bet.
- If I miss the flop I might make a continuation bet but then fold to aggression.
- If I connect and my opponent doesn’t raise me, I’ll bet 3 streets for value.
You want to have a basic plan before you put money in the pot—and you need to stick to it. The game is much easier to play if you make most of your decisions ahead of time. It will help you to stay out of trouble and avoid tilt.
Don’t Chase After Losses
There is no such thing as the perfect poker game. No matter how good you play, you’re going to lose on a regular basis. No hand is guaranteed to win until the river card comes. It is a part of the game and you need to accept it.
Winning players make money by either winning more often than they lose or winning more money on winning hands than they lose on losing hands. Nobody makes money by winning every time.
One of the biggest mistakes new players make is to start betting bigger and becoming more aggressive after they’ve suffered a few losses. This is a form of tilt and these tactics will decimate your bankroll.
The best thing you can do after going through a string of losses is to just take a break, make sure your head is clear, and then come back and play exactly as you were playing.
If you’re playing in a way that consistently makes money over time, you shouldn’t change things based on short term results. Lady luck will always be willing to mess with you now and then but if you play a consistent and disciplined game, the odds will eventually shift things back in your favour over the long run.
Don’t Play Without A Bankroll Management Plan
Every gambler needs to manage what is known as the risk of ruin. The risk of ruin is the risk you run of losing your entire bankroll. A good bankroll management plan will help you to minimize that risk and make sure that you always have a sufficient bankroll to ride out losing streaks (assuming that you’re playing a winning game).
All professional players will tell you that you need to decide how much of your bankroll you are willing to risk at one time and let that amount dictate the limits you will play. In general, most players will recommend that you limit your risk to 2%-5% of your bankroll in any one game. For example, if your bankroll is £100, you should only risk £5 in any single game—£5 buy-in tables.
Think about it this way: If you put 10% of your bankroll on the line every time you play you only need to lose your stack 10 times in a row to be out of money. That might not seem very likely, but it is most certainly possible. Now, if you only risk 2% of your bankroll on each game, you’d have to lose 50 times in a row to be ruined. That is much less likely to happen. Risking 2% at a time, you have a stronger ability to ride out long losing streaks while maintaining enough cash to continue playing until things eventually turn around.
The smaller the amount you risk in each game, the lower your risk of ruin. Exactly how much you risk is going to depend on the type of games you play and your risk tolerance. Those who like to play large multi-table tournaments, for example, will have a different bankroll management plan than players who prefer full-ring cash games.
It is generally recommended that newer players stick to a risk of 1%-2% of their bankroll. Then, as you become more comfortable and establish a proven win rate, you can make adjustments to the plan if you like.
Put On Your Poker Face
Now it’s time to put on your poker face and get into the game. Don’t worry if you can’t get some of these bad habits out of your game right away. It might take some time to reprogram yourself and develop the discipline you need. That’s just fine, though.
Whatever you do, remember to have fun and gamble responsibly. And if these tips have helped you, why not pass them on to a friend?
Cheers and good luck!