10 Mistakes That Sink Beginning Poker Players
2006 Shane M. Dayton  

Like any game involving cards, poker does involve a lot of luck, but if you are new to playing Texas Hold ‘Em, then you are also playing a game that takes a lot of skill. This is the hot game in America right now, and as such everyone wants to play. That being said, there are many common mistakes that sink beginners who might otherwise be pretty good players. Here is a list of ten of the most common mistakes made by beginning Texas Hold ‘Em players, and explanations on how to adjust your game accordingly.

#1 Mistake: Playing way too many hands.
This is the granddaddy of all the mistakes, and one that virtually every beginner makes. This can be understandable. When you sit down at a card table, you want to play. The problem is you need to know hand strengths. J-10 off-suit looks like a good hand. It isn’t. Not enough if you have to pay to get in, or if you are playing at a full table. Too often players will play anything with an ace. If you have A-2, what do you think your chances are when another player holds A-K? Yeah, not that good. Learn true hand strengths, and try to stick to only the top 10-20, and even then, you should throw away more of the 15-20’s than you keep.

#2 Mistake: Playing for more than you can afford.
This should be a basic, and yet it happens. This often happens after several bad beats, or they just become greedy. If it is because of bad beats, remember, you get better players at higher tables. Even though this might mean less eight person hands, it also means that at the end of the day these guys are more likely to take your money than the others. Only play in games you can afford, only ones that match your skill level. If you can’t dominate a lower table, you are not ready for a higher one.

#3 Mistake: Emotions.
Emotions are good for sports, but they have absolutely no place at a poker table. Bad beats will happen. Losing sessions will happen. Annoying opponents running their mouths who don’t know how to play but win anyway will happen. 1,000 to 1 mathematical bad beats will happen. Deal with it, but don’t get emotional.

#4 Mistake: Monkey see, monkey do.
Too many players learn how to play poker by copying the styles they see from other players. This can be someone at the table, a relative at the family game, or some pro they saw on the World Series of Poker on TV. If this is what you have been doing, STOP!
Remember that many people who play poker are wannabes who are terrible at it. Would you copy a test off a D- student? Not unless you were desperate. Why imitate a D- poker player then? As for pros, you never see the forty hands they fold for two hours before playing, and their game, from reading an opponent to pot odds to tells to situational tournament factors pretty much guarantee that you will not be able to copy their train of thought. Also, to be good at poker you must learn to make good poker decisions. You have to learn all the nuances of the game from odds to tells to check raising to situational situations. If you don’t learn now, you won’t win later.

#5 Mistake: Not using pot odds
If you just asked “what are pot odds?” Go read a web site, go find a book, go ask a friend whose game is way above yours. Do something. You should not play until you understand this basic underlying concept. Very few beginning players understand pot odds, and they usually call way too often when they should just run away. Learn pot odds, and use them on every single hand.

#6 Mistake: Not following etiquette
There are special rules for conduct around the table, and also playing a game. These are not hard to find, as virtually all dealers, casinos, and players want there to be more people following these guidelines. The most common mistake with etiquette usually does not mean being a joke, but the most common mistake (you see this all the time on movies) is “I see your ZZ and raise you ZZZ.” In poker, your one action is your only action. If you say “I call” or “I see” then that is what you do. If you want to raise, just say you are going to raise, count out the call chips, and then figure out your raise. Always tell the amount of the raise.

#7 Mistake: Lucky Socks and Dead Man’s Hand
All gambling involves luck. While luck will usually even out over the long run, especially in games like poker where so much math is involved, people naturally focus on the short run and on their fluctuations. Since even poker has a degree of randomness, many people will talk about bad luck or an unlucky streak. There is no magic luck, there are no fates around the corner waiting for you to seek your destiny. There are good streaks and there are bad streaks and you will have both. Don’t concentrate on luck, and don’t throw away A-8 if you hit two pair because it is a dead man’s hand. If you have two pair with no obvious threat, play it! If you play well, you will be “lucky,” if you play badly, you won’t. It’s still about the skills.

#8 Mistake: Overvaluing Suited Hands
This is one of the most common mistakes. At many tables full of beginners, every starting hand with two suited cards will be played. Having a suited hand is a plus, it does make your hand slightly stronger, but there’s the key word. Slightly. First, would you even consider playing your hand if it wasn’t suited? If not, throw it away. Too many people go to the flop. The chance of flopping a flush is about 1%. The chance of even getting a flush draw of any kind (even a long shot) is 12%. What if you play 3-8 suited and someone else plays A-10? Well then you’re in trouble.

#9 Mistake: I have to bluff to win
Bluffing is such a small part of playing poker, that beginners should not even think about it. When you understand the game well enough to only play good starting hands, to read your opponent correctly the majority of the time, to understand betting patterns, to spot tells, and to do all the math in your head on what happens if you are called, then consider it. Until then, don’t even try it. Even to the best players in the world bluffing is a miniscule part of their game, and it often gets them in trouble just as often as it gives them a victory.

#10 Mistake: Gold can turn into Lead
If you are holding A-K before the flop, that’s great. If the flop is 8-8-Q, with one 8 and the Q suited, but none of the suits matching your hand, then the moment people start betting, your hand is worthless. A single eight means you have to catch runner-runner, a queen means you have to assume someone has a full house, and even if you hit an ace or king, there’s a good chance (1/3) that one of them gives someone else a flush. A-K, A-Q- K-Q, A-J may all be good hands before a flop, but if nothing hits, don’t hold on. They’re not worth it anymore.

Bonus Mistake: Using a two-color deck in online games.
All table games will have your normal two colors, two black suits and two red. Some online poker rooms offer four colors, a different one for each suit. If they offer this, use them! If you don’t, it is only a matter of time until you mistakenly think you have a flush when you don’t. Four suits make it easy to see if you do or don’t, and make it easier to identify when someone else might have a flush on a board (ever have that third card sneak up on you on the river because you’re looking at something else? Most of us have). If you think you have a flush and don’t, often times you lose the most money because you bet the house with rags.

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