Top Five Poker Mistakes to Avoid
There are a lot of things that can go wrong at the poker table if you’re not careful, but there are relatively obvious poker mistakes to avoid, and we’re going to help you do just that. As we mentioned in our previous article about poker strategy, all of the mistakes that players make ultimately boil down to four distinct categories:
- Calling too often
- Folding too often
- Bluffing too often
- Not betting for value often enough
Once you realize your opponent is committing one of these four cardinal sins, you can exploit them and start taking their money. Even more importantly, you can stop yourself from making the same mistakes and getting exploited – if you’re honest about your weaknesses, and willing to review your past sessions to see where you may have messed up.
The problem with these four general categories is that they don’t tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong. Context is key; there are certain specific situations where you might be calling too often, or committing any of these errors, and those are the situations you need to target if you want to improve your results. With that in mind, here’s our top five list of poker mistakes to avoid when you’re playing at Bodog.
1. Calling Out of Position
Calling too often is the No. 1 problem for just about everyone regardless of experience, but it’s especially bad when you call an open-raise from someone in early position and you’re still several seats away from the button. When you do this, you give the other remaining players the opportunity to “squeeze” you with a timely 3-bet.
The squeeze play works so well because the early-position raiser is more likely to fold in this multi-way spot, not knowing what you’ve got in your hand. When you’re the caller here, chances are you have a marginal hand or a draw, and if you call that 3-bet, you’re going to have to play the rest of the hand out of position.
Calling can still be the right thing to do if you happen to have the right cards, like a medium pair or suited Broadway hand in Texas Hold’em – and if the stacks are deep enough to make it worth speculating. Otherwise, save this play for when you’re on the button and you know you’ll be in position post-flop.
2. Overplaying Small Pairs in Early Position
This is a Hold’em-specific problem, and it’s a big one for most new online poker players. It’s very common to see people opening any pocket pair from any position, hoping to spike a set on the flop and scoop up a big pot. “Set mining” like this can be profitable, and it’s a relatively easy play to make, but if you do it with baby pairs (Fives or lower) from under the gun, you’re asking for trouble.
As with Mistake No. 1, when there are still several players left to act, you need to be more selective with the hands you play. If you try to set-mine with a pair of Deuces from under the gun, you’re putting yourself in grave danger of someone else calling you with a bigger pair and hitting a bigger set – remember, we did say medium pairs make good calling hands in these spots.
You’ll lose most of your money in poker when you have the second-best hand and your opponent has the nuts. Losing set-over-set like this is frustrating, but you can avoid the worst of it by only opening pocket Sixes or better from under the gun at a 6-max table, and maybe Eights or Nines at a full-ring table.
3. Under-Defending the Big Blind
For some strange reason, the calling disease isn’t quite so contagious when people are in the big blind. You might be out of position with some janky hole cards, but because you’ve already “paid” the blind, you’re usually getting too good a price not to complete and see the flop.
This dynamic gets even more pronounced the fewer people there are at the table. If you’re playing heads-up, the math says you should usually be calling or raising with at least 90% of your hands – maybe even all of them if your opponent happens to be loose.
4. Chasing Weak Draws
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you’re trying to complete a flush or a straight, and the exact card you need hits the board. One of the top poker mistakes to avoid is chasing this feeling when the odds aren’t in your favour.
Remember the Rule of Four and Two: If you have a flush draw in Hold’em, you have nine outs to make your hand, which means you have approximately a 36% chance (9 x 4) to complete when you’re on the flop, and about 18% (9 x 2) when you’re on the turn. Straights have eight outs to complete, and a non-pocket pair has five outs to make a set or Two Pair. Make sure you have the right odds and deep enough stacks to continue in these spots.
5. Overplaying Unsuited Broadway Hands
Our last big mistake features the so-called “trouble hands” in Hold’em – stuff like King-Jack offsuit. Those are two big cards, and they’ll often make Top Pair or even a Broadway straight, but there’s a reason these cards are trouble: They lose too often.
If you’re opening from early position at a 6-max table, KJo is a borderline hand that might be worth playing; Queen-Jack offsuit, not so much. There’s too big a chance that someone will call you with a hand containing an Ace or King, and once again, your Top Pair won’t be as good as their Top Pair.
If you’re at a full-ring table, opening KJo from under the gun is just asking for trouble; now you might be called by KQ, and you’ll be out-kicked when you and your opponent both make Top Pair.
Newer players will make things even worse for themselves by calling with these trouble hands when they’re out of position, which combines this mistake with No. 1 on our list. Stop lighting your money on fire: Fold these hands pre-flop when you’re playing at Bodog Poker, and live to fight another day.
So there you have it, Bodog’s top five poker mistakes to avoid. It remains a game of skill, but these basic tips can help you on your way to becoming a more accomplished player.