Common Newbie Poker Mistakes
Common Newbie Poker Mistakes. If you are a noob, and we all were at one time or another, you may make some mistakes. Let’s fix that!
If you are new to playing poker, one thing is certain, and that is that you will be climbing up a learning curve.
You will make plenty of mistakes along the way, but you can prevent quite a few of them simply by educating yourself on common novice poker mistakes.
Not all lessons need to be learned the hard way. To give you a head start on that poker learning curve, let’s go over some of the top mistakes which poker newbies make in terms of money management, tactical decisions, psychology, and more.
Starting With High Stakes Games
Not Managing Your Raises in a Way That Will Derive the Highest Profit From Mistakes By Your Opponents
Regardless of your bankroll, there are always going to be poker games you can and cannot afford.
As a beginner, it is particularly important to steer clear of high stakes games, because chances are good that you will be up against experienced and superior players who will be eager to empty your pockets.
Not only do you need more money just to sit at the table, but you also will probably feel daunted when you realize just how expensive it is to call or raise.
Additionally, a high stakes game just raises the pressure, and as a novice, that is probably not going to be a huge help in your learning process.
So give yourself the chance to learn at low stakes games. As your skill increases—and your bankroll—you may be ready to move up to more expensive games.
One of the most challenging strategic aspects of poker is figuring out how to raise effectively. When to do it, and by how much.
There are many different possible newbie mistakes under this umbrella, so let’s look at one example.
Imagine that you are holding an amazing hand. A couple of other players fold, and you’re still in the game with just one other player.
You feel entirely confident that you have the winning hand. What do you do?
You know you want to raise at this point, but how much should you raise by?
This is where a lot of newbies will think, “Well, that other guy could be holding something surprising, and I don’t want to risk losing this opportunity. So I will raise by a massive amount (maybe even all in) to ensure that my hand is protected.”
What happens at this point? Possibly exactly what you intended. The other player may look at your burst of confidence, think better of his own hand, and fold on the spot.
You win the pot at that point, but that isn’t an ideal outcome. You are missing out on the greater potential value of the situation.
Let’s rewind, returning again to the moment you are ready to raise.
If you make a sizable raise, but one which is less intimidating to match, you may not scare off the other player. You might instead get him to think he can still compete with your hand – or that you are bluffing.
At that point, hopefully, he will also raise, and you will go back and forth a number of times until the pot is much larger.
Once you are satisfied with the pot size, you could go all in. Whether he folds or not, hopefully, you will still come out the winner and you will claim a much greater reward.
It will take a lot of time and practice to learn how to optimize your stake sizes for different situations.
The most important things are
- Never to raise arbitrarily
- Try and trick your opponents into making mistakes
- Try and capitalize to those mistakes at their fullest
Playing suited, low-ranking cards
Let’s say that at the pre-flop, you have two cards of the same suit, but one or both are low in value, i.e. a 4 of spades and a 10 of spades.
At this point, if you are a novice, there is a good chance you will be tempted to call instead of fold.
It is an understandable decision. After all, you could have the start of a flush, which would be a really big deal.
But in terms of the probabilities, it is unwise. You have less than a 12% chance of being correct.
In this situation, it is best to fold. The exception would be if the two suited cards also happen to be high cards, i.e. a Q and a K (which would also be good because they are consecutive).
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Making other mistakes regarding starting hand value
While we are at it, many newbies are not clear on what the best starting hands are. So their starting hand mistakes can range beyond the intended flush error described above.
First of all, it is helpful to note that you can classify all starting hands into the following groups:
- Connecting cards which share a suit
- Connecting cards which do not share a suit
- Unconnected cards that share a suit
- Unconnected cards that do not share a suit
Aside from pairs, ideally, you want to play connecting, high ranking cards which do or do not share a suit. Unconnected high ranking cards may also be valuable.
Some premium starting hands include:
Some other strong starting hands include:
There are detailed charts you can look up on starting hands. It is recommended that you do so. Many hands which novices think look strong are middling at best.
Copying What Other Players Are Doing
There is a saying that goes something like, “Until you understand, mimic until you do.” That is not exactly it, but it contains the gist of the idea.
In a lot of pursuits, this works quite well. Instead of avoiding trying something, you simply jump right in, copying what has worked for other people until you learn the ropes.
But trying to apply this to poker is a mistake. It is a poor strategy for learning, and quite frequently, will lead you to employ poor strategies for winning.
Here are a few reasons why this is the case:
- A lot of other players you might watch and mimic have no clue what they are doing. Copying their bad strategies will cause you to lose.
- Even people who do know what they are doing may make decisions which appear irrational at times. Usually, this is because the specific context of the situation calls for an unusual action, perhaps in regard to manipulating another player at that specific table.
- Someone else may figure out you are mimicking another player. Once they do, they may have you all figured out.
Instead of copying, do the legwork and learn working strategies yourself. Ideally, you need to go beyond memorization. You need to know why methods work, and what pitfalls they might present in a situation. And then you need to practice so that you learn to adapt.
Neglecting the Possibility Someone Else Has a Better Hand When the Community Cards and the Action Around the Table Make it Likely
For example, say that there is a pair on the table, and you think you might have a flush (or you already have one).
A flush is a solid hand, but what if somebody else is holding another pair with a matching card on the table? They would have a full house.
While a royal flush or a straight flush would beat a full house, a regular flush will not.
As a beginner, it is easy to forget about this. Since you know that royal flushes and straight flushes are the best hands you can get, you may learn to associate more excitement than you should with the word “flush.”
This does not mean you should skip playing your hand. It just means that you should be restrained when you raise, unless you are intending to bluff. But you are going to have a pretty hard time getting someone with a full house or potential full house to fold. After all, they would need to believe you have a superior full house or that you have a straight flush or royal flush.
By not over stuffing the pot, you will reduce the consequence should your flush not be sufficient to claim it.
This is just one example. But it should give you plenty more to think about.
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Bluffing is a strategy that only works if the other players you are up against have a reason to believe you.
Novices often are excited to bluff and make the mistake of thinking that it can work when applied pell-mell or frequently.
But think about the story of the boy who cried wolf. The boy was essentially bluffing when he would tell the villagers over and over that a wolf was there when there was not. So when a real wolf arrived, they ignored him. In short, because of his persistence with lying, the boy had lost his ability to be believed.
You do not want to lose your ability to be believed.
If everyone notices that you have a tendency to bluff a lot, when you really need to bluff, they are going to call your bluff.
So don’t do that. You want your play to appear logical, or mostly logical, and you don’t want to abuse your bluffs to the point where they are no longer available to you as a strategy when they count.
Making Etiquette Errors
There are fairly specific rules regarding etiquette both in land based and online casinos (if you are playing a poker game which includes a chat function).
Newbies are frequently unaware of these etiquette expectations and may breach etiquette unintentionally.
You may want to read up on the expectations before attending a game online or offline.
Not Using Poker Software
Are you gambling online without the use of poker tracking software? If so, you are not only missing out on a great opportunity, but you are also not being competitive with your opponents.
Programs such as PokerTracker and Holdem Manager are in widespread use today. They recorded statistics and present analysis on your past hands as well as those of your opponents.
Trying to gamble online without the use of this type of tracking software is making life unnecessarily difficult for yourself.
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Not Using Four Colors for Suits
When you play poker using a traditional deck of cards, spades and clubs are black and hearts and diamonds are red.
But did you know that on many online casinos, you can present the suits in four different colors on the screen?
The value of this should be immediately obvious. It is pretty easy to mix up a heart and a diamond or a spade and a club when the action is rolling fast or when you’re fatigued or distracted.
But when you have each suit in its own unique color, then you are far less likely to make those types of mistakes. The colors can stand out more than the symbols.
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Giving in to the Urge to Play Too Many Hands
I have already touched on the issue of playing too many hands, but I have dealt with this matter from a strategic standpoint—i.e. playing mediocre hands because you genuinely overestimate their value.
But it is worth bringing up this issue again from a psychological standpoint. Sometimes, playing a mediocre hand is the result of a simple urge to play, not a misunderstanding of starting hand values.
As a new poker player, you are excited to get into the game, so you probably want to play hands, and search for reasons to do so.
You should be doing the opposite, however, if you want to win. Focus on reasons why not to play a hand, and be conservative rather than a huge risk-taker.
You will end up folding most of your hands. But if you can develop the patience to do this consistently and only play your hand when it makes true strategic sense, it can pay off.
Getting Attached to a Bad Hand
If you don’t fold your starting hand, presumably, is because you have a perceived reason to play it. Hopefully, that reason is strategic and not emotional.
But even a strategic and logical player can sometimes get attached to a hand in a way that becomes increasingly irrational.
You might find yourself at a point where it seems increasingly unlikely that you will win, but you have a difficult time convincing yourself to fold.
You might think something like, “But I have put so much in the pot with this hand. If I fold now, the money I have put into this hand will be lost, and I want this to be worth it.”
This is known in investment psychology as “escalation of commitment.” It is also called the “commitment bias,” “sunk cost fallacy,” and the “Concorde fallacy.”
The reason it is sometimes called the “Concorde fallacy” is because the most famous example of it were all the resources France and Britain poured into Concorde airliners starting in the 70’s.
It was a bad investment right from the off, yet the two governments persevered with it for decades.
They just kept hoping that things would change, and that they would finally get the return that they were looking for. Meanwhile, they lost more and more money before finally discontinuing in 2003.
That is just one of the psychological reasons why it can be difficult to let go of a hand which you feel could have been a winner.
Another reason could be that you are worried that if you fold all the time, you will be perceived as a coward by the other players (or by your own judgment).
Neither is a good reason to stay in a hand when the evidence that you see tells you that doing so is not likely to be profitable. All you will do is throw away more chips.
While some novice poker players find it difficult to say no to a bet, others find it all too easy.
If you tend to be averse to risk, and you are aware that you should be folding more hands than you were playing, it is possible that you might play too conservatively.
This becomes particularly problematic when it becomes charged with actual fear rather than being merely a strategic error.
Statistically speaking, neither you nor any of the other players at the table are particularly likely to get a monster hand on any particular hand.
So if your strategy is to fold on every hand that isn’t one, you need to consider the fact that you are probably overestimating your opponents’ hands.
The fact that they are playing their hands does not by default imply that most of them are holding amazing hands. In fact, statistically, you would not expect that at all.
That means you do often have more of a fighting chance than you may be giving yourself credit for.
If you are scared all the time, it also can make you vulnerable in a bluffing situation.
If your opponent is bluffing and massively raises the stakes, you are more likely to believe the bluff than to call it, even if you have other signals telling you that the person is lying.
That can be dangerous to your game, and might result in unnecessary losses.
So, being cautious is wise, but going too far with it and having a fearful mindset can actually backfire on you.
Superstition is a form of cognitive fallacy where we attribute meaning and significance to perceived patterns which may have no connection to events we have experienced.
For instance, you might have won multiple poker games where you happened to make a bluff on your first hand.
That might have absolutely nothing to do with why you won those games, but you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable about not making a bluff on your first hand in future games.
So, you might compulsively start bluffing on your first hand going forward, whether it makes sense to do so or not. Because you do not want to interrupt that string of good fortune by doing something different.
This is, however, the exact sort of decision making process which will put an end to that string of good fortune at some point.
Easier to miss, but also important, is the fact that maintaining an overly superstitious mindset can cripple your sense of autonomy.
When you attribute your wins to superstitious factors, you can neglect the role that your own strategic play had in producing those wins.
This neglect of your own skills can damage your confidence, which could harm your play in the future.
It may also tempt you to attribute your losses to bad luck or other superstitious factors rather than to mistakes that you might be responsible for.
Accounting for those mistakes would give you the opportunity to correct them in future games, making you a more effective player. Ignoring them actively does not empower you, even if you do not recognize that fact.
I have touched on the topic of how emotions can make it difficult to make smart decisions while playing poker, but it certainly bears emphasis.
I do not believe it is possible to be entirely emotionless while playing poker. It is not necessarily desirable either, because in some situations, emotions can be informative.
But as they can be misleading in many situations, particularly when they become intense, it is best to not necessarily take everything that they tell you at face value.
Instead, think of them as data to incorporate into your analysis of a situation, rather than a standalone basis for decision.
Even though you cannot prevent them entirely, you should try not to allow them to spiral too much out of control, because then, you are more likely to get loud, irrational messages from them which drown out what may be an increasingly quieter logical strain of thought.
If you get over set by your emotions in such a situation, you might get unregulated to the point of going on tilt.
Another common newbie mistake which is emotionally motivated is chasing losses when you try to “win it all back” after a large loss or a string of losses.
If you have the bankroll for it, are emotionally stable, and have a workable strategy, there’s nothing wrong with trying to win back money that you have lost.
But the phrase “chasing losses” specifically refers to an irrational frame of mind where one or more of those things is absent, but you keep playing anyway.
When you play like this, you are guaranteed to make desperate, high-risk decisions which you would never make in a more stable frame of mind.
Those are the types of decisions which will lead to a greater accumulation of losses, rather than you winning back the money that you lost before.
This is a situation which commonly intertwines with going on tilt (see below), as your emotional distress will probably become ever more severe as your losses compound.
Not Being Alert for Tilt
Tilt is a state which most gamblers will probably experience at some point or another. Some may experience it rarely, while others may be prone to it because of psychological factors.
By definition, tilt tends to catch you off guard, and you may be startled by how damaging it can be, often very rapidly as well. You may not realize just how bad the situation is until it is over and you are bust.
The easiest way to describe what it means to go on tilt is this: In an emotionally unregulated state (which by then it is likely cognitively unregulated as well), you take actions which you believe will increase your control, but which in reality, are decreasing your control.
Chasing losses is a simple example. Whatever you are doing in the chasing of those losses, you are convinced that those actions are going to help you get back your bankroll and regain control.
But in actuality, the desperate actions you are taking are doing just the opposite, further decreasing your bankroll and your level of control.
Sometimes players on tilt even attempt to self-sabotage, consciously or otherwise. Why? Because only by busting out can they restore their sense of “control.” This may feel more important to them at the time than walking away with money in their accounts.
It is quite common for a player to only snap out of tilt after busting out. In fact, tilt can even continue on past this point because there are plenty of ways to tilt in situations that go beyond the poker table.
It is difficult to catch on to the fact that you are going on tilt, because the regulation involved tends to disrupt your normal self-monitoring and self-perception.
That means that you generally need to be alert for signs of agitation well below the tipping threshold.
That way, you become aware of the possibility of going on tilt when you still have enough rational control to prevent it from going any further.
What is the best way to approach this? You are going to need to make observations of yourself in different emotional states, both at the poker table, and while you’re away from it.
I recommend taking actual physical notes on your computer, focusing on the following:
- Triggers that tend to lead toward increasing agitation or tilt.
- How you emotions feel as you become increasingly agitated or are at the tipping point.
- Physical symptoms you experience as you become increasingly agitated or approach the tipping point.
- Behaviors that you engage in as you become increasingly agitated or are tipping toward tilt.
- Thoughts you tend to experience as your agitation increases in the direction of tilt.
- You should also make notes about all of the above as best you can remember during previous occasions during which you were in a state of tilt.
You can then give yourself a set of rules for managing yourself in the future.
If, while monitoring yourself, you notice that your agitation is measurable through several signs you have identified, you can do the following:
- Admit to yourself that it is possible that you are on the way to losing control.
- Reduce your trust in emotional messages from your brain.
- Ask yourself realistically if you are likely to be able to deescalate.
- Take a break if you need to.
Going on tilt is a situation which never ends well. So if you can avoid it, it can save you from a lot of unnecessary losses.
You Now Know Some Newbie Poker Mistakes to Avoid. Let’s Put What You Learned To Use!
We have gone over a pretty large list of common novice poker mistakes. You now are aware of some strategic, social, logistical, money management and psychological errors to avoid.
That places you that much ahead of other novices who might not be aware of these pitfalls.
If you are ready to try your hand at poker and put some of these lessons to good use, take a look at our recommended online poker rooms and casino sites.
And Don’t Forget to Give These a Read as Well!