The Top 10 Most Common Poker Mistakes to Avoid
There are plenty of mistakes an online casino player can make when playing poker. It's a complicated game with plenty of nuances. Every decision you make from one hand to the next can either have you heading home happy or cause you to leave the virtual or real table with long-lasting regrets.
Our team at the Action Network has created a Top 10 Most Common Poker Mistakes to Avoid list to help steer you away from some of the more critical and easily avoidable errors that could put a hole in your wallet. Staying away from these mistakes won't guarantee you'll make a profit every time but it will help you out in doing so.
Poker Mistakes to Avoid
Not Understanding the Type of Hand You Have
In poker, not all starting hands are the same. You could start the game with a strong hand that has you dreaming of capturing a high pot or it could be one you want to fold right away.
It may sound obvious, but you need to understand the type of hand you have when entering a hand. If you enter a pot with a sub-standard hand, you're more than likely going to see poor returns.
If you feel like you have a high-quality hand, play it! Being too aggressive is a common poker mistake (we'll have more on that later), but being too passive and not taking advantage of a strong starting hand could also be fatal to your game.
Checking and Calling With No Sound Plan in Place
When you're playing a hand, you should always have a strategy in place followed by contingencies as the turns progress.
This may seem like common sense. However, we've seen far too many players start checking and calling their way through a game without a real plan of what their next move is. If you are doing this by the time the turn and river happen, it's likely too late for you to bounce back.
Before you take any action in poker, do it with your next potential steps already in the back of your mind. Adjust those plans accordingly when you have to. Poker is too complicated of a game to try to figure out your move during the couple of seconds between each turn.
Risking More Money Than You Can Afford to Lose
Sometimes players can get caught up in the moment before realizing the stakes of the poker game they're playing in. Don't be one of them. If you feel comfortable sitting down at a virtual or live table that has a $5 buy-in, then stick to it!
There are buy-ins at much higher rates ($50, $100, etc.) but if you're a beginner and still learning how to play, don't feel pressured to play for the big bucks despite the allure of winning more money. The higher the price point, the more advanced players you'll likely encounter, exposing you to a heightened risk of losing your hard-earned cash.
Start with low stakes buy-in games and as your poker play progresses, then you can move up and compete against the vets.
Bluffing can be an effective strategy — when used sparingly. This is a go-to move for pretty much every poker player at some point during their game.
Bluffing your way to win with a bad hand might work once or twice. However, it won't take long for others at the table to pick up on your ploy if you choose to use it every so often.
At a certain point, the bluffs will outweigh any value your cards might have and opponents will happily "call" you until you've gone broke.
Losing Patience Quickly and Chasing Losses
If you find yourself having a tough time at the table, the last thing you want to do is let your frustration get the best of you. Things can go south quickly while playing poker — all the gains you've made slowly over a period of time can all come crashing down quickly if you're not too careful.
Chasing your losses is one of the most common critical mistakes inexperienced — and experienced — poker players can make. Your emotions are likely running high, panic may start to be creeping in, and the sound strategies you've developed throughout the game have been pushed aside for rash decision-making.
If you notice you've lost more money than you're comfortable losing, step away from the table and reflect on your emotional state. If you think it might be time to step away, you probably should.
Hot Steaks That Lead to Overconfidence
On the opposite end of the spectrum from losing is the much more fun alternative — winning. There's nothing quite like the rush of getting on a heater and taking the pot multiple hands in a row.
But like we said when we were talking about chasing losses, it's also imperative to remember to not become overconfident and cocky. This is especially true if things are going your way for a while. You might think you have the game "figured out," but poker has a way of humbling players fast. Even the most experienced poker players will tell you they will never truly "master" the game, so don't think you have either.
Enjoy your wins while you can. However, don't let the emotional highs cause you to stray from the game behavior and strategy that helped you succeed in the first place.
Chalking Losses up to Bad Luck
Losses are going to happen when you play poker. It's inevitable for every player. Sometimes you will lose because of an unlucky break or two. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling like you've got the win secured only to have your opponent see the one card they need revealed on the river.
With that being said, many of your losses are because of a mistake you've made along the way. Whether that's a failed bluff or what you thought was a sound strategy gone awry, always be sure to note your mistakes and learn from them.
If you're constantly chalking losses up to bad luck without reflecting on what you could have done better, then your game will stagnate. You'll keep finding yourself in the same losing spots.
Trying to Use the Same Strategy for the Same Hands
As you learn poker and figure out which hands and strategies tend to be the most successful for you, it's helpful to remember that not every game is the same. What worked for you before might not work this time around.
Players will have different cards and they learn your tendencies over time. It's wise to develop and hone multiple strategies with your hands to ensure you're not easy to read. If they see you making similar moves every time, they'll react accordingly and eventually gain the upper hand.
Not Studying Moves by Your Opponents
Speaking of reading and reacting to player moves, you should always follow the breadcrumbs opposing poker players leave behind as you progress through a game. If you ignore what they're doing and only focus on yourself, you're leaving a lot of information on the table that could help you win pivotal hands.
Keeping track of trends can help you gain information on your opponents' short- and long-term strategies. It can help you call a bluff or fold when you need to if they appear strong.
Poker is all about staying one step ahead of your opponents. Any tells you pick up on could make the difference between winning the pot or letting them capture it.
Becoming Too Attached to a Pot
This is a trap less experienced players seem particularly prone to fall into. A more literal Sunk Cost Fallacy in poker is when a player keeps putting chips into a pot because they have already committed money to it. They want to see the hand all the way through, even if they know they're probably going to lose.
It can be difficult to fold and let go of a hand once you've invested heavily in it, especially if you feel it's a winning one. But, it's critical to accept the loss and move on if you feel like your opponent has you beat. There's always a risk that he or she is bluffing, but that's the nature of poker.
If you feel like defeat inevitably awaits you, fold, move on to the next hand, and wait for another chance to win back the chips you lost the last go-around.
Online Poker Resources
Confidence is key to be a successful poker player. Take advantage of the following poker guides to help boost your play:
- Poker Glossary
- Bluffing in Online Poker
- Poker Variations
- Poker Tips and Tricks for Every Player Level
- How to Play Online Poker
- Online Poker Strategy
Online poker is currently legal in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware. For more legal information regarding your state, take a look at our online casino legalization tracker.