We all make mistakes. Even the most experienced pros drop the ball from time to time. But newcomers to poker often succumb to these five specific errors. Cut them out and help raise your game to the next level.
1- Failing to Understand Position
Position is one of the most important concepts in poker. Every hand is stronger when you are in position. If you can act later in the hand, there are fewer people behind you, so you have less to worry about. When you are last of all to act, you are at a significant advantage over your opponents.
You must adjust your range according to your position. In an early position, you simply have to tighten up. Failure to do so will lead to you bleeding chips. When you have the positional advantage, you need to widen your range. Picking up the blinds preflop is an important part of the game, and it happens much more frequently when you don’t just sit and wait for premium hands.
If you are the first to enter the pot and you do so with a flat call of the big blind, this is known as limping, or open limping. It is an absolutely terrible play and you must cut it from your game immediately, for several reasons. Here’s why.
First of all, it sends a terrible message to your opponents, who most likely have at least some ideas about the game. It exposes you as a weak and probably inexperienced player, giving them permission to be more aggressive towards you with a much wider range. That is never good.
But why is limping preflop such a bad mistake? Well, first of all, the blinds are dead money and you’re not even trying to pick it up by raising. You can’t win a pot pre-flop with a call. Secondly, limping does nothing to thin the field. If several others call behind you, you’re now contesting a multi-way pot, meaning your hand’s equity has declined. The more people involved, the worse your chances are of winning a showdown.
And finally, you’re just making it much easier for the opponents behind you to play the pot in the first place. Your additional chips mean that their pot odds increased, thus encouraging them to make a play with average hands against your perceived weak range.
3- Raising Too Often on the Button
We’ve just highlighted two important common preflop mistakes, saying that you should loosen up in a late position and that it’s better to show aggression. And that’s true, for the most part. However, many new players take this too far when on the button.
While being last to act in the hand is clearly an advantage, modern poker is more aggressive than it’s ever been. More experienced players will expect you to raise their blinds when you are in late position and will be ready to 3-bet you. If you opened with a speculative blind stealing hand, you’ll have to give it up. If it keeps happening, this will hurt your table image and cause you to leak chips.
Depending on the exact makeup of your table, raising preflop from the button anywhere between 40% and 60% of the time seems like a fair amount. Don’t get too carried away.
4- Being Too Passive in the Blinds
A lack of aggression in the blinds is another common preflop mistake in new players. Take the big blind, for instance. Since it will cost you less than the others to call, your pot odds are likely to be good. At preflop at least, you will be the last to act and therefore know exactly where you stand.
This is a particularly strong position to be in when everyone folds round to the small blind and they open. You can comfortably widen your range and defend your big blind frequently.
Similarly, players are often too tight when playing preflop in the small blind. If it folds round to you, there’s a golden opportunity to pick up the dead money in the pot. Limping means that you’ll have to play the rest of the hand out of position, giving you more opportunities to make expensive errors. Assuming you don’t get raised preflop, that is.
5- Not Paying Attention to Players
While there are many important rules of thumb that will serve you well, poker is not just a game for robots. It’s about people, personalities, and emotions. It’s crucial that you pay attention to the characteristics of your fellow players.
For example, stealing the blinds is a common part of poker. But it’s far easier to pick them up from a known passive player than against a loose maniac. Although blind stealing is a must, you would be foolish to relentlessly pursue a strategy that you know is going to fail and cause you to lose money.
Particularly at the online micro-stakes games, where there are so many grinders who are multi-tabling a large number of games. They’re just not paying attention and their near automated mindset means they fold their blinds way too often. Pay attention to these players and make an extra effort to raise them.
Similarly, in live games, people are often there for the social element. Someone who travelled to play in a recreational game and have fun is not going to give up their blinds preflop very easily. They are there to play, so tighten up your opening range against this type of player.
It’s not just about players in the blinds, of course. You should constantly be aware of your opponents in all seats at all times. Paying attention will help elevate your poker game to the next level.
Now that you know what preflop mistakes to avoid, it’s time to take a look at “How to Calculate Pot Odds When Playing Poker” to up your preflop games. And when you are ready to start your journey in poker, why not sign up for a free account with Natural8 so that you can hone your skills?