Poker Mistakes - Top 10 Common Mistakes in Poker

A successful poker player is a player who makes the best decisions most of the time and minimizes the amounts of mistakes in his/her decision-making.  Every player is human so we all by nature, make mistakes, even the seasoned pros. What separates the great ones from amateurs is that when they do make a mistake, they normally minimize their losses.  A small mistake here and there is frustrating but huge mistakes can cripple a bankroll.  However, not all mistakes are created equal and compounding errors can add up to big losses over time which makes it vital for players to plug any and all leaks in their game.  Today, we will go over the top 10 poker mistakes, in no particular order as it is vital to correct all of them.

#1: Playing Too Many Hands

This is most likely the most common mistake you see at the tables.  It is an absolute fact that most poker players are too loose with their starting hand selection. This means you should have a distinct advantage over all of them if your opponents are playing hands that don’t have much in terms of expected value.  However, if you play this way with them, you lose your edge and will surely spew your money away.  To combat these overly loose players, you’ve got to stick with premium hands especially when you’re at full table.  In short-handed games, you can afford to open up a little bit but the more players, the tighter your hands should be.  Say you limp in with bad cards in hopes of hitting something on the flop. But you don’t.  All those blinds add up. If you do it 25 times over 3 hours, guess what?  You just blew 50 bucks without even losing a big pot.  If you do this 4 times a week, that $100 off of your bottom line. At an 8-player table, focus on playing hands like pocket pairs, suited connectors, A-X suited, or two face cards.  Leave the junk hands like K-4, 5-8, 6-2, and 10-7 alone.  Just fold them pre-flop and save your money for when you actually have something.

Seems easy right?  Then why do so many people make this foolish fundamental error? The reason most people play too many hands is because they want action. Who wants to sit there and wait forever until they get good cards?  The person who wants to win does.  You must be patient.  If you’re playing good solid poker, you should often be bored.  That’s right, bored.  You just don’t get that many playable hands in a given game most of the time. That’s a fact.

2: Playing Position Poorly

Every credible poker book out there preaches the importance of being in good position.  Positioning is the single most important factor in this game.  When you have good position, you get to see what your opponents do before you have to act giving you more information with which to base your decisions on. Based on their behavior and betting, you can make an informed decision about what you want to do.  Everyone checks to you?  Take a stab and try to steal the pot. A player bets and is raised?  Get out of there.  It’s that simple.  Good positioning is also known as late positioning and this simply means you act last on all betting rounds. The mistake most players make is playing the cards without considering their positioning. For instance, the way to play pocket Aces in the big blind is totally different than the way to play it on the button.  In late position, you obviously raise, in early position, you can call and then re-raise if someone shows aggression later on. This goes for all starting hands and all positions.  Your basic strategy should be to play more starting hands from a later position and do so aggressively.

Your bluffing should also happen when you have good positioning.  Why? Because that’s when you’ll have the most information on the players at the table. In early positioning you want to play FEWER hands because your options are limited. However, if you happen to raise pre-flop and are first to act, this is a good bluffing opportunity because you have the first chance to do so.

3: Being Too Predictable

While you play, you should be studying your opponents.  You need to realize that your smarter opponents are studying you as well.  What does this mean for your game?  Simply stated, you can not afford to become predictable.  When you become predictable you can’t win, because whenever you get good cards, you just won’t get any action.  When your weak, you will get pushed around.  How do you avoid this?  Analyze your own game.  Identify your betting patterns and change them from time to time.  Just mix things up.  Bet the same amounts whether you have suited connectors or pocket Aces.  Eliminate all the consistencies in your betting and your opponents won’t be able to figure you out.

4. Playing The Wrong Stakes

This next statement is going to sound simple enough.  The stakes you play in is usually what determines the skill level of the opponents you play against. If you’re outmatched, nothing else matters because ultimately you’re going to lose and lose big. On the other hand, if you’re better than everyone at your current level, then maybe it’s time to “step it up a notch.  So how do you get it right?  Well, playing the right stakes is a delicate balance.  To figure it out, you should do so scientifically.  Try to calculate your profit per hour.  If you see that you are a consistent winner at a certain game try and move up. If you see you’re losing, drop down a level.  It’s that simple.

Read more about playing the correct stakes with our Poker Variance article.

5: Not Knowing When To Quit

How easy does this one seem on the surface?   If you know when to get up from a table it will save you a ton of money over the long term.  Whether you’ve either just won a ton of money or just lost a ton of money it’s now time to leave.  Why? Because in either case, the tendency from that point forward is going to be to lose. You’ll either lose your profits or dig yourself in a hole deeper but either way, it’s not good for you to stick around. Losing streaks are damaging because they take hold of your mental being and prevent you from coming back.  No matter what you try to do, you will continue sinking into the abyss of losing until all of your money is gone.  Just go home and live to fight another day. With winning streaks, it’s kind of the same thing. When you win, you think you can’t lose and there’s a tendency to lose it quickly on stupid moves. So remember, if you’re winning big or losing big, just stop playing for the day. Go again tomorrow and buy yourself a nice dinner.

#6: Not Knowing The Odds

Knowing the odds and probabilities in poker is a standard for success.  You can be somewhat successful being able to read your opponents and basically guessing at the decisions to make, but the real players know the odds.  You don’t have to be a math genius to figure them out either.  There are countless tools out there that can teach you simple formulas or percentage grids to know your chances of hitting your hand.  Odds calculators are great at this and are free at many sites. Also read our:

Calculating Odds in Poker
Omaha Odds and Probabilities

#7: Focusing Too Much On The Cards

There is a key principle that all players should keep in mind, play the players, not the cards.  Sounds simple enough right?  While its true that the cards determine who’s the winner for a hand but that’s only when a hand plays out until the showdown and all cards are flipped over. The best poker players hardly ever make it to that level in a hand. Why? Because they either force their opponents to fold or fold because they pick up a read on their opponents and make plays on them forcing them into bad decisions.  The only times you should be flipping your cards up at the end is when you know you have the best hand and you’ve just milked some poor guy for a huge pot.  You need to focus on the player first and foremost, not your cards. You need to figure him out, tendencies, patterns and habits and then attack him relentlessly.

#8: Getting Too Emotional

Emotional control is a big part of poker. You’ve got to be able to “let go” and become unattached from the outcome of the game.  If you become to involved emotionally, you can’t win.  Emotions do tend to run high in this game as your mixing luck, money and machismo into one game. This could be a recipe for disaster for most players.  You need to have in the back of your mind that the worst is possible.  You will experience bad beats and lost hands on the river.  If you expect this can happen, you won’t because distraught when it does happen and you can succeed.  If you forget these things and you forget about being logical, you can not win.  You must stay in control of yourself and your emotions.  By doing this, you can avoid going on tilt which is the single biggest bankroll drain there is.  Be focused on playing your best and eventually the result will show.

#9: Not Getting Help

No one was born a poker player.  You had to learn from somewhere didn’t you?  But it doesn’t stop there. You need to keep looking to improve.  There are three main ways to improve:

1. Learn from experience.
2. Learn from someone who has mastered the game.
3. Read poker books and articles.

The problem with experience is that it takes many years to master the game.  It takes a very long time to learn through experience so you need to seek other ways to improve. Learning from proven poker strategies and “field-tested” techniques are the absolute fastest ways to pick up the game.  Reading articles such as these and books on strategy are the way to do this. When you make a mistake, ask yourself questions and challenge yourself if you’ve reacted optimally to situations.

#10: Thinking You Are a Natural

It’s amazing how often I hear someone say, “I’m a natural poker player…”What does that mean? Poker is an extremely complex and multi-faceted game which involves mathematics, psychology and many other things.  When you’re cocky and think you’re a natural you will not seek ways to improve.  You need to be humble and realize that there’s always room for improvement, no matter how much success you’ve had before. New strategies won’t miraculously come to you. You need to seek help.

For more poker strategies to help you with your poker game, visit our Poker Strategy section.

Also read our Top 10 ways to become a better poker player.