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Top 10 most common poker mistakes

10 Apr 2017

By Tadas Peckaitis
Sometimes, as poker players, we become so focused on our own game that it becomes difficult to notice obvious errors and blunders.

To help combat that, below is a list of common poker mistakes that you should review, assess and make sure you aren't committing. Avoiding these errors will surely improve your game in no time.

10. Playing too many hands
This is quite an obvious one, but many new players end up getting involved in way too many hands. Even worse, when doing so, they don't even take position into consideration. Of course, this leads to multiple problems on later streets, where you literally have no chance to play effectively.

This is one of the most fundamental skills you need to master. You must understand the value of each starting hand and play only good ones. Sure enough, you could be opening more from late positions, such as the button or the cut-off. However, do not take it too far by opening too many hands from other spots. Even the best players in the world fold a ton. You should do the same.

9. Overplaying weak hands
Stop and think about this one. Be honest with yourself. How many times have you known you were going to lose a hand, but still made the call?

Almost everyone has been in these spots and still justified calling for whatever reason. This alone could drastically reduce your win rate.

It can feel strange to fold a reasonably strong hand. However, if your passive opponent raises you on the river, do you really think that your top pair is good? Almost never! Therefore, whenever facing a lot of aggression from passive players, you can easily let go of your one-pair hands and sometimes even better ones. Even if you're bluffed occasionally, you will prevent yourself from many losses in the long run.

Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author and poker coach.

Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author and poker coach.

8. Not implementing proper bankroll management
There are many rules that could apply here, but if you have none — you will eventually bust, no question about it.

Everyone knows this concept, but I am surprised how few actually follow the guidelines. There is no strict secret to how many buy-ins you should have. It hugely depends on your ability and the games you are playing.

For multi-table tournaments, you need more buy-ins than cash games. Same goes for Omaha when compared to Hold’em. Make sure you figure out the best strategy for you.

7. Not being selective when picking what games you play in
It's very difficult to win if you are constantly playing against opponents who are better than you. If the 10th best player in the world plays a game with the rest of the top 10, he is going to be a loser.

This is an obvious concept that many players choose to ignore. There is no point in having an ego or chasing other players just to try to prove you are better. Moreover, players are likely to overestimate their abilities when running good, so keep that in mind.

The easiest way to avoid this is to avoid playing against opponents that are better than you. Of course, this does not mean you should try to find games where you will have only weak players, because such games are almost nonexistent. However, you should play in select games where there are at least a few weaker players.

I have many friends who play the highest stakes online and live, and they table select like crazy. So if the best players in the world do it, you need to start doing it as well.

6. Not putting an opponent on a range
"I knew he had AK." "I know he is never bluffing." I hear these statements all the time.

You are very unlikely to break down your opponents range to his exact holding; no one is able to do that.

Instead, you should be concentrating on all the possible hands in your opponent's range. If he four-bets pre-flop, it does not necessarily mean he is doing that with a strong hand. You will be surprised how much bluffing is going on in games these days. Same goes for post-flop. It's very unlikely your opponent is "never bluffing" in any given spot. He could be bluffing less than usual or more, but forget words such as "never" and "always." They do not exist in poker.

Instead of trying to soul read your opponent and guess his hand, put him on a range. Identify his most likely holdings and consider if you are getting correct odds to play against his range and not an individual hand. Make your decision based on this information and you will be one-step ahead of the majority of your competition.

This is one of the hardest things to master. However, making it a habit to think in this way will help you more than you can imagine.

5. Not taking the time to think
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to think through your decision before actually making it. How many times have you played a hand and then realized that you should have played it differently? That you could have taken a better line?

I see this every day while working with many different students. Most of the time they realize how to play the hand, but are not able to implement much of that knowledge in the game. In almost all cases, it comes from not taking enough time to make your decision.

If you play online, do not play too many tables at once. Remember to try to put your opponent on a range. If you play live, think through your decision and compare different ways you can play the hand. You have time at your disposal. Use it wisely.

It is better to think through your decision and play fewer hands.

4. Overusing stats
This one is strictly for online players, but is vitally important. Of course, playing with a HUD (heads-up display) and having information on your opponents is great, and you should use it. However, many players take this too far and base decisions just on that.

This can lead to many problems, and the most obvious one is sample size. Most of the time, you will not have a large sample in specific spots. If you make the decision to bluff on the river because your opponent already folded once in this spot, you are just guessing.

Stats are very useful if you know how to get the most out of them. However, HUD stats should be used just as a source of additional information. Before making your decision, keep in mind what's on the board and your opponent’s range, and you will have a clearer answer as to how to proceed with the hand.

3. Getting too emotional
Emotions are your enemy at the poker. When you start feeling frustrated, angry or tired, you cannot play your "A" game. And if you start playing your "C" game, you are doomed, no matter how good you are.

That being said, there are many things you can do to keep the proper concentration and continue playing your best. You can and should be taking a few minutes to prepare before you play. You need to learn to recognize your emotions and quit playing when they affect you adversely. Moreover, you should never start your session when you are already not in the correct frame of mind. This is a wide topic and if you want to learn more, I highly recommend getting my free poker book on self-management and concentration. Learn how to deal with it and take it to practice!

Master these tips and improve your game.

Master these tips and improve your game.

2. Not adjusting vs. different players
While pre-flop charts can give you a lot of information, they cannot be used in every single spot. You must learn how to change your ranges against different players and learn when to pressure passive ones.

This is even more important post-flop. Having a balanced range, which you could use against regulars, is great. However, if you encounter weaker players you should adjust your strategy and play so that you can exploit them.

To make it as simple as possible: Do not bluff against passive players, and value bet thin against them. If you are playing against an aggressive opponent, slowplay more hands and let him bluff. Moreover, be ready to bluff catch with weaker hands against maniacs, because relative hand strengths increases against them.

It is impossible to cover all possible scenarios, but you need to be aware that you have to change your strategy against different opponents to win as much as possible.

1. Not continuing to improve
This is, without a doubt, the biggest and most common mistake.

I have been playing poker for more than nine years, and I have been able to keep up with the game because I was constantly learning from better players and improving my game. Today, I operate a poker coaching site that helps players follow the same path I did, and learn in the most effective way to becoming a better player.

The game is evolving very fast, and it will never be as easy as it used to be. Therefore, even if you are a winning player right now, it does not mean you will be a winning player six months from now if you stop analyzing your game and learning further.

Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, author of the free poker book "Play 'A' Game and Be the Boss at Your Poker Table", and poker coach at
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