When you first start playing poker, you ideally want to focus
on enjoying yourself and getting familiar with how to play. If
your long term goal is to regularly win money from playing, then
you’ll need to spend plenty of time learning about strategy and
other aspects of the game. As a beginner, though, that’s not
something you need to focus on right now.
However, you still want to improve your chances of winning
money where you can or at least make sure that you keep the
amount you lose to a minimum. This is something you should
strive to do from the moment you start playing, even if you’re
only really interested in having some fun and not too bothered
if you lose some money in the process.
As a novice poker player, there are a number of things you
can do to make sure you’re on the right track, many of which we
cover in detail in our simple tips for poker beginners. There
are also a number of things that you really shouldn’t do. We are
going to look at these in this article.
Below we explain ten of the biggest mistakes that poker
beginners make. These are all very common, but they are
relatively easy to avoid for the most part. If you can avoid
all, or at least most, of these when playing your game, then
you’ll be on the right path to becoming a competent player. You
won’t start winning a fortune right away, but you’ll have some
solid foundations in place for improving your game as you
continue to play. You’ll also be ahead of many of the other
beginners and even the recreational players you’ll come across
at the tables.
Playing Too Many Hands
Playing too many hands isn’t only one of the most common
mistakes made by beginners, but it’s also one of the easiest to
make. Poker can seem a little boring if you feel like you’re
folding all the time and it can be very tempting to make a lot
of pre-flop calls just so you’re getting involved in the game.
The problem with this approach is that you’ll waste a lot of
chips when you make those calls and then have to fold anyway
when you don’t hit the flop.
We’re not saying that you should only ever get involved in a
pot when you have a very strong starting hand, but you do need
to be selective about which hands to play. Patience is a very
important skill to have in poker and you’ll do much better in
the long run if you’re prepared to wait for the right
opportunities that are worth betting chips on.
This is closely linked to the above point, as one of the
reasons that players tend to play too many hands is due to the
fact that they think too highly of hands that aren’t actually
that great. It’s particularly common to overvalue a hand simply
because it has an ace in it or any pair at all.
Obviously an ace is a good card, but starting hands such as
an ace and a five or an ace and a six are not particularly
strong. The same is true for low pairs. This isn’t to say that
you should never play such hands, but it’s important to
recognize that they aren’t necessarily as strong as you might
Overvaluing your hands isn’t just limited to before the flop
either. You shouldn’t assume that you’re in good shape just
because you’ve made a pair on the flop for example, or that you
have two pairs after the river. You may be ahead but you could
just as easily be behind too.
You probably won’t find it very easy to make informed
judgments about what your opponents might have when you first
start playing, but even as a beginner this is something you
should ideally be thinking about. Before making a raise or
calling a bet, just try to think of what cards your opponents
might possibly have that could beat you.
Defending Blinds Too Often
It’s very common for new poker players to feel almost obliged
to get involved with pots when it’s their turn to pay the big
blind or the small blind. This is for a couple of reasons. Often
it’s because they feel like they have to call a raise (or
possibly just a bet if they’re the small blind) simply because
they have already put chips into the pot, regardless of how
strong their hand is. Other times it’s their ego at play; they
won’t regularly fold their blinds in order to avoid looking weak
to the other players.
Either way, getting involved in a pot simply because you
don’t want to fold your blind is a mistake. There are sometimes
strategic reasons to play weaker hands than you normally would
from the blinds but for the most part you are better off folding
if you don’t have the necessary cards to justify getting
Getting Committed to Pots
A lot of new players make this mistake very regularly. They
find it difficult to fold once they’ve put some chips into the
pot, even if they believe they are probably beaten. It can be
hard to let go of a hand once you’ve invested in it,
particularly if it’s a good one, but sometimes you just have to.
If you don’t, all you’re doing is wasting your good chips on a
The best way to prevent this mistake is to accept that once
you have put your chips into the pot they are no longer yours.
You also need to realize that you aren’t going to win every
single pot that you get involved with. If you’ve committed some
chips and subsequently feel that you’re facing a stronger hand,
then folding and waiting for another opportunity is absolutely
the right thing to do.
Bluffing Too Much
Making a successful bluff is one of the best feelings in
poker. It’s vastly more rewarding to think that you have beaten
someone by outplaying them rather than by simply having the best
cards. However, many beginners get carried away at the thought
of this happening and end up bluffing too often.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to bluff your opponents
every now and then. Indeed, it should definitely be part of your
game strategy. However, you need to be careful about how often
you do it. There’s always the possibility that you’ll be up
against someone who actually has a hand they can call you with,
and if your opponents suspect that you’re bluffing a lot they’ll
be far more inclined to go up against you.
Many beginners fall into the trap of thinking that they have
to constantly make advanced moves if they’re going to stand any
chance of winning. This is simply not true. You don’t want to
play in a way that your opponents will know exactly what you’re
doing and why, but you don’t have to try to play like an expert
who is thinking on an entirely different level than your
opponents either. There’s just no point in trying to be clever
for the sake of it.
As you gain more experience and learn more about the strategy
involved in poker, you might find situations where you need to
make some complicated moves. When you first start playing,
though, you really should just concentrate on keeping things
simple. You can still beat your opponents with straightforward
plays, especially if playing at the lower stakes.
At the other end of the scale from overplaying is being
predictable and this is something you will want to avoid too.
We’ve just stated that it’s fine to play in a fairly
straightforward manner, but you do need to avoid making your
play so predictable that your opponents will be able to take
advantage. Even at the low stakes there are players who are good
at observing and analyzing their opponents’ actions, so you need
to make it difficult for them to decipher how you play and why
you’re making certain moves.
You can disguise your play relatively simply. For example, by
making sure you don’t bet exactly the same amount when you raise
pre-flop, you’ll make it harder for your opponents to determine
the range of hands you may have. The same thing can be achieved
by occasionally getting involved in pots with hands that are
outside your normal starting selection. Basically, you just need
to make sure that you don’t do the exact same things in the
exact same way all the time.
Playing poker can bring forth a range of different emotions
and some of these emotions can have a negative impact on the way
you play. Anger and frustration, in particular, are dangerous
feelings that you need to avoid as best you can.
Even when you’re just playing for fun and not overly
concerned about whether you win or lose, there’ll be times when
you get frustrated and upset if things just aren’t going your
way. It’s easier said than done, but if you find yourself having
those feelings, then you really need to get your emotions under
control. If you don’t, you’re likely to start making all sorts
of irrational decisions. Once this happens, you’ll be much more
likely to end up losing more money than you otherwise would
Not Watching Opponents
The key to playing good poker is ultimately to make good
decisions. This is obviously not particularly easy to do
consistently as a beginner, as you simply don’t know enough
about all the strategy involved, but you still want to do the
best you can. It’s important to know that a big part of making
good decisions is taking into account how your opponents have
acted and how they are likely to act.
In order to do this you’ll need to have some information
about the way in which your opponents play, which means you need
to avoid the classic beginners mistake of not paying enough
attention to the table. Many beginner players, probably even
most of them, concentrate almost entirely on their own cards and
actions, without watching what their opponents are doing. This
means they are simply guessing when they try to determine why an
opponent has just made a particular move or when they are trying
to predict what an opponent will do next.
You’re unlikely to be able to make extremely accurate reads
on your opponents as a beginner, but you at least want to make
sure you have some information to work with. Watching your
opponents isn’t difficult to do and it’ll help improve your game
overall. You should keep as close an eye as you can on what they
are doing and make mental notes about their respective playing
Blaming Bad Luck for Losses
It’s very easy to assume that you’ve simply been unlucky
every time you lose at poker. This is probably not the reality
though. There’ll almost certainly be times when bad luck does
cross your path, but there will also be times when you lose
because of a mistake you’ve made or simply because you are
playing poorly. If you don’t recognize this fact, then you’ll
probably just end up making the same mistakes over and over
again and you’ll never be able to take your game to the next
As a beginner, it’s important to not worry about making
mistakes too much. It’s completely natural to get things wrong
when you first start playing and even very experienced players
make mistakes every now and then. What you should try to do,
though, is learn from those mistakes. Even if you’re just
playing for fun you should make it a priority to improve your
game in any way that you can. If you are even vaguely serious
about trying to make money, then you’ll absolutely have to apply
Analyzing where you have gone wrong and what mistakes you
have made is one of the very best ways to start working on your
playing skills, so it’s a habit you should really try to develop
from the moment you start playing.
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