Poker is probably the most well-known card game after blackjack. It’s so well known that it appears over and over in movies and TV. Its pop culture status is unlikely to be diminished any time soon (especially now that poker tournaments have been televised for decades), which means that new players are always going to catch the poker bug and make their way to the tables.
Keep in mind though that you can play poker online as well. You don’t always have to play in person. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of new poker players make. They go right for the tables and don’t even consider spending some time online first honing their skills.
Apart from this, there are a few other mistakes that poker players make. And it’s not just beginners. Some experience gamblers do it, too. Keep reading below for the four common mistakes you may be making at the poker table.
1 – You’re Practicing at the Tables Instead of Online
When you play online, you have a huge number of advantages over playing in person.
First, you don’t have all the distractions of a casino. Casinos have lights and sounds, they have people shoving free drinks in your hand, and they have other players who are trying their best to beat you. There are other patrons talking too much, trying to throw you off your game, actively being hostile or rude, or try more subtle actions, like staring you down during a hand. To top it off, casinos are designed to keep you confused about what time it is and where you even are in the casino itself.
All of this combines to overwhelm new players who may even still struggle to remember which hands are which. What I think is most important when it comes to poker is getting the basics down to the point that you feel confident in each play. You don’t have to think about how your hand ranks, and you don’t have to try to remember the rules of betting. You flow through it like a professional and know instantly how you stand when the cards are dealt.
So, this is probably one of the biggest mistakes you’re making at the poker table, going to the poker table in the first place instead of playing online. I highly recommend you play online first and hone your skills. And who knows? You might find out that you prefer playing online to playing in person!
2 – You Allow Your Emotions to Get the Best of You
This is different for everyone, as not everyone is emotional. Some people can be pretty laid back, which would be excellent for a poker player. But getting emotional is something that you see more often when money is at stake. In fact, a lot of people don’t realize just how emotional they can really be if they’ve never been in a situation as stressful as gambling.
Remember, when you sit down in a casino, you can lose a lot of money quickly, even on small bets. For most people, $100 is a lot of money. It’s not something to sniff at. But even playing $20 hands, you can lose $100 in 20 minutes at the poker table.
One concept to poker is that some people is that their emotions get the best of them. I think it’s pretty common for people to imagine the guy who slams his fist on the table, his face red with anger, but there are other emotions that are equally damaging.
One thing about playing poker in person that specifically makes it harder than playing online is that people can see you. The other players are able to watch you carefully and read your emotions. If you’re not an angry player but are instead a fearful or anxious player, they’re going to catch on to your tells if a bad hand is written all over your face.
Alternatively, if you find your anxiety running high because you’re losing, you might end up giving more away, too. And the worst part is, you might not even realize you’re doing it.
Even players who get happy at the table can get in trouble. I actually see this regularly. Someone who is winning and having a great time gets sloppy. They start overplaying their hands because they’ve become cocky. Their happiness disappears pretty quickly when they make a bad play.
Ultimately, emotions are going to get you into a lot of trouble at the poker table, no matter how good or bad they are. Do your best to keep your emotions completely out of the game, and you’ll have a much better chance of walking away with money in your pocket.
Or just play online and avoid the problem to some extent. Sure, you can still get angry and make bad plays, but it’s going to be a lot harder for the other players to figure out what’s going on with you.
3 – You’re Betting Too Much or Not Enough
Another great reason to play poker online is that you can play for free or play for very low amounts. What makes this such a great resource to the new player is that they can learn how much or how little they should be betting on each hand for a relatively low cost (if not for free).
What you regularly see newbies do at the poker table is. They don’t have a proper understanding of how bets affect the other players. If you get a great hand and make a huge bet right away, sometimes you’ll get people to call. But most of the time, everyone will fold. Learning how to slow play a hand is a skill that takes time to learn, and you’ll probably end up winning tiny pots with that flush you drew for a while before you figure out exactly how to play it.
That being said, over-betting is not always a terrible thing. It’s sometimes the case that a big bet makes sense because someone else has a big hand too. Yours just happens to be bigger. But how do you know? How can you figure out when you should bet big and when you should play it slow?
The answer is to take your time and learn, and you really only get that from enough experience and practice. You have to play a lot and be willing to lose some hands here and there. So, you need to get used to the idea that you’re going to bet too much for a while and that you’re definitely going to lose money as you gain more experience.
By the same token, you’ll find that new players bet too much when they have a really bad hand. They often don’t even realize how bad their hand is because they haven’t spent time learning the hands and understanding how good or bad those hands really are.
In turn, they make huge bets that drive people out of the pot. This sounds good at first, but savvy players will figure out pretty quickly when you’re betting too much and don’t understand the value of your hand. They’ll think you’re bluffing at first, but gradually, they’ll figure out that you just don’t know what you’re doing and take advantage.
The other issue you see new players running into a lot is betting too little. They don’t really understand how they can make money off the other players with their hand, so they end up making bets that just don’t win them the money they need to make it through the bad hands.
When you play like this, you often end up losing the game because you’re not pulling in the big pots you need when you have great hands. Instead, your good hands are offset by all the money you lose with your bad hands.
Betting is bet too much or too little, more art than science, and how you bet should change with each group of players you play with. You’ll find that you develop strategies over time. But you need that time in the first place to learn how you play and understand what you like to do and what you don’t like to do in terms of betting. Not everyone feels comfortable making big bets or bluffing, for example, so you need to come up with a strategy that works for you.
Try playing online for a while to figure out a strategy that helps you feel comfortable at the tables before you go to a real casino.
4 – Focusing on Your Cards Too Much
I mentioned this a bit in the last section, but I think it’s so important that I want to repeat it: You really need to focus on the players and not on your cards. I have seen people win huge pots when both players only had a pair, and I have seen people with four of a kind lose to someone who was bluffing with a high card.
Poker can sometimes be more about psychology than it is about the cards themselves. If you want a game of pure luck, go play roulette. If you want a game that’s more about the players, a game of mind versus mind, then poker is your game. That means you learn how the other players play, try to figure out their tells, their strategy, and also figure out how you can disrupt that strategy to your advantage.
Poker is a fantastic game for most new players because of how fun it can be and because of its relative simplicity. But it can also be taxing when you don’t know what you’re doing.
You can run out of money fast if you’re not careful, so take your time and learn what you can do to avoid these common mistakes.
Is there anything I missed in this list?
Let me know in the comments below.