7 Reasons New Gamblers Lose Money Playing Hold’em

Man Scratching His Head With a Money and Poker Background

If you’re a fan of playing Texas Hold’em, there’s a good chance that you’ve had a nightmare scenario like the following unfold a few times. My first time playing Hold’em for real money, I was in college and was invited to a friend’s house for his weekly poker night. I’ve played Hold’em for as long as I can remember and figured I’d play for a few hours and win some money.

An hour after I arrived at the game, I was in my car heading back to my apartment, broke and speechless. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I knew how to play the game, I had been somewhat successful in the past during casual games, but when it came time to play for serious money, I collapsed under the pressure.

Real money Texas Hold’em is one of the most popular types of poker and is a game any serious gambler should learn to play well. If you’re anything like I was during my early college days, and you’re experiencing consistent losses, you’re not alone. Here are seven reasons why new gamblers lose money playing Texas Hold’em. Learn to understand where you’re going wrong.

1 ‒ Lack of Information and Preparation

This reason should go without saying, but you’d be surprised to find out how many inexperienced gamblers tend to overstate their preparation. As I said, I fell victim to this during my first big cash game and continued to struggle with this for several months after I first started gambling. A few casual games of poker don’t equate to success during legitimate games and tournaments.

To adequately prepare to hold your own at the table, you need to understand everything there is to know about the game of Hold’em. That means you must know which hands beat other hands and other basic rules and game mechanisms.

Texas Holdem Player With a Royal Flush Hand

Even if you feel as though you’re prepared to compete against older and more experienced gamblers, you most likely still have some room for growth. Playing Hold’em successfully involves having the rules down pat while also being able to pick up subtle idiosyncrasies about other players, otherwise known as tells. You must be well-versed at the game because you’ll be completely taken aback by the game’s complexity your first time playing for real money.

2 ‒ Overconfidence in Your Abilities

This point plays off of the previous topic. New gamblers can sometimes be braggadocious and overconfident due to immaturity and naivete. Just because you routinely beat your family members during casual poker games doesn’t mean you’re going to waltz into a room full of bonafide poker players and succeed.

While you might feel confident in your talent, there are always ways to improve. Being successful at the tables requires an ability to roll with the punches and always be adapting to your surroundings.

Sure, you know the rule book front to back and understand the game on paper, but in all likelihood, all your preparation will fly out the window at the first signs of adversity.

Most gamblers aren’t good at gambling, but a bad gambler who has a ton of experience will routinely beat a new gambler prone to making rookie mistakes. It’s essential to maintain your humility and don’t be too cocky, or your play will suffer.

3 ‒ Being Too Aggressive

Depending on who you ask, you should only play about a third of your hands during a game of Hold’em max. If you try to play every hand, you’re going to be bounced from the table and heading home early. Newer players typically value the wrong types of card combinations or fail to understand when they should fold.

This frequently occurs during hands where you already have money on the table and think that you already have too much invested into a particular hand. Here’s some unsolicited advice: Don’t be too proud to fold a bad hand even if you’ve already bet a decent amount of chips.

There’s going to come a time during your game when you bet aggressively, and another player who most likely has a better hand is not only matching your bets, but raising you. As someone who wants to hold their own, it’s crucial to know when to cut your losses and fold. Just because you fold doesn’t mean you’re a weaker player, and frequently, the best players are those who don’t press their luck.

4 ‒ Not Being Aggressive Enough

While this point directly contradicts my previous point, it’s still pertinent and, unfortunately, accurate. Speaking from experience, a portion of new gamblers will limp through a game or slowplay strong hands trying to increase the pot. Both of these practices should be avoided.

Large Stack of Poker Chips

You cannot win playing Hold’em if you bet small and bow out of high-stake hands. If you continuously bet pre-flop only to fold if you’re unhappy with the cards, you’re going to bleed chips. Other, better players will notice this tendency and systematically take advantage of the mistakes you’re making.

Understanding which hands you should pursue and bet aggressively on will come with practice and a deeper appreciation of the strategy that goes into Hold’em. While this comes with time, it’s essential not to try to just hang around the table waiting for other gamblers to fall off the table. You may outlast them, but their chips are being redistributed around the table and only serve to increase other player’s chip stacks and strengthen their chances.

5 ‒ Bluffing Ineffectively

Nothing says, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing at this table,” like bluffing on almost every hand. Bluffing is an essential part of the game, but it is an easy way to lose all your money when done repeatedly. This practice should be done sparingly, so it takes your opponents off guard, rather than habitually.

I understand wanting to gain an edge wherever you can, especially if you’re facing the disadvantage of inexperience. But a significant part of Hold’em is reading the room and picking up on tendencies of your fellow players. If you’re continually bluffing with bad cards, better players will eventually pick up on your habits.

Unfortunately for many new gamblers, they can find themselves lucking into a few early pots because other players are still trying to get a feel for the table. If you want to employ a strategy of bluffing early to win a few hands, go right ahead. But be aware that this smart little trick will run its course, and your deception will most likely be uncovered.

6 ‒ Being Easy to Read

As I have mentioned several times throughout this post, Hold’em is a game that requires complete emotional competence. What I mean by this is that you can’t reveal too much during the course of the game or other gamblers will catch on. This goes for masking your excitement when you happen to catch a pair of aces, or your disappointment when you are dealt a 2 and a 7.

Being in control of your physical mannerisms and mastering your poker face equates to success at a Hold’em table. When you can contain your emotions, you’ll learn to play with the knowledge you have stored rather than relying on any emotional factors that could influence your decision making.

Closeup of a Pocket Pair of Aces

When I first started playing poker, I struggled with this more than any other part of the game. It’s challenging to hide your feelings while gambling, especially when money is on the line. But if you aspire to win money, you need to be calm and collected throughout the game’s entirety.

7 ‒ Not Understanding Table Positions

Where you are situated during any given hand can be the difference between big wins and severe losses. Understanding table positions is relatively easy, and like most things in Hold’em, it will come with time. While you will eventually be able to understand positioning, it can be complex to master in the early stages of your time playing Hold’em.

For the sake of simplicity, the two things to focus on are your relative and absolute positions. Your absolute position at the table is basically your position in relation to the button. Relative position refers to your proximity to the most aggressive gambler.

It’s preferable to be seated to the right of the most aggressive bettor, otherwise known as a “pre-flop raiser,” because you’ll have an opportunity to see how other players react to a raise.


Learning how to play Texas Hold’em is easy; creating your own playing style is a different story. For those of you brand new to the game, don’t be put off by a few early losses, as it’s to be expected. Hold’em is one of the most exciting varieties of poker and is worth your time if you’re a fan of the game.

To get ahead of the curve, make sure to have the rules down pat before you decide to play a cash game for serious money. Even if you feel completely prepared, you’ll most likely forget some rules the first time you sit down at the table. New gamblers often struggle to balance between being too aggressive and too passive, and both mistakes can lead to an early exit.

Some of the most common ways new Hold’em players lose money is by bluffing too often and being easy to read. Make sure to mask your emotions and keep the bluffing to a minimum.