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Poker Mistakes

  Mike Caro, in his book 'Caro's Book of Poker Tells' tells us that "Player are either acting, or they aren't. If they are acting, decide what they want you to do, and dissapoint them." He calls this the Great Law of Tells and it's a great starting point to understand when you're being duped. If you're familiar with the players at your table, you can often spot a bluff or slowplay when you find them acting in a way which is uncharacteristic of their style. The trick then becomes to put them on a hand and determine if you can beat them. Easier said than done, right? Caro has written poker's most comprehensive book on the psychology and body language of poker and I would recommend it to the player who is looking to improve their understanding of how players can potential betray the represented strength of their hands. Of course, you can read more about this book in our bookstore by clicking the link above. Our own, Marc Wortman has also written a series of articles on the topic. Rather than regurgitate this material here, I've provided links to his insight below.

  I can't lay down a losing hand ' 16% of respondents. Most often, the biggest loser in a given showdown is player with the second best hand. In many cases, this player could have avoided donating some of his chips to the winner by folding to that last bet. I found myself in this position in a large tournament about two weeks ago. I called a river bet with two pair knowing full well that trips were out there. It's been said by players that there are times that some one seems to be putting your chips in the pot for you. This was one of those times. It takes a great deal of discipline to lay down a strong hand in the face of a stronger hand, but it is an essential aspect of the game. If you suspect that you're beat even though you have a good hand, you need to lay down in the face of big bet. Calling such bets is only useful if you absolutely need to see what your opponent has to help you determine what kind of player they are. Often you can find less expensive opportunities to find this this out, and hopefully at the expense of another player at the table, rather than yourself. Your only other option is to come over the top with a big raise in the hopes of folding your opponent. If they have the nuts, this will NEVER work.

  I gamble too much at limits that are too high 5% of respondents I was very relieved to see that only a few of you gave this answer. Higher limits will attract players of higher skill. The few players of poor skill at high limits are either wealthy or desperate and stupid. You should NEVER gamble money you don't have, and you should always avoid playing at tables where your chances to win are slim. Sure, every player will reach a point where they need to try a higher limit to test their limits and develop their game, but make sure you're able to handle what is thrown at you at the limits you are comfortable at before you do. If you're looking for resources on high limit play, Doyle Brunson's Super System is the definitive work on high stakes no-limit play. If you find yourself in the situation where you're over your head too often you may have a compulsive gambling habit. With the growing popularity of online gaming, this is one of the most potentially destructive habits of the internet era. I would urge you to seek council. There are people who can help you to curb this and Gambler's Anonymous is a good place to start.

  This is rather straight-forward. Any player who has read at least one poker book knows that starting hand strategy is the building block to an overall profitable strategy. Yet very few players demonstrate the knowledge and/or patience to play good starting poker hands. Why is starting hand strategy so critical to Texas Hold'em? Playing less poker hands than your opponents gives you the advantage in the long run. Think about this, if your opponents play 40% of their poker hands and you are only playing 20%, you will have the advantage in the majority of the hands that you play. You'll win a lot more pots with the best kicker. When you hit pairs, they will be less vulnerable to overcards. Your straights will beat lower straights. Your flushes will outkick your opponents flushes…and so forth. By playing fewer poker hands you will continue to put yourself in the best position to win the hand. Of course, it is possible to play too tight. This is why you have to post blinds in poker; otherwise, you could just wait for AA every time. Yet I have rarely run into a player that plays too tight.

  Continuing to play when losing. The instant you feel you're on a losing streak, set a firm stop point. When you reach it, quit! Don't think the next spin of the reels or throw of the dice is going to do it. Odds are, it won't! When you're in a hole, stop digging!

  Playing off all winnings. Set aside some of each win, no matter how small. Betting down to the last dollar is why 96% of casino players go home broke. Always have something to show for your good fortune.

  Not joining the casino's player's club. The points you get for playing make you eligible for cash-back awards, free or discounted rooms, free meals and show tickets, and special mail offers not available to the general public.

  A lot of people learn how to play poker by playing in a similar fashion to other people. They may just imitate others at the table, or they may try to play like a professional they saw on television. This is the wrong way to go about playing poker. Many people who play poker are simply bad at it. Imitating a poorly-skilled player means copying a lot of their bad habits. Furthermore, trying to imitate what one saw on television is also a recipe for disaster. What is shown on television is almost always a tournament, and their hands are highly situational. The reasons for the professional's decision probably has little applicability to your own game. It is important to understand how to make decisions at poker. Succeeding at poker is not done through imitation; rather, it is done through understanding the complexities of the game.

  All gambling involves luck. While luck tends to even itself out over the long run, people naturally focus on the short run and on their fluctuations. Because gambling involves randomness, people will often blame or chalk up their luck to some random event that coincided with how they fared at a certain gambling session. This may be as innocent as believing in a lucky shirt. However, some people take these superstitions too far. They start to believe that if they constantly move seats or change their socks that they will somehow become the next WSOP winner. You cannot affect the "luck" factor of gambling. Luck evens itself out over the long run. The only thing you should concern yourself at the poker table is playing well. If you play very well at poker, you will win over the long run. If you do not play well, you will lose. It's as simple as that.

  Having a suited hand is a plus. However, you should not play a hand just because it is suited. The first two things to consider about a starting hand are the ranks of the cards and if the cards are paired. These are by far the most important factors in the value of a hand. After this, you should consider if they are suited or connecting. A hand like A K is much, much more valuable than a hand like 10 3. A K is a top starting hand, whereas 10 3 should be thrown in the muck. This may sound obvious, but many beginners make the mistake of calling to see the flop with any two suited cards. The probability of flopping a flush or a flush draw with two suited cards is just under 12%. This is fairly low; you need other reasons to play a starting hand besides it being suited.

  Free card plays are advanced moves that good players sometimes make. These moves are almost always done in late position. One of the most basic examples is raising with a flush draw at the flop in a limit hold'em game. When you do this, you hope your opponent just calls and checks to you on the turn. This way, if you miss the turn, you end up seeing the turn and river cards for just two small bets, instead of one small bet and one large bet. Knowing when to make a free card play or attempt to re-raise your opponent to break his free card play is highly situational. It is the type of play that frequently even good players mishandle because of improper reads or tactical errors.

  Good poker players can generally prevent themselves from going on tilt or limit the damages from a tilt. However, every now and then a good poker player will have such a bad streak that it will break their confidence in themselves. These players will go on an extended tilt where they start playing poorly session after session, and they often almost forget how to play poker well in the first place. Furthermore, these players will often start to play in tougher, higher-stakes games that they may not have been able to beat even if they were playing at the best of their ability. In short, some circumstances may set even a good poker player on an extended tilt. While this sort of tilt is rare, it can last for months at a time, draining a good poker player of his bankroll.

When people sit down in a game, they want to play. Often, this means they even will play hands like J4. This is a cardinal no-no. Hopefully, the articles on this site will help improve your starting hand selection.