Five Common Beginner Mistakes Part 1


Every mistake you make at a poker table costs you money.

Unfortunately, most beginners have a hard time learning from a mistake, unless it costs them their entire stack.

More often than not, mistakes you make will cost you a pot.

Your contribution to that lost pot may only have been a fraction of your total stack. In such a case, many beginners fail to take the lost pot into account, and neglect to evaluate the magnitude of their mistakes.

Such mistakes, although less costly than stack-losing blunders, happen more frequently, which means they're actually more expensive in the long run.

The choices you make at the table are the raft on which you float. Any leak, no matter how small, will eventually start to sink you.

You can spend all of your time furiously bailing yourself out, or you can take the time now to fix the leaks once and for all.

5) Hoping for Coin Flips

This leak typically stems from players watching too much poker on TV, and not spending enough time studying the real game. TV poker, though entertaining, is rarely a good way to learn solid strategic play as a beginner, especially if you're trying to play cash games.

Andrew Feldman
Coinflips are a common part of tournament poker.

A constant occurrence in TV tournament poker is players searching for coin flips. The viewers are bombarded with the sight of players excitedly taking coin flips in a desperate attempt to prolong their tournament life.

In cash-game poker, it is almost never correct to go searching for a pre-flop coin flip. Often, when faced with an all-in bet, a beginner player holding A-K will make the call, under the logic:

  • I'm ahead of any nonpair hands
  • I'm a coin flip to any pair below KK
  • I'm only behind KK and AA, and I even have three outs to KK

With this rationale, it seems like a good idea to make the call here.

Unfortunately for these beginners, cash-game poker is unlike tournament poker. In the late stages of a tournament, especially the final table (which is what makes up the vast majority of all TV poker), players are often looking for a hand with any showdown value to put it all-in with pre-flop.

This can include any ace, and any two high cards, making A-K a very easy call in this situation.

In a cash game, it's a very different situation. Other than in rare occurrences of players being on uber-tilt, or just wanting to go home, the only hands players will push with pre-flop will almost exclusively be made up of pocket pairs and A-K.

This means other than in these rare scenarios, calling with A-K puts you at being a chop a very small percentage of the time, slightly behind a small pocket pair (55-QQ) a decent percentage of the time, and behind KK or AA the rest of the time.

It's a money-losing play to "hope" for a coin flip pre-flop in a cash game.

4) Overplaying Hands

Another common mistake made by beginners is overplaying their hands.

Watch players who are very new to the game, and many of them will never fold anything equal to or better than top pair. If they have a pair of aces, they wouldn't even think of folding, since aces are the highest pair you can have.

The more poker you play, the less comfortable you will get with marginal strength hands. The contrast between the emotional affect of a beginner flopping bottom two pair and that of a pro flopping bottom two is night and day.

A beginner gets filled with glee flopping a hand as big as two pair, while the pro understands it's a sucker's bet.

Here's an example of why this contrast exists:



The beginner sees this hand and knows that they have a huge hand on this flop. There is no straight or flush on the board, meaning chances are they have the best hand. Beginners will be willing to go to town on this board.

The professional sees the same board and understands that there are only three options: His opponents have nothing, and he wins the pot on the flop, little more than the blinds; his opponents have one pair, and might be willing to call a single bet; or his opponents have a set, or a bigger two pair.

Holiday Chipstack
Aces are always a gift, just somtimes they need to be returned.

The professional knows that they will win a small pot, or anyone willing to put money into this pot is likely to have them beat. The only hand the professional can make money off of is a top pair, big kicker scenario, where the player with that hand overplays it themselves.

Unfortunately, it's not possible for the professional to know if the player is overplaying a top pair, or playing a set normally.

Other than the occasional exception, if you have anything less than the high end of the straight, you have a marginal hand, and should not be looking to play a very large pot.

Only when you have the nuts, or an absolute monster, should you be looking to chunk your stack, and stuff the pot to the gills.

All of these mistakes are avoidable; eliminating them from your game will result in an instant boost to your session profits, and vastly increased long-term yields.

Continue schooling yourself in Part Two of this article.

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