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.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

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Selina Bond 2016-01-06 01:16:06

It is necessary for the player to know the basic rules and strategy of the online poker dealer while playing online. If players have a proper knowledge of how to flip the coin and how to play the big hands on the table then they easily win the game.

rosie 2014-08-06 21:59:47

Playing two people end up with a J and a J is on the table. How are the five cards counted? One has J 7 the other has J 4 the table has J A 3 9 5

Chris 2010-03-08 22:12:21

Poker is a game of odds. A good poker player takes in the current table situation. His hand, the board, his opponents playing style, and makes an educated guess and chooses the action that has the best odds to win.

There are times when I will get it all in with bottom set, and times when I will fold top set. It all depends on the table conditions at that exact decision moment.

Generally a set will win the hand when you are up against a weak opponent. Get your chips in when you have the best odds of winning, whether that is a pair or a royal flush.


gonzalo palacios 2009-12-06 10:47:26

great stuff.. i seem to have alot more luck on line than b&m which im going to hit in a an hour or so.. carson casino or bicycle casino.. N E wayz gr8 stuff... im a beginner and i remember loosing recently to a str8 and I had pocket AA. i still have a little trouble counting outs that may also help opponents hand. & then do it on the fly @ a B&M is tuff.

Sean Lind 2009-02-21 21:45:00

Hey Bethovin, it can be easy to make the mistake of skipping the basics when explaining stuff.

What questions do you have, what do you not understand, and what do you wish we would explain more clearly.

I'll either help you out in the comments here, or write an article (or series of) based on your questions here.

bethovin 2009-02-21 20:49:00

I wish you pro's would talk plain english and stop skipping and philosphying so much you can not be clearly understood.

Putnam 2009-01-20 02:02:00

Great Article! This could teach some beginners a Lot!

Custom Poker Table 2008-12-29 11:21:00

I guess the most common mistake that a beginner poker player makes is sheer aggressiveness. So never forget to observe, listen and tests the waters with what you have learned. Good luck!

STR8M8 2008-12-24 01:25:00

Keep On Rocking Me Baby!

Sean Lind 2008-12-16 18:50:00

It depends on the board, the best way to describe this is by a quick example:

board 2-8-9-10-3

If you have 67, or even 7J, there is a very good chance that you're in a world of pain. On this board, unless you have JQ you have a marginal hand. Even a set on this board is not to played into a large pot.

board 2-K-A-9-7

On this board, ea hand like a set of 9's is a very large hand, and in almost any circumstance would be worth getting it all. When there is no very simple way for a set to be beat, it's huge. a set of aces in the nuts here, meaning only AA, and KK beat you. The chances of that are small enough that a set is a monster. In the QOD the action and board are so that your set of Jacks are played as a monster. If there was four to a flush on the board, they would be played as an underpair.

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