Five Common Beginner Mistakes Part 2


You'll never be a successful poker player if you don't wrap your mind around the fact that every mistake you make costs you money.

This article, the second of two, details three more common mistakes beginners tend to make.If you missed it bring yourself up to speed with part one of this article.

Part one went over searching for coin flips and overplaying your hands; although these are both costly mistakes, they're by no means the only ones that cost beginners money at the felt.

Not only should you take steps to avoid making these mistakes; you should try to force your opponents into making them.

3) Drawing on Dangerous Boards

When you play a drawing hand, you're playing to hit your draw, and stuff the pot when you do. You don't play a drawing hand to hit, and check.

Therefore, once you hit your draw (flush draw, or straight draw) you're committed to putting money into the pot. This money will be anywhere from a small amount to your whole stack.

When you pay for a draw on a dangerous board, sometimes hitting is the worst thing that can happen to you. The simplest example of this is drawing to a flush on a paired board.

Once you hit your flush, anyone willing to put big money into the pot has a very decent chance of having a full house.

There is nothing worse than paying to draw dead, and chunking off your stack when you think you just hit a good card. When there is a real chance that hitting your draw will leave you with the second-best hand, you want to keep the pot as small as you can.

Unless you can somehow get a read that your hand is best, you never want to assume or hope.

Doyle Brunson
The man who needs no introduction.

2) Playing on Scared Money

Doyle Brunson says "The key to No-Limit ... is to put a man to a decision for all his chips." In other words, you have to be willing to put your opponents all-in, and make an all-in call yourself at any time.

Many beginners are playing poker on a short roll, or without a roll altogether. Because of this, these players are playing under the knowledge that they simply cannot afford to lose the money they have in play.

This is known as playing on scared money. If you're unable and unwilling to risk your entire stack, your opponents will use that fear to run over you.

To play poker successfully, you have to disassociate the money in play with the money in your checking account. Losing a full buy-in at a No-Limit table should be no more difficult to you than buying a hamburger.

Obviously you would have preferred not to have spent the money, but you got to do what you got to do.

Until you're truly able to disconnect from the money you need to put in to play, it's not possible to play No-Limit poker correctly. Play games within your roll, and go into the game with the correct mind-set to play proper poker.

Remember, making money is a byproduct of winning at the game.

You do not go to a poker table with the intent of making money; you go with the intent of playing a high-quality game. Money is just the way players keep score.

1) Illogical (or Transparent) Bet Sizing

If the bets you make give your opponent an obvious picture of the hand you're holding, then your opponents will never make any mistakes. If your opponents are never making mistakes, you're not going to be making any money.

Lots of beginners will think of only one aspect of betting, ignoring all the others. As a result, their bet sizing becomes a detriment rather than an asset.

Imagine if you have a decent hand, such as two pair on the flop. You're first to act, and have to decide how much to bet. Lots of beginners will only think of the first aspect of bet sizing.

"I want my opponents to call my bet so I can make money on the hand, so I should make a bet small enough to make sure they call me."

Isaac Haxton
Isaac Haxton plays while wearing his predator suit.

You bet $10 into a $60 pot. You successfully completed your single objective, but now you're giving all your opponents 7-1 odds (or better once other players make calls in the hand) to draw against you.

In reality, your bet size has to be small enough to get a call, yet large enough that you cut down the pot odds to anyone drawing to a hand better than yours.

Another example of this is a beginner with a strong hand will make a bet to protect that hand, but size it so irrationally large that they will never make any money on the hand. A common scenario:

$1/$2 game; beginner player is dealt pocket aces in the big blind. One player limps, a second player raises to $10 and everyone folds to the beginner; the beginner moves all-in for $145.

There is $15 in the pot, and he just raised to $145. It is almost never a good idea to raise over 9.5 times the pot. Yes, he protected his hand and won the pot, but he extracted the absolute minimum amount of value from it.

Anytime you play a hand in a way that extracts less value than possible, you make a mistake and lose money. With pocket aces your opponent is a serious dog to your hand. You could possibly be ahead by a margin of as large as 8-1.

This means you want your opponent to call your reraise. You want to make a raise small enough for them to call, yet large enough to maximize their mistake.

If all goes well, your opponent will think you're bluffing, and move all-in after you. If you move all-in first, chances are that will never happen.

You need to size your bets in a way that maximizes the mistakes of your opponents.

If you'd like to learn more about bet sizing, PokerListings writer Dan Skolovy wrote a great article on the topic. Read it here.

More strategy articles from Sean Lind:

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