Top 5 Ways Beginners Get Stacked

Bertrand Grospellier
Sharks are always looking to exploit a beginner's proclivity for getting it all-in

A common beginner affliction - and one of the reasons all sharks love noobs - is the tendency to get stacked in less-than-stacking-worthy situations.

Being a beginner at a No-Limit game can be an exciting, but expensive, experience. The sharks are always looking to exploit a beginner's proclivity for getting it all-in.

The key to making money at poker, which all professionals know only too well, is to spend as much effort minimizing your losses as you do maximizing your winnings.

Herewith, several cautionary examples of classic beginner missteps. Read 'em and adjust your play accordingly.

The Final Hand
Learn how to read the board or you end up looking like a doofus with jack-high.

5) Misreading the Board. One of the greatest mistakes beginners make is misreading the board or their own hand. There is nothing more demoralizing than getting it all-in, saying, "I got the straight" and turning over a busted four straight.

It usually takes the table about five seconds to assess things before they let you know, "Actually, you have jack-high."

But that's a pretty major misread. More commonly, beginners will miss the possible straights or flushes out there. Players with top two pair will eagerly call an all-in bet, not realizing J Q is not that strong on the Q T J 9 4 board.

These players are always a little shocked to see the pot being pushed to someone else's seat.

If you're playing online, flush draws can be picked up much easier by switching to a four-color deck. If you're going to do most of your playing live, try the 10-second rule - meaning always take a full 10 seconds before you act.

For one, you'll feel less rushed. For two, you'll have the time to pay closer attention to the board.

4) Making Dumb Bluffs. Until you've attained the third level of poker thought, it's not possible to be making bluffs with any sort of high expectation. Dan Harrington calls typical beginner bluffs "dark tunnel bluffs."

Roland de Wolfe
Seeing your all-in bluff snap-called is a depressing experience.

Knowing that you cannot win the pot unless you make your opponent fold is a solid piece of intelligence, but it's harmful if you're unaware that your opponent holds the nuts, or is unwilling to fold for any bet.

If either of those is the case, you're really left with no way to win the pot. Seeing your all-in bluff get snap-called is a depressing experience.

In these situations, the old cliché "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing" rings true.

3) Outplaying Yourself. Sometimes beginners like to think they're much more skilled at the table than they actually are. This can be a very good thing, or a very expensive thing. The delusion becomes expensive when a player starts to outplay himself.

Outplaying yourself as a beginner means trying to get creative or crafty. When you don't understand the intricacies of the game well enough, your creativity backfires more often than not.

One example of outplaying yourself is by cleverly disguising your big hand, sandbagging the hell out of it. You play it as if you're incredibly weak, willing to fold to anything.

When you smooth-call your opponent's small probe bet, allowing them to hit their gut-shot on the turn, you spring your trap, check-raising the crap out of your rival, who now holds the nuts.

Your opponent, who was willing to fold to any show of strength on the flop, is now getting all of your chips without having to even think about what was going on in the hand. Then you go and complain to all your friends about how you got sucked out on, unlucky again.

Chris Hall
Don't get caught outplaying yourself.

A beginner may be especially tempted to outplay himself when he gets a legitimate read of weakness. He's 100% sure that his opponent's all-in bet is a bluff - he knows his adversary has nothing. So he makes the all-in call with his no-pair, eight-high hand.

I'm amazed at how often I see someone make a big call because they knew their opponent "had nothing." If you're holding less than ace-high, chances are your opponent's "nothing" is actually better than your hand.

The moral is summed up nicely by a classic poker saying: "When bluffing, more often than not you're actually betting with the best hand."

2) Calling Off Your Stack on a Draw. What's the deal with beginners and flush draws? It has become almost impossible to make a beginner fold a flush draw, for any amount of money.

Almost all of these beginners have read the books and are aware of the idea of pot odds, claim they understand it, rattle off terms such as implied odds, equity and pot-committed, and yet still call off their whole stack on the draw heads-up.

Not only that, these beginners have no respect for a paired board, not hesitating to call off their stack on a flush draw while drawing completely dead to the boat.

In a cash game, it's almost always inadvisable to be going broke on just a draw.

1) Getting Married to Hands. Easily the No. 1 reason a beginner loses his or her stack is by getting married to a hand.

Phil Hellmuth
It befuddles the pros, but most beginners are simply unable to fold a premium hand.

Regardless of the action, board or any other factors that clearly show them they're beat, most beginner players are simply unable to fold a premium hand. It's as if after getting dealt AA, KK or QQ, the player just shuts off and assumes they're indestructible.

Unfortunately for these beginners, you can't save your tournament life simply by typing iddqd. These beginners have to realize that even pocket aces are nothing more than one pair. If you can help it, never go broke holding just a pair.

Even nonpremium starting hands will have beginners at the altar after hitting a strong flop. Flopping bottom two is an example of a hand beginners get easily married to.

Although this hand is very strong, the only opponent willing to put large money into the pot, with very rare exceptions, is an opponent who has you crushed.

There is a time to get all your chips in the middle. Every time you're dealt AA or KK is not that time.

If you're going to make money at poker, you have to be willing to make the big fold, and cut your losses before you lose your entire stack.

More beginner strategy articles:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »