Five Traps Beginner Poker Players Get Caught In


Learning to play poker can be a very trying experience.

Once you know the basics you can at least function, but you'll still be a complete greenhorn when it comes to playing well.

As a beginner, you may find yourself stuck in a rut in terms of your play, making the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes you might not even recognize what's wrong.

Fear not, though: read on for five traps that new players commonly get stuck in, and for links to advice on how to avoid them.

1) Playing Too Many Hands Before the Flop

This is the biggest trap of them all.

New players play far too many hands pre-flop. When choosing a hand to play before the flop, it should meet certain requirements.

You should be playing only 19-24% of all your hands and folding the rest; read more about pre-flop strategy here.

2) Taking Hands Too Far Past the Flop

This is an extension of the previous trap.

Not only do most beginners play too many hands; they go way too far with them.

Many players take any pair or any draw to the river.

Generally you should be continuing with only top pair or better or a strong draw.

3) Playing by "Feel" Rather than by Cards, Situations and Math

Many new players play hands because they have a "feeling" about them.

This is wrong. Poker is a mathematical game: everything that can possibly happen boils down to odds.

Therefore, you should only play a hand because it has good odds of winning - not because you feel lucky or you feel you're due.

You play a hand because the situation dictates that in the long term, by playing that hand, you're going to make money.

Learn more about "expected value" here.

4) Letting Your Emotions Get the Better of You

Poker can be a stressful game.

If you lose a couple of hands and start to let your emotions get the better of you, you're going to start making bad decisions.

Poker is all about decisions; to make the best possible ones means you have to approach decision making with a clear frame of mind.

Learn more about managing your emotions here.

5) Thinking Short Term

A lot of players will make a correct play, lose the pot and second-guess themselves.

They'll say, "Oh - I should have folded pocket aces because he ended up making a straight."

This is wrong. If you get your money in good, it's the correct play whether you win or lose.

Poker is a long-term game. You may make all the right decisions and still lose frequently over the course of a day or a week or even a month.

That's because there is a lot of short-term luck involved.

However, in the long run, bad players will lose more of the time and good players will win.

Learn more about thinking long term here.

In summary:

  • Rein in the number of hands you play before the flop
  • Fold while the folding's good
  • Base your decisions on concrete factors
  • Keep your emotions in check
  • Take the long view when you assess potential action.

Keep these basics in mind and you'll get the hang of the game without breaking the bank in the process.

More strategy articles by Dan Skolovy:

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