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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Gregory Bourke 2016-01-09 03:31:34

Great tips! Question from a very green fish.
Playing online holdem very small blinds.
Not playing many hands the ones i do play are usually pairs and high end cards, win 65%. Always fold if don't get a hit, never win much only when i go all in and survive? Can some one please give me a rundown on a strategy of some kind of how to handle being in a semi strong position post flop. I hope i make sense, this game drives me batty most of the time!!!

B.Gingrich 2013-04-27 16:19:32

Found these tips to be very solid advise! I refer to this page often prior to live play as a personal reminder and to pick up new tips!
WPT Boot Camp student

oo,dat,dare 2009-11-14 07:13:00


watch a few online games at different stake levels.

At the micro's you'll find close to any two cards played hoping to hit the deck in some way!

In the mid stakes you'll find the starting hand requirements and position requirements are much stricter
This makes the games tighter (on average)

to play high stakes requires the abilities to read opponents, hand ranges, betting styles and frequencies, and the knowledge / skill to completely bamboozle your opponents, who are equally skilled, at this level it's more like psychological warfare, rather than simply playing cards

So although it seems the Pro's play like fish sometimes from the outside, on the inside
they know exactly what they are doing, and more importantly why they are doing it !

Sean Lind 2009-08-04 21:10:00


The better you get at poker, the less the cards matter, and the more you begin to play the players, and the situations, rather than just the cards.

When playing against the very best players in the world, you'll always be beat if you only play the best hands, they'll always know exactly what you're holding. So you have to mix it up by playing any two cards, forcing your opponents to always be guessing.

For you as a player, I wouldn't recommend this style at all. The worse the hands you play, the harder your decisions will be post-flop. The goal for 90% of all poker players is to make all post-flop decisions as easy as they can.

Jabroni 2009-08-03 19:04:00

What I'm curious about is, if you're only supposed to play the top hands, why do we so often see the top players on TV playing less than ideal hands? It is not uncommon to be watching a show like "High Stakes Poker," where the players are incredibly skilled, playing a wide, wide array of hands from almost any position. Why is that?

ALEX 2009-06-01 06:08:00

Reading your articles is always fun as well as learning from them,thank for all your efforts to make us better.
I am a new player(two years), and still learning all I can,with my short experience some differences in results shows a Little contradiction. I play mid tight game (cash 1 to 2) but when I double up at least 60% to even 100% hands, at the flop, I still have my two cards on hand,my winning rate is super ( when play rag,late pos),I don't overplay them but usually when hit I make big money or steal pot from late pos.bottom line,I have not lost many big pots with rags on my hand (if there is no possibility I fold them).I keep record of all my games and still ahead playing 60% to 100% hands,players have a lots of fun as I take all their money with 63o because they think I am a fish. I have lost a lots of money but my record shows it has been with surprise big hands(sets,slow play AA or bad beat.Not to say I am a good player but when it comes to play rags my record is great.but I still follow your recommendations with everything else.
thank you again and this is just my opinion.

Xay 2008-09-18 19:32:00

Everything you said is right on. I made all those same mistake you mentioned when I first start playing. Only after thousands of hands, I realized those same mistake you mentioned. I wish I read this early when I first start playing so that I wouldn't have made those mistakes.

Enzo 2008-08-18 07:40:00

You can add playing AA and KK to far and also trusting two pair too much. I know that two pair is the average winning hand, but I don't know how many times my two pair have been crushed by straights or sets. It is getting to the point of I'm not even sure two pair are even worthy any more.

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