The mistakes are not given in any particular order. Most of the mistakes apply to live play also although two or three of them are most applicable to online play. Some of the mistakes are rather obvious while others a little more subtle. If you can minimize these 10 mitakes in your game you are well on your way to being a profitable player. Realize that in Texas Hold’em, most of the profit that you earn is from the mistakes of your opponents…not by your brilliant play, so be sure not to reward your opponents by making some of these common mistakes.
This is rather straight-forward. Any player who has read at least one poker book
knows that starting hand strategy is the building block to an overall profitable strategy. Yet very few players demonstrate the knowledge and/or patience to play good starting poker hands. Why is starting hand strategy so critical to Texas Hold'em
Playing less poker hands than your opponents gives you the advantage in the long run. Think about this, if your opponents play 40% of their poker hands and you are only playing 20%, you will have the advantage in the majority of the hands that you play. You’ll win a lot more pots with the best kicker. When you hit pairs, they will be less vulnerable to overcards. Your straights will beat lower straights. Your flushes will outkick your opponents’ flushes…and so forth. By playing fewer poker hands you will continue to put yourself in the best position to win the hand.
Of course, it is possible to play too tight. This is why you have to post blinds in poker; otherwise, you could just wait for AA every time. Yet I have rarely run into a player that plays too tight.
So how many hands should you play? This is all relative and depends on the criteria you should evaluate when evaluating starting hand strategy. Each game is different which affects how many hands may be profitable. One of the main criteria in determining starting hand strategy is how loose or tight the overall game is. You can play more poker hands from late position with more callers in a hand. For example, 55 is generally not a profitable hand against one caller; however, this hand can be quite profitable if six players have limped into the pot. The more players that are seeing the flop the better your implied odds. Loose games allow you to play slightly more hands.
Another good example, yet less subtle is when you are in early position. QJs is a borderline hand when played from early position. However, whenever a player limps in before me I will be more likely to play the hand. I am getting better implied odds for my draws. In addition, once two players have limped into the pot, your opponents are less likely to raise behind you without the very best premium hands. So looser games allow you to play a few more poker hands but don’t take this too far. Please don’t let this be the recipe for playing lots of starting hands simply because you play in a loose game.
Another criteria in starting poker hand strategy is whether or not the game is aggressive or passive. Many hands become unplayable whenever the pot is raised. This is a simple concept but many players fail to understand this very important point. A raise indicates that your opponent has a strong poker hand and also lowers your pot odds. Be very selective in the hands you play once the pot has been raised.
Let’s look at the great paradox in poker. The better you are the more poker hands you can play, yet exactly the opposite is true in actual play. The number of poker hands you play should be dependent on how good a poker player you are. Advanced players are able to overcome the weakness of some starting poker hands by using their excellent post-flop skills to outplay their opponents. They make better decisions on the flop, turn, and river to minimize losses with weak hands and maximize their wins. This allows them to be able to play more poker hands profitably than the beginning player. Most beginning to intermediate players should play a very tight game until you gain more experience. So think about this when you see a good player playing a questionable poker hand…maybe he can mix up his game now and then with some borderline poker hands but that does not mean it is a profitable play for the average player. Many players make the mistake of seeing some weak poker hands win a lot so they get tempted into playing them also.
I keep track of all my hand histories using Poker Stat and Poker Tracker software. These two products provide you with a wealth of information, including how often you see the flop. One interesting analysis I did was to look at the top 20 winning players that I had played at least 2000 poker hands against. I then did a benchmarking study for different criteria. In this particular analysis, I found the range of poker hands played by the winning players was between 18-28% with most players falling in the 20-22% range. This analysis was done for a relatively tight game so you ought to see slightly higher percentages in looser games…but this should give you a good idea. In general, most players should be playing between 15%-25% of your hands. The less experienced you are the further down in that range you should be playing. Yes, advanced players can play a few more than that range indicates, but it is better for beginning to intermediate players to avoid these borderline hands that can get you into trouble.
The next few articles in this series will look at some of the common drawing mistakes players make post-flop starting with a mistake many players make when looking at probabilities and odds which is Mistake #2: Drawing to Outs that Won’t Help You Win