Mistakes in Poker

I’ve been playing poker for about 11 years now. The late nineties were a time where not a lot of information was available about that game. Back then, I was pretty sure that the best way to learn the game was to just jump in and take a lot of licks. And that’s exactly what I happened to do.

I got invited to this old timer’s game. I was about 20 years old, and everyone else in the game was at least 50 or older. They took no mercy on me, which is exactly what I needed.

But poker players in this era are quite lucky to have so much information at their fingertips. Also, beginning players have the opportunity to learn in online settings at micro limits without dealing with the initial terror of learning at a live casino, which can be quite intimidating for a beginner.

Since I have been immersed in the game for so long, it is quite easy to reflect on the mistakes I have made in the past, as well as the mistakes I continue to make.

Here are some common beginner, and not so beginner, mistakes:

Bad Bankroll Management

Or more correctly, lack of bankroll management. In my opinion, this is by far the biggest problem for poker players, in general. What stakes to play, when to move up, when to drop down… these are questions that every poker player has struggled with at some point in time.

There are some good rules of thumb for this. For instance, I like the rule that says never to risk more than 10% of your bankroll at any one point, and also the one that says you should have at least twenty buy-ins for any one particular game you want to play. Unfortunately, this is something that a beginning player will just have to struggle with. It’s not easy. The best advice I can give is to try and stick to games you can afford. This will ensure that you play your best game without the hindrance of worrying about going all-in with the mortgage money.

Thinking You Know Everything

I’ve been guilty of this plenty of times. I just have to keep reminding myself poker is always evolving, so it’s impossible to know EVERYTHING. Some things about the game that were true three years ago are no longer true today. Those are just the facts.

Once you accept that you do not know everything about the game, you will be able to learn from others more easily. It’s pretty hard to find one poker player who does absolutely everything wrong. So if you learn from observing the strengths of other players, at the very least, you’ll never be trapped into one way of thinking.

For example, I have one friend who is horrible at poker. But one thing he is exquisite at is bluffing. I have watched him and how he moves people off big hands and it’s the only thing he does well at the table. Knowing this, and having an open mind to what I was observing, I was able to sharpen my own bluffing techniques just by watching him.

Poker in Excess

Making consistent money from playing a game can be very addicting. I once played 57 hours straight in a live cash game because I felt like walking away from the lambs I was playing against was the equivalent of throwing away money.

But that is clearly too much poker for any sane individual. There is no right answer as to what constitutes “too much,” but if the diamonds and hearts begin to look the same to you, or you see wicked patterns on the cards, or hey if you’ve ever had a dealer wake you up, it may be a good time to call it an evening.
In all seriousness, the games will always be there, so even when you find a game you really like, it’s important to find a balance between the real world and the poker world.

When your life revolves around poker, when you take time away from your loved ones to get in sessions, it becomes a very unhealthy lifestyle. Whether you are winning or losing is almost irrelevant.
To play your best poker, you need rest and time away from poker. You might even make more money in that soft game if you got your rest and attack it when you’re fresh and sharp rather than grinding out day-long sessions at half capacity.

Not Controlling Emotions

Most of my friends would think I am a hypocrite for writing about this and attempting to give some kind of advice. This is admittedly very hard for me, especially because I am very passionate about the game. Also, my style of play makes it hard for me to control my emotions, because I play a pretty tight game so it unbalances me when I get sucked out and lose. But as a general rule, you shouldn’t let the flow of the cards dictate your mood. If you are getting bad beat after bad beat or cold deck after cold deck but are still playing your best, you shouldn’t get upset. Unless you have the best hand when the cards get turned over, you don’t just deserve to win because you did everything perfect.

THERE IS NO JUSTICE IN POKER! Life isn’t fair, and poker is just a modicum of life, and it clearly isn’t fair either. It’s a psychotic game and that is just the truth. If you let the cards dictate your mood, you will lose your mind, along with your money and any edge you may have had in the game you’re playing. Also, and this is very key as well, you can’t let your big wins effect your moods either! You’ll become lax and worse – too attached to the money if you begin to lose it. Variance is just a natural part of the game. No poker player wins ALL OF THE TIME so it’s important to separate your poker playing from your outside life. Playing within a bankroll will go a long way in helping with this. You have to play in your comfort zone to play well. The chips at risk should never be an issue for you.