Over the past 5 years or so, the game of Poker, and especially Texas Hold’Em, has gained massive popularity. As a natural result, hundreds of people every day sign-up with an online poker room account and start learning the game. Most of them, however, lack enough preparation and knowledge, and therefore will commit one of a few basic mistakes that every serious poker player should quickly eliminate.
Here are five of the most common of these mistakes.
1) Spending no time on hand analysis
Another common mistake. Since everyone is running about saying how poker is such an easy way to make money, most people who start playing the game do not think that there is actually some learning involved. Unfortunately, as with anything else, poker is not an easy way to make money. You will need to put in a lot of effort before the game rewards you.
Make sure to signup at some community forums (the best of witch is currently TwoPlusTwo). Make it a habit to save every problematic hand that you’ve had during a poker session. After you are done playing for the day, post all of your saved hands to the forums, and ask for advice. Make sure to give as much detail about the hand in your post as possible. Write down any history that you and your opponent might have had, what kind of player did he seem to be (tight? aggressive? passive?). The more detail you give, the more likely you are to receive a helpful response. Try to make a few poker friends online, too. There is absolutely no better way to evolve as a poker player than to have a few people to discuss the game with.
2) Poor Bankroll Management
Most beginner poker players are unaware of what proper bankroll management really is. They will deposit $50 to their poker account and dive right into the $1/$2 limits with a quarter of a buy-in. While poker is definitely a game of skill in the long-term, there is still a huge luck component in the short-term. This means that no matter how good of a poker player you are, there is a very reasonable possibility that you will go on losing in poker for many consecutive weeks (sometimes months). This is an entirely statistical thing — even the best hands can lose many times in a row. When a poker player faces a losing streak as this one, it is called a downswing.When a player is on a downswing, his skills can only help him to minimize his losses.
To avoid facing a downswing, make sure that you always have at least 25x buy-ins for any stakes that you want to play. If you are going to play a No-Limit $0.50/$1 Texas Hold’em game, then you should have at least $2500 deposited to your poker play. The higher you go up the stakes, the more conservative you should be (meaning, you should have more buyins in your bankroll), because the size of a downswing grows proportionally to the skill of your opponents.
Makes sure to learn as much as you can about bankroll management before proceeding — you will save yourself a lot of time and agony by doing so.
3) Being Too Cocky
Most poker beginners will inevitably get cocky at some point and start believing that they are poker prodigies. This usually happens when they are running hot for a longer period of time and the cards are being kind to them. They start believing that they are winning thanks to their superior skills, even though their actual poker knowledge is very limited. This in turn will result in bad decisions being made: they may move up the stakes to a level way beyond their level of experience, or they may start doing absolutely terrible plays at the table. With their minds clouded by their false sense of security, they are bound to lose their entire bankroll sooner than later.
Keep your ego in check and watch out for this trap. If you suddenly feel that you are unstoppable, post some of your hands to online poker forums for review. You will quickly learn if you are as good as you think you are, or if you’ve simply been running good. And try believing what the forum members tell you — they will most likely be right.
4) Not treating the game seriously enough
I’ve seen it many, many times. A beginner poker player has a few tables open, and in between his raising, folding and bluffing, he is chatting on Facebook and watching YouTube videos. “That Metallica song is so cool…oops, I’ve got Aces! Gotta raise it up! Gimme fuel, gimme fire, give me all that I desire, yeah!”
This kind of approach to poker will do you no good. The game requires absolute and full concentration. The field of poker is extremely competitive nowadays, and you will need every edge that you can muster. Most of the players out there are more focused on YouTube than on the tables, so if you can eliminate this clutter, you are already at a huge advantage. Turn off ICQ, Facebook and YouTube. Keep your tables open at all times and don’t ever minimize them. Even if you are not involved in a hand at the moment, you should still be looking at the tables and trying to get reads on your opponents by analyzing their play.
Poker is not an easy game.
5) Playing too many tables simultaneously
Understand that having more than 5 tables active at any given time is reserved for the most experienced players only. If you have been playing poker for less than 6 months, chances are very high that you have not yet mastered the game enough to be able to handle that much action all at once. It may seem to you that you can because you can click fast enough, but what this usually means is that you are not giving your hands enough thought. If you catch yourself playing poker and not making any money for a long period of time, reducing the number of tables played and paying more attention to what is going on at them should be your first move.
Make sure not to fall for any of the traps described above, and you are on a very good start towards becoming a long-term profitable poker player.