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If you’re new to poker and you’re about to play live for the first time, don’t fret. Everyone makes technical mistakes at first and the other players will most likely understand and let things slide.

But the most common poker mistakes are the ones that only impact ourselves. They’re the ones that lead us to play badly.

So what should you not do while playing poker?


Things you should avoid in poker

Losing your patience

When players in your home game get down to 10 big blinds (the “danger zone”), they’re probably quick to get the chips in, thinking their poker tournament is all but over. Watch a high roller tournament, however, and you’ll often see limping, even min-raising, and folds in spots where you’d never expect it.

That’s because not only have those players studied small-stack strategies down to a T, but they’ve also played enough poker tournaments to know that it’s never over until that final river is dealt and your chips are pushed to an opponent.

Patience is vital in poker but it’s especially important in large-field multi-table tournaments (MTTs). The shorter your stack becomes, the quicker the blind levels will feel, but you should never throw your tournament away. Stay patient. Pick your spots wisely.

If you get short, don’t panic

Being short-stacked isn’t the only way you can lose patience at the table. If you’ve been card dead for the past hour with nothing to do but watch your stack dwindle, it’s tempting to start playing hands you really shouldn’t. This often leads to trouble.

You even have to stay patient as a big stack. If there are short stacks around you, your opening ranges probably need to tighten up as there’s a high chance you’ll get shoved on. Therefore, hands you would always open when stacks were equal now become folds.

Patience in poker is key. Don’t lose it.

Letting emotions take over

There aren’t many games that can produce such visceral emotions in players as poker does. That’s because it’s one of the few games that you can play absolutely perfectly, but still, lose. Likewise, it’s one of the few games where you can only have a 2% chance to win on the turn, then win on the river.

Win or lose, try to remain even-keeled

There’s no denying that the frustration you feel when someone hits a three-outer against you, or the elation you feel when you suck out on someone, is palpable. But the minute you let those emotions take over–particularly on the negative side–is the minute you’re likely to start playing poorly.

Try your best to remain even-keeled at the poker table, whether it’s going good or bad. It will help you to play your A-game consistently and you’ll be able to focus more on making the best decisions than the outcome of those decisions.

Feeling entitled

How do you feel when you’re dealt pocket aces? Happy? Fearless? Indestructible?

Well, it’s fine to feel happy. You’ve been dealt the best starting hand in texas hold’em. But it might be best to save those feelings until the pot is over because, sadly, pocket aces are certainly not indestructible.

For example, both jack-ten-suited and pocket deuces will beat pocket aces around 20% of the time when the money goes in pre-flop.

When that happens (and it’s going to one in five times), you might feel like you’ve been robbed. Like you’re the unluckiest person in the world. Like those should be your chips that the other player is now stacking.

Losing with the best hand is a part of poker

Instead, the reality is simple: 80% of the time, you’ll win the pot. 20% of the time, they will. This was one of those times.

Feeling entitled to win in poker is definitely something you want to avoid. After all, it’s the unpredictability of poker that we all love so much.

Getting distracted

It’s all too tempting to pick up your phone and scroll through social media or watch a show on your tablet inbetween hands, but when you take your focus out of the game you could be missing important information that will help you in future pots.

Keep your focus on the table

Just because you’re not in the pot, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the action. You might notice something interesting about how a particular player is playing that you can use to your advantage later. Or you might be able to pick up a tell if you notice a player keeps doing the same thing when bluffing.

Don’t let yourself get distracted, lose focus and mentally check out when you’re playing poker.


Are there penalties for mistakes in poker?

For the four things on our list (losing patience; letting emotions take over; feeling entitled; getting distracted;), the only person you’re impacting negatively is yourself. Therefore, the penalty you’ll face will be playing poorly and, most likely, losing.

But there are technical (and behavioural) mistakes you can make at the table that could lead to a penalty, such as sitting out for an orbit, or worse, removal from the game. These include:

  • Continually acting out of turn
  • Continually exposing your cards
  • Revealing your hand during a pot
  • Discussing what you folded while a hand is still playing out
  • Berating a dealer
  • Bad behaviour towards other players

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