One of the best things about poker, especially in the 21st century, is the ways that you can discuss the game. It used to be that you would only have one or two people who might grasp what you were talking about with the game of poker. In the 21st century (and with the advent of the internet), the ability to discuss poker has flourished. It has especially been good for newcomers to the game to be able to tap the minds of those who have had some experience in the arena.
Recently, one of the poker groups I am involved with asked a great question: What are some of the biggest mistakes that a newcomer to the game of poker can make? There was a litany that I could have come up with, but these three were the ones that immediately popped to mind. I will present those three mistakes here and would be extremely interested in what others might think of these things and what they might add to it.
1. Too Entranced with Big Pairs
A newcomer to poker knows the basics of the game. They know the “top ten” hands well – pocket Aces, pocket Kings, A-K, pocket Queens, etc. – and, when they get these hands, you can almost see their pulse rate go up. The issue is that these newcomers get way too entranced with these big pocket pairs, and it is arguably the biggest of the three mistakes a newcomer to poker can make.
Whether they are Aces, Kings, or Queens, a newbie player will think that these hands are unbeatable and play them way too aggressively. Sure, pre-flop a higher pocket pair is an 81/19 favorite over a lower pocket pair, but that is not where the game stops. You must be able to play out the board, the full run out of the five cards that make up the board and make the critical decisions along the way.
Is there a flush draw? A straight? Does my opponent like to set mine? What is the likelihood of my opponent playing a suited connector? These are but a few of the things that must cross the mind of a player, whether they are a veteran or a newcomer to the game.
2. PAY ATTENTION!
A newcomer to the game will not pay attention to what is going on at the table. They will not know when they are supposed to put out their blinds, they will not know when the action is on them, or they will not know that there has been a raise in front of them. You should ALWAYS pay attention to the action at the table, whether you are in the hand or not, because it will keep your mind active and will keep the other players at the table from hating your guts!
3. Sticking with A Hand Too Long
A newcomer to poker will often hold onto hands for too long and cost themselves more money (or, in a poker tournament, more chips). Yes, if you have a four flush (four of the same suit) on the flop, you have a one in three chance (roughly) of making a flush by the river. If you have an open-ended straight draw, you ALSO have about a one in three chance of making your straight.
You must think about how much it is going to cost you to see the turn and the river. This is where knowing the odds of making your hand and comparing it to the bet sizing that your opponent is making becomes important. Sometimes you are given the right odds (either actual or implied) to be able to play onward in a hand. But there is an important thing to remember – if you are losing a hand two times out of three, you are not going to be staying at that table for very long because you will be broke. That is why you must make those decisions judiciously and not stick with a hand for too long.
What are your suggestions for newcomers to the game of poker? What three mistakes do YOU see newcomers to poker make?