The Most Common Beginner Leaks

It’s temping to think that we are bringing some type of new strategic outlook to the game when we sit down at the poker tables for the first time. Interestingly, the average new poker player is not always as unique as he might like to think. While there are some exceptions, the majority of new poker players make alarmingly similar errors. Here are some of the top mistakes that newer players make on a regular basis.

1. Missing a few rules.

Most poker players don’t sit down without any awareness of the rules whatsoever (although a few do somehow). However, some of the subtleties still manage to catch newer players out, even if they have been playing for a while. For example, here are two board textures that newer players often misread.

Board: TdTh6s8sKd

Player 1: KhJh

Player 2: 6d8d
Who has the best poker hand here? It’s easy to assume that the 68s is best since it has two pair, while the KJ only has one pair. This is not quite right however, since both hands are actually two-pair. Player 2 holds Tens and Eights, while player 1 holds Kings and Tens for the winner.

Board: KcKsKdKh2c

Player 1: QdQh

Player 2: Ac6d

And this one? Note that player 1 can’t use both of his Queens since there is already Quads on the board. Player 2 wins this one because he has Quads with the Ace kicker. With real money on the line, let’s make sure we know every rule inside out.

2. Calling too much.

So simple, yet hands-down the biggest leak any average unknown beginner can be expected to have. They pay out too wide in a whole variety of different scenarios.

This is further complicated by the fact that the average opponent they run into is likely not bluffing with a high enough frequency (another common leak). Newer poker players might even have a strong sense that they are beaten, but they just “have to know” whether villain has it, so they end up making a bad call.

The remedy to this issue is being able to recognize lines which represent strength. For example, if an unknown opponent is triple-barreling, raising the turn, or raising the river, he probably has it. Only bad players will show a tendency towards paying out too wide.

3. Not bluffing enough.

Just to be clear, this is not usually a big problem. If we are playing in soft games, most opponents are going to be calling down significantly too wide anyway. Attempt to aggressively bluff them in a variety of different spots is not exactly going to help out our win rate.

However, there are some scenarios where even recreational players are going to be folding significantly too often. A good player can recognize and exploit these spots while a beginner can’t. For a new player, the decision to bluff is more a function of how he is feeling at that time. An expert knows exactly when to bluff and why, and it has nothing to do with what kind of mood he is in. One very simple area where we can expand our bluffing capability revolves around preflop blind-steals.

4. Lack of Awareness.

Even when fully versed in the rules, most new poker players have a tendency to miss important pieces of information. It’s very common for beginners to miss the fact that they hold a gutshot for example. Double gutters can be especially easy to miss.

As an extension of this, beginners tend to overlook auxiliary features of a certain holding. For example, does our hand have a backdoor flush? Does it have a backdoor straight? How many of those backdoor straights are backdoor gutshots as opposed to open-enders? How vulnerable is my holding on this texture? What type of card-removal effect does my hand have?

If we step away from our cards for a minute, beginners lack situational awareness also.

Their strategy might not change much depending on whether they are IP/OOP. They perhaps make little to no distinction between play as the preflop-aggressor and play as the preflop-caller. They don’t take into account stack sizes and bet-sizings when making their decisions either. 

These might seem like minor issues, but they tally up to make the difference between an amateur hobbyist and a seasoned professional.


Psychological/Mindset Issues

Perhaps we should have started with this. Poker is tough. It will tax our emotional limits to the maximum. The majority can’t deal with this. They get overly frustrated when they go on losing streaks. Their play deteriorates further to the point where they are either forced to quit or they end up making a significant dent in their poker bankrolls. Players refer to this as “tilt”.

While it’s fashionable to attempt to solve tilt problems by telling players to “just deal with it”, or to “suck it up”, the truth is that a strong mindset requires specific training. In the same way that we work on the strategic aspect of our game over time, we need to hone our mindset in a similar manner.

If you are new on the poker scene, there is a chance that you suffer from one (if not all) of the problems described above. Visiting poker training sites, or hiring a coach can help you overcome these issues at a faster rate.

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