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Top 10 Texas Hold'em Mistakes

Mistakes are why we lose money in cash games.  Professional poker player, teacher, TV host and author, Phil Gordon, stated in his book entitled, Little Green Book; “The goal of winning is to make fewer mistakes than our opponents.”

This statement is very true to life.  Most of the loses you take in a cash game are going to come from your own mistakes.  Sometimes you will have the best hand and get a bad beat or sucked out on.  This is just part of the game.  But in most cases, and in the long run, it will be your own fault.  Chasing with no odds, not raising and betting the nuts or cold calling raises are all mistakes that will cost you.  Let’s look at the 10 most common mistakes limit players make, why they loose money and how we can transform our play form a losing to a winning strategy to take their money. 


  1. Playing too many hands:  The most costly mistake in low limit ring games is playing too many hands.  This holds even more true in small stakes limit like $1-$2, $2-$4 or $3-$6 games where it’s so cheap to see a flop, but is still correct in higher limits too.  What we see at low limit games are a lot of players playing way too many hands.  This is your advantage.  This is why you do not play too many hands.  You have to look at a long list of situations to decide what hands to play when, but for now start playing fewer hands.  We’ll look at starting hand requirements in detail in other articles.


  2. Cold Calling Raises:  The second biggest mistake made in cash games, costing us tons of money, is cold calling a raise.  This one I must emphasize as being the most common reason people loose money over the long run.  Cold calling a raise means that you have not added any money to the pot yet and it has been raised in front of you and you call 2 or more bets to see a flop.  There should only be 2 options here.  Raise or fold.  Only a few hands in certain games are callable here.  You should almost never cold call a raise in limit Hold’em at a full table. This one mistake can cost you thousands a year even at low limits.  You should raise big hands like AA, KK, sometimes QQ and AK suited and muck just about everything else away.  Like I said in some cases calling with 10’s or JJ is ok but you need to look at your position and who raised the pot.  A loose player or a tight player.  It’s hard to fold JJ in a low limit game but if you feel certain that this player only raises with AA or KK than you might as well have pocket 2’s at this point.   Remember to rarely ever cold call a raise and you’ll be one step ahead of the table.  We’ll dive into this costly mistake in other articles as well.


  3. Not paying attention: In the low limit’s the players are often there just for their entertainment, to waste time or just to gamble.  You need to find out what motivates the players at your table. In limit games you need to classify your opponents at all times or you will never know when to fold JJ against a re-raise.  Are they tight, loose, passive or aggressive?  Label these players like that.  A tight player only plays and raises with solid hands.  A loose player can have any 2 cards.  Label each of your opponents at the table. You need to know what hands they are likely to raise with.  What hands they might re-raise with and what hands they will cold call a raise with. (Remember not everyone well have read this and have the advantage you now have regarding cold calling raises)  Be sure to remember situations.  Make a note of a player cold calling with K8 for example or Q10.  This way you will have a better idea what holdings they may have when you battle them in a hand.  Online poker rooms offer the best ability for note taking so take advantage of it. If playing online don’t watch TV in between hands, don't surf the web.  Pay attention.  Until you are an expert only play a single table online.  In a casino, or live poker, don’t be distracted by the players there for a good time.  Pay attention and have fun at the same time. In live casinos, and online really, avoid drinking alcohol while playing.  wait till you're done to enjoy a drink with your winnings.


  1. Not Counting The Odds: Counting pot odds is easier than you may think. Pot odds are covered in other articles.  Here we will look at not applying odds.  Chasing a flush or a straight with improper odds is costly in more ways than one.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say you are going to catch your straight 2 out every 10 times you chase it to the river.  Let’s just say 20% of the time you will catch your straight and be the winner.  Now if this is the case we are going lose 8 times for every 2 wins.  That means to come out even we need to win 2 pots of $50 for every $14 we loose chasing this hand.  Just to break even!  So if our average amount of money you are betting to chase a straight is $20, the only time you should ever chase this would be if the pot was $50 or more.  We will cover pot odds later but this is an example why money is lost in low limit Hold’em. You can see why even if you hit 2 pots of $50 and only win 20% of the time you will still be even.  That’s why pot size is important.  This is just an example and we’ll look into this even more.


  2. Not Raising Enough: Not raising enough with quality hands is very costly.  Raising accomplishes 2 things in a limit game.  It makes people decide if they want to play weak hands and it builds a bigger pot when you have the best hand.  Have you ever heard any one say “I never raise with A’s at the $2-$4 game, everyone just calls anyway.”  That’s the idea.  If you have pocket AA and don’t raise you are costing yourself plenty of money.  You will not win every time you have AA but the times you do will make up for the times you don’t if you raise with them.  In a low limit game AA will win about 60% of the time because of the amount of players in the hand.  That my friend is a great number and not raising will hurt your over all profit.  You’re never going to trap someone in low limit.  This is not a TV tournament where you can cunningly force someone to go all in.  This is low limit.  Most of the time they are either calling or folding regardless of your raise.


  1. Playing Weak Hands Out of Position: Position means you are last to act on any round of betting after the flop.  The dealer button is what we call position.  Late positions are the 2 seats just to the right of the button.  Being able to act last is a huge advantage in Hold’em and should be taken very seriously.  A hand like Q 10 Suited is a decent starting hand if you are on the button and no one raised the pot before you.  However, in first position it is an awful hand in almost all cases should be folded.  You can open your game up in late position because you have more information about the player’s holdings when you act.  Money tends to flow in a clockwise circle towards the button and away from the players to act first.  If the dealer button never moved and you had position every time, your winning rate would sky rocket just on position alone.  Playing position correctly is very important. Read - The Benefits of Position


  2. The Big Card Little Card Syndrome:  If you have a habit of playing A4 off suite in middle position or calling a raise with K9 then you are a loosing poker player.  It’s that simple.  Too many times I see people play K6, A7, A3 and catching their top card on the flop and raising and calling re-raises all the way to the river just to get beat with a higher kicker. Avoid playing the one big card with one little card play as often as possible.  Now in position and if they are suited you can add a whole new dynamic to these hands.  But to start just don’t play them until you are a more solid player and can fold top pair without throwing money away.  And this leads us to our next mistake.


  3. Over playing One Pair: The average winning hand in Hold’em is 2 pair allow me to repeat that; The average winning hand in Hold'em is 2 pair.  Write that on your hand to remember it every time you have top pair. In low limit games straights and flushes are way more common than no limit because you will se the turn and river more often than No limit.  That means that most of the time you are calling a raise with a single pair, against multiple opponents, you are beat and throwing money away.  Realize that there are much better hands than top pair and that by folding in certain situations you are winning.  The problem is we tend to fold too little even when we know we are beat. And that is the opposite of the next common mistake…


  4. Not Betting Enough: Betting makes opponents decide.  Against weak player that will chase down a loosing hand all the way to the river you are doing a disservice by not betting and or raising these players. They may catch their hand every now again but in the long run you will come out ahead more often. Not betting at or calling a large pot is loosing you money.  If the pot is allowing you the odds to call you should almost always call. When you have the nuts in limit you should be raising and re-raising every chance you get.  Slow playing is not allowed in low limit...  It's just a loosing strategy.


  5. And finally – Not Seeing The Long Run: What is long run?  How many hands is the long run?  Well that varies in some ways from player to player but far too often we don’t see the whole picture.  For most players online 10,000 hands is not long term.  Long term is based over a period of time.  A good way to look at is annually.  If, at the end of the year, you have more money in your bank roll than you started with, you are ahead in the long run.  You have had loosing days, weeks and even months but all in all you are ahead because of better, more solid play.  The long run online can be closer to 100,000 hands or a lot more for a lot of us.  The long run depicts the losers from the winners.  So throw away that K9 against a raise.  Understand that you will have plenty of time to make a better hand and win a better pot.

After looking at, and hopefully memorizing, the 10 most common mistakes among loosing players; you should see a little more light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe you were one of these players.  Maybe you made one, two, three or even all of these mistakes in the past.  Oh well!  Seeing how these mistakes cost your bankroll in the long run should help guide you at what you really want from poker and lead you to be a more consistent winning poker player.

         Dan G. -


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