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We’ve all seen the cool glamour of poker players in the movies and thought, well what’s so hard about sitting back, sipping a drink, locking your opponent in a steely gaze and flicking some chips? That’s where poker beginners start to go wrong.
As well as knowing the rules, there are at least five classic rookie poker mistakes that can expose any player as a beginner at the table.
Rookie mistake #1: Giving the game away
When you’re a beginner and you make your first good call or come up trumps in a showdown, it’s tempting to break in to song and dance, but this is rookie mistake number one.
You might want to let everyone know that you’re doing well, but acting smug only tells your opponents what kind of cards you’ve got, so avoid it at all costs. One of the most important things about having good poker game is learning the art of the poker face and the bluff: it’s all about keeping your cards close to your chest and limiting how much your opponents know about your hand.
The same goes for bad calls: even if you want to throw in your cards and walk away, keep it cool.
Rookie mistake #2: Sheer ignorance
The second rookie mistake is one of the most obvious and the easiest to avoid. Fumbling with your chips, waiting to be told it’s your turn and forgetting to put in the blind is the kind of sheer ignorance of the game that will get you immediately caught out as a beginner at the poker table.
All beginners are bound to be nervous during their first games, but if you let it get the best of you, other more experienced players will waste no time in taking advantage of it. Rookie mistakes like saying preflop when you mean flop and turn when you mean river will get you easily found out, so read up on the rules and brush up on essential poker lingo.
Rookie mistake #3: Playing too much
Beginners often make the amateur mistake of thinking that playing a lot is a safe way of looking like a pro at the table. It’s better to play than not play at all, but giving into the novice temptation of playing in every single hand is rookie mistake number three.
You might think that it looks weak to fold a hand, but on the contrary, it shows that you’re realistic about your chances of completing that hand and that you’re taking the game seriously. This problem comes from totally overvaluing the value of your hand by thinking that any high card is bound to secure you a win.
You might have a King or a Queen up your sleeve and be tempted to go all in, but suited connectors can give you a much better chance of success, so don’t be afraid to sit a round out.
Rookie mistake #4: Not playing enough
Just as playing too much is a no-no, so is not playing enough. It’s normal to be nervous when you start playing for real, especially if you’re among pros, but you won’t get anywhere if you fold every single hand.
Beginners are prone to looking at their hand and folding unless they see an unbeatable combination of cards before even putting any chips in because they’re so terrified of losing.
This is one way of making sure you don’t lose all your money and it’s also a way of making sure you never learn how to play. Although a strong hand can help, the best players can beat any other player at the table with the lowest cards in the deck using the power of their bluff.
The biggest problem with this mistake, however, is that if you only play when you have strong hands, the other players will always fold when you play, which prevents you from taking advantage of the value of your cards. This is classic rookie mistake number four.
Rookie mistake #5: Going broke
Most of the poker representations we see in film depict the glitz and glamour of a casino room, men in designer suits casually throwing chips worth millions of dollars onto the green felt. So when you start as a beginner, you naturally think that you too can risk a few hands and throw in the big dollars, but this is the most costly rookie mistake of all.
This error can be particularly easy to make when you start out playing online, where you have unlimited access to funds with the click of a button. This is why one of the most important things a beginner can do is to establish a budget before sitting down to play.
A big part of this mistake is the rookie belief that the odds are certain to turn back in your favour: a run of bad hands doesn’t guarantee a good one, so don’t cripple yourself financially by betting on luck and end up as a poker player who goes broke.