The 4 Worst Tips Given To Beginner Poker Players (Don't Fall Into These Traps)
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2015-05-03, by JTringerEveryone wants to tell a beginner how to play, but everyone should be giving advice.
I want to outline 4 fairly common tips that are either incorrect, or much too simplistic to be of any real use.
1. You Should Only Play the Best Hands
Playing good hands is a good thing, right?
However, when you only play the best hands (like pocket aces,kings, queens), you'll run into a few problems.
You might win a small amount at the very lowest stakes, but this strategy won't work in most games. When you play this tight, you slowly lose your stack through blinds, and eventually, players will be smart enough to just get out of your way when you raise.
Additionally, when you only play the best hands, you stunt your growth as a poker player. How can you learn when you're never put into situations that require any tough thought?
Finally, you miss out on a ton of profitable hands. If you're only playing the best hands, you'll miss out on playing hands in good position. Maybe you can isolate a wild player with a hand like AJo. While it wouldn't be a premium hand, it's still one that dominates a lot of other hands with an ace in them and is likely a profitable one. This is just one of hundreds of situations where you can have profitable hands that aren't premium hands.
I'm not saying to play trash hands, but start learning the different reasons why you should play hands, beyond just "it's a strong hand".
2. Only Raise or Fold
Remember what Mike tells the professor in "Rounders"?
He says to: "play tight, but be aggressive. Always raise or fold, don't call."
The reason why this isn't terrible advice is that most beginners call way too much. However, calling can be the best play, and if you can only raise or fold, you'll either find yourself folding all the time, or getting into crazy situations.
One main reason that it can be bad is that there are a lot of maniacs out there on the tables. If you raise, they'll re-raise often. If you keep raising each other, it'll just end up a crapshoot most of the time, which isn't profitable, and far from optimal.
Another reason is that calling can be the best play. If you have great pot odds and a decent draw, calling to try to hit that draw can be right. If it's a deceptive draw, it can lead to a big payday, especially against bad players.
3. To Beat Bad Players, Just Play Tight
There's some truth in this advice, but there's also a big problem with it.
There are many types of bad players. The simplest to beat is the wild, aggressive players. To beat them, you really do just need to wait for good hands and let them "hand" themselves.
However, there are other types of bad players that are also common. The next most common type of bad player is the loose and passive player. These players almost never raise, but will call a lot. In order to beat these players, you can also play tight, but you need to make sure that you take the role as the aggressor once you have a good hand. You must extract as much value.
Finally, a third common type of bad player is the loose and weak player. These players will call almost anything pre-flop, but then fold unless they hit something. They essentially just want to "see what happens" without risking too much money. If you play tight against these players, you are making a mistake.
The correct strategy against this third type of player is to try and get in a lot of pots 1-on-1 with them. If you just play tight, you'll rarely get any real value from your hands. While you should still try to value bet, you make money off these players by trying cheap steals wherever on a frequent basis.
4. Read the Man, Not the Cards
This comes with a huge caveat. Learning to read players based on their actions in past hands is crucial to becoming the best player you can be. However, if you don't have the fundamentals down first, reading the man isn't going to help you.
Everyone wants to the hero in a poker movie who doesn't even need to look at their cards to beat their opponent, but that's fiction. In real life, even the best players need to know what they're holding.
Start with the basics of understanding your own hand, how it changes throughout hands, and the odds of different things happening. Then move on to the other fundamentals like pot odds, position, and bet sizing. Once you have a good grasp of these, then you can move on to more advanced concepts like opponent behavior.
Be careful listening to any advice that tells you to "always do ____." Poker is a very complex game, and it takes time to see how everything interacts with each other. Never stop asking questions and thinking about all of your options.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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