While it’s clearly the done thing to improve by accumulating a range of tips, tricks, and strategies, and so on, an equally useful approach is to make sure we’re aware of what NOT to do. Too many players put in a lot of effort in their online poker quest, only to sabotage their mission by adopting faulty tactics and allowing themselves to pick up bad habits.

Reminding ourselves what kind of plays to avoid is imperative – especially if we’re guilty of making costly mistakes over and over. Here’s a selection of potholes we should steer clear of – or, perhaps more accurately, how to avoid digging ourselves into a hole!

Don’t get attached to the second best hand

This is an easy mistake to make, and it’s not just inexperienced players who are guilty of hanging on too long to a good but not good enough hand.

Typically, we get involved with Ax, and then, when we’re ostensibly lucky enough to hit an ace on the Flop, continue as if we have the best hand, ignoring our poor kicker. Being aggressive in this kind of scenario, when we could easily be outgunned, is a bad habit to get into.

Don’t complete the Small Blind with a poor hand

Knowing what to do in the Small Blind is an age-old poker conundrum. Because we’ve already invested, there’s a tendency to think that we’re committed – and that at the end of the day we need to put in just a few more chips to stay in contention. Of course, there is some logic to this, but only in conjunction with a decent hand. If we have a poor hand, then it’s a different story, and it’s simply not worth completing for the sake of it, thus leaving ourselves out of position for the rest of the hand. The Small Blind is a bad position to be playing a bad hand.

Don’t defend the Big Blind with a poor hand

This is another awkward one. Never say never – there will be times (obviously) when we’re justified in defending the Big Blind against a raise. Moreover, when that raise can also be interpreted as a steal attempt, it’s all the more tempting to put up a fight.

But (there’s so often a ‘but’ with poker!) it’s imperative that we have genuine, concrete reasons to defend. One of these is a good starting hand; if we’re defending at the beginning, we need to be strong enough to further commit.

A good rule of thumb that should help when in the Big Blind is to always consider that an aggressive opponent might actually have a genuinely strong hand, in which case our automatically defending could be costly indeed. Furthermore, even if we defend just once with a mediocre hand and then give up post-flop, it might seem pretty insignificant, but doing this over time is a cumulatively expensive chink in our armour.

Don’t over-commit to small pots

We often hear about how important it is – especially in a tournament – to hoover up pots, however small, in order to keep adding to our stack. Of course, it is indeed a very good approach for us to make a claim for ‘dead’ chips when such opportunities present themselves, but at what price? Just how much trouble should we go to, how much of our stack should we risk and invest, to win a small pot?

And herein lies the problem. We might not be alone in having designs on the pot, which means we’re risking getting too involved in a hand we shouldn’t have entered into in the first place, only to win what started as a small pot. Remember – a small pot and ‘dead’ chips aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Have fun!



AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 25.01.2021 · last updated 25.01.2021

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