It’s easy to learn, but hard to master, and that’s the beauty of it!
Players who are thoughtful and well-planned are often more likely to make choices that lead to success in the game. However, the intricacies of the game of poker also have many potential hazards that can guide people to yawning in the wrong direction.
Pre-flop action is paramount in the course of a game of poker. So today we’ve put together a list of 12 mistakes that newcomers (and even some professional poker players) make. I see these mistakes happening all the time, but they can actually be solved with a few adjustments.
Table of Contents
Mistake #1 Flat Calling the pot
A flat call into the pot is when the first person to enter the pot just fills the big blind and slips into the bottom pot. This is a very, very bad strategy, and I have many reasons why you should not do this.
- Texas Holdem Poker Tips – You can’t just take the bottom pot before the flop
Unlike a raise pot, you can never enjoy the fruits of an immediate bottom pot win by just flat calling the pot. It’s too passive, and since the bottom pot already has dead money (the big and small blind, or even the ante), your flat call into the pot has no offensive power.
- Flat calls into the pot make it easy for your opponents to get involved in the hand
When you decide to be the first to draw into the pot, your opponents behind you can easily get involved in the bottom pot, and they will even raise further, and they have position over you and can easily beat your weak range.
As more people get involved in the bottom pot, your win rate decreases. Obviously this is not what you expect to happen.
Also, since you are flat calling into the pot, aggressive opponents behind you will think your range is weak and they will exploit you with any hand. Or, they squeeze more value behind you with a hand that would have been raised.
Or, you counter that you will mix in some strong hands into your flat calling range, and you will then use those strong hands to recoup your losses. However, the truth will often disappoint you. Sometimes you hope to make a pre-flop squeeze with strong cards, but how many of those opponents who follow the flat call in will be able to pay you? You will end up disappointed and sad.
So, remember, you need to make some adjustments in the future. If a player in front of you flat calls into the pot, it is acceptable for you to flat call right after, and when your hand is not so weak that you need to fold nor so strong that you can raise, then it is good to flat call. In this case, it’s good to flat call with some undercards that are suitable for a multi-way bottom pot game, which has a good potential win/loss ratio.
Mistake #2 Lack of Position Awareness
The second common mistake is that I often see players with a misconception of the relationship between position and range. Your position determines your range, please don’t put the cart before the horse.
The more players behind you that are not acting, the tighter your range should be. This is due to the fact that the more players behind you, the more likely they are to have a chance of getting a strong hand, and you never want to open-raise marginal hands when you are out of position, that would make it very difficult for you.
If you open-raise too wide in ante, you will have a hard time protecting your range and will be easily exploited by your opponents. Therefore, your range should be progressively wider as you get closer to the dealer, plus, because of the special nature of the blinds they will often call Open, which is more advantageous when in back position.
Note: Position, position, position!
Mistake #3 Raising too negatively on the opposite side
The most common mistake I’ve seen made in low stakes games is simply calling or mixing in a few 3-bets against an open raiser.
It’s amazing to me how often players 3-bet. How strong a hand does it have to be to warrant such a move? Whether they are afraid of their opponents or don’t want to create a big pot, I think it is wrong to execute a 3-bet with a strong hand for the following reasons.
- Texas Holdem Poker Tips – Calling Open loses value
3-bet your opponent with a strong hand to be able to make the bottom pot bigger before the flop and get more value from your opponent
- 3-bet can prevent too many people involved in the bottom pot
Even if you are strong like AA, your odds of winning will plummet when you face a multiplayer bottom pot. When you 3-bet with a strong hand, you are usually able to pick out the initial raiser and form a single pot.
Therefore, your win rate is protected, and even if you miss the flop, you can still win at showdown, e.g. AKs/AKo. We know that against 3 opponents, AK has about a 30.4% win rate. However, if you face only one opponent, AK’s win rate increases to nearly 60% (against a middle position 3-bet). So, why take this negative play of calling Open?
There are two other things to keep in mind with pre-flop 3-bets. First, make sure your 3-bet range is not just value combinations. If you 3-bet with only strong hands, then your behavior is predictable. You need to add some bluffing combinations to your 3-bet range to make it more difficult for your opponents to read you. Second, always pay attention to position in relation to range strength, not only your own but your opponent’s, so that you can carefully choose whether you can get value propositions with 3-bets.
Calling Open with a very wide range flat is understandable when in the back position, especially in the dealer position. We’ll talk more about this in point 7.
Mistake #4 Playing too tight in the big blind
Many people call too few bets in the big blind, especially against raises in the small blind.
The big blind is the last to act before the flop, and at this point, you have an excellent under-the-table success-to-loss ratio to get in the game, and you can play a little looser than you would in any position. Let’s look at an example.
5/10 regular table, 1,000 active chips
Hero is in the big blind
Everyone folds to the small blind, the small blind raises to 25, what should Hero do?
For a 2.5BB raise, we have almost 30% of our original equity to call, and considering we have a position advantage over him, we can (and should) defend our big blind with high frequency.
Mistake #5 Opening too much (or too little) in dealer position
As we all know, dealer position is the most valuable position. Besides the fact that pre-flop dealer position is always able to act after gathering all the information about the opponents, dealer position can often put pressure on the blind, especially if all the opponents in front of you fold, and take down the dead money easily. However, many players either have too much Open or too little Open in dealer position.
The poker strategy materials now advocate playing aggressively in the blinds, and this has directly influenced the behavior of many players, as if you make a lot of opens in the dealer position, you can easily cause the blind player to 3-bet. (Note: aggressive blind-keeping occurs more in online poker than in live poker)
Conversely, some players are too conservative when they are in dealer position. When you get the most advantageous position in dealership, either by actively opening or by 3-betting the player in front of you, it is easy to show the position effect, while you actively give up such a good opportunity, which will slowly affect your win rate as well.
The best percentage of openings in dealer position is probably between 40% and 70%, depending on the tendencies of the players in the blind at the table. If the blinds are loose and like to 3-bet, then tighten up your open range, and conversely, if the blinds are passive and happy to give you a pass, then what are you hesitating for?
Mistake #6 Playing too tight in the small blind when the front is folded
You should always raise in the small blind when there are no players involved in front of you. Many people are reluctant to do this because we all know that the small blind is the worst position. However, I have many reasons why you should do this.
- You have a good chance to steal dead money from the pot. You can use a smaller raise scale (e.g. 2.25-2.5BB) to try to steal such a bottom pot, and you should do this with high frequency until the big blind starts 3-betting against you. live players especially like to play this trick, depending on how tight the players at the table are.
- You limit your possibilities to play when you are out of position. Meaning you can’t always avoid going to the game because you don’t have a spot.
Some players will choose to make up the big blind when they are in the small blind or use a tighter range against the big blind. They may have their own intentions in doing so, and it may be effective against some opponents. But I would suggest that you go for a raise to be more effective.