We continue our review of mistakes often made by poker players, so you can learn to avoid these. Then you will become a bigger winner. We discussed pre-flop mistakes. Today we will examine mistakes during the flop and post-flop play.
During the flop
Most players intently watch the dealer’s hands as he spreads the flop on the board. Then they study the flop and perhaps sneak a peek at their hole cards to see how they work together. You can’t fault them. After all, that will represent over 70% of their final hands.
However, in so doing, they neglect to seek useful information about their opponents’ holdings. As described in Mike Caro’s books and videos, “tells” can provide powerful information, and give you a big edge over your opponents. Instead of focusing on the board, observe your opponents’ reactions as the flop is spread on the board.
Often an observant (winning) player will receive valuable clues as to the strength of opponents’ hands. If the player to your left sits up in his chair and grabs a stack of chips indicating his intent to raise, be sure you hold a strong hand that can well stand a raise. Otherwise fold.
The common mistake here is being so anxious to see the flop that you miss the opportunity to find tells. Check out the flop after you look for the tells.
After the flop
Now, as you examine the flop along with your hole cards, consider what action you should take when the betting gets to you. At this point, the poker odds become very important. How many poker players have never bothered to learn the easy way to estimate the card odds.
That’s a big mistake. I am referring to the 4-2 Rule, of which we have written in an earlier column. For that matter, how many even try to count their outs? It’s almost like flying blind.
To further aggravate this mistake, many players don’t bother to even estimate the pot odds. Whereas a smart (skilled) player knows the rule that the pot odds must be higher than the card odds to warrant calling a bet or raise. Likely, this doesn’t even enter a loser’s mind. Another mistake.
For that matter, even those who use the pot odds rarely consider the implied pot odds. Just in case you didn’t know, it’s the ratio of how much money likely will be in the pot at the end, including that which your opponents add to it during the subsequent betting rounds, compared to the cost to you of the current bet.
We use the implied pot odds when the pot odds for the current bet are close to the card odds. Failing to learn this lesson can substantially reduce a player’s winnings. When the pot odds, current or implied, are higher than the card odds, you have a Positive Expectation. It’s like investing where you can expect a favorable return (profit).
On the river
The most glaring mistake that a player can make on the river is when deciding to bet, call, raise or fold. For example, in a limit game, you are up against one player who makes the big bet. If you fold, he wins the pot. If you call and he has a better hand, it costs you that much more. The mistake here is not asking yourself: “What’s the chance I might have a better hand?”
If the pot odds are higher than the chance his hand beats yours, by all means make the call. Entering into your estimate of the chance is your assessment of your opponent and how he has been playing this hand up to this point. If he is a tight player, and has been calling or raising on previous streets, put him on a strong hand.
You would need a very strong hand to call, rather than fold. On the other hand, if you know he is tricky – likely to bluff – a call bet would be in order. Many players just rely on a gut feel to make this decision. That’s certainly a mistake.
When you understand the mistakes most often made, then you can take steps to avoid them.
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