Everyone makes mistakes at the table

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We are only human; we all make mistakes be it at the poker table, at work or in school — wherever. What is the worst mistake you have ever made in a poker game?

Back in August 2005, Casino Player Magazine ran a special column entitled “The Winning Edge.” Several poker celebrities were asked to comment on a series of poker issues. Of particular interest to me was their responses to identify “the most common mistake players make.” We will offer our comments on these responses.

According to Kathy Liebert, “Most people call too much and play weaker hands than they should, hands that often get them into trouble.” Similar responses were offered by Clonie Gowen, Annie Duke, Andy Bloch, Howard Lederer and Scott Fischman. These represent 6 out of the 13 poker celebrities interviewed; add my opinion and we have 7 out of 14 or 50 percent in agreement.

Most people would likely agree that playing too many weak or borderline starting hands is the worst mistake that they and others make. I would add to that answer: “when I am out of position.” That is bound to be costly — all the more so if they follow it with what I believe is the second worst mistake: staying in the pot even when the flop does not improve their hand. Also, this can lead to chasing with too few outs — another common and costly mistake.

How to overcome this mistake? Poker is a game of probabilities. If a player consistently pays to see the flop with more than 25 percent of the hands dealt to him, he is playing too many weak or borderline starting hands. With this in mind, some poker players have a best-ten hands from which to choose. Sure, they lose fewer hands, but their opponents soon get wise and fold more often. Result: those players win only small pots — not enough chips to overcome the cost to play.

Solve this problem by being more selective. One way is to use the Hold’em Algorithm which considers all the key factors — card rank, position, any raises, number of opponents staying in the pot, playing traits of opponents in the pot, and game texture.

Phil Laak believes that the most common mistake is not bluffing correctly. Yes, I agree this is a frequent mistake but hardly the most common. “Bluffing is a very misunderstood part of the game and an integral feature to becoming a consistent winning player with a high win rate,” he says.

Daniel Negreanu believes lack of discipline is the most common mistake. “You can have all the talent (skill) in the world, but if you can’t get ahold of your emotions when things go bad, you’re useless.” Certainly, self-discipline and self-control are important.

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Martin de Knijff believes losing patience is the most common mistake.

Barry Greenstein comments: “They typically win small and quit, but they steam and play long hours when they are losing.”

What do you think? Now that you have heard our thinking on the matter, what is your opinion? What is the worst mistake you and others have made at the poker table? Did you realize it was a mistake while you did it and if so, why did you proceed? Email to [email protected]

Life/poker quote of the week: “Money can’t buy ideas. Ideas come first; money follows.” — Holiday Mathis

Good ideas can lead to success. It takes skill.

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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