The 10 Worst Mistakes in Low Limit Hold'em

Nov 20, 2009

The 10 Worst Mistakes in Low Limit Texas Hold'em By Brian Steinberg

Make no mistake about it. Texas Hold'em is a game of patience and discipline. In order to win you are going to need an abundance of both. I have played thousands of hours of low limit Texas hold'em and every time I sit down to play I see the same mistakes by the same players, every day, every hour and it's one of the main reasons that I'm able to beat a low limit game consistently. You'll surely recognize yourself as one of the culprits of these bad plays.

1. Protecting your blinds. Quite often you will hear other players remark after they win a pot with a weak hand that they were just protecting their blind. They are looking for an excuse as to why they played the hand, and so they should be. Blinds are part of the game to get the hand started and if you protect your blinds with weak hands, you will lose consistently and that won't change until you do. So what if everyone folds and the puck raises your blind. What is it that you are protecting? $3.00?, $5.00? The next time someone raises your blinds, ask yourself how much you stand to lose if you fold. Protecting your blinds only gets you in trouble when you flop top pair with a weak kicker, or you flop a draw. It's suicide. If you always protect your blinds then I want to play with you. I'm always looking for weak opponents.

2. Playing a good starting hand that goes sour after the flop. I know that quality starting hands are few and far between. However, it's the nature of the beast and you need to drop hands that go sour fast. I've seen it a million times over. You start with AK and the flop is J 9 4. You have nothing. Let me repeat that. You have absolutely nothing. Zilch. Yet, you refuse to lay it down in case an Ace or a king hits the board. In the unlikely case that it does, you want to be there. Problem is, some guy is playing A 9 or A 4 and you end up losing even more money. Some player may have even flopped a set, so what is it that keeps you in? At this point (after the flop) the hand only stands you 1 or 2 bets. Lay it down and forget about it. Or you have KK with 6 players in the pot and an ace hits. It's bet and raised, yet you still refuse to lay it down. Why? You're beat my friend and staying in when you know you're beat is bad strategy. If you refuse to lay down good hands that have gone sour then I want to play with you.

3. Playing suited cards. This is perhaps the most common of all bad plays. In every low limit game you will run into players that refuse to lay down suited cards. Playing them will diminish your bankroll fast and you can expect to be broke real soon. Fact is, the chances of flopping two of your suit on the flop is roughly 8-1. On top of that you have to complete your draw, which you will, 1 in 3.4 times. You are also fighting the chance of the board pairing and making someone else a full house or another player drawing to a higher flush. In most cases you will end of putting in an average of 4 bets to make your flush. In a 5-10 game that is roughly 25 bucks. You will win on the average, once in every 14 tries. 14 x 25 = 350.00. Unless your average 5-10 pot is more then 350.00 bucks (which I guarantee it is not) then you are fighting a losing battle. If you always play suited cards then I want to play with you.

4. Playing weak hands in early position. I could write a whole book about position play in hold 'em, as it is the most crucial part of any low limit game. Playing marginal hands in early position is a common mistake that will be detrimental to your bankroll. Hands like 10-9, 7-6, A-10, K,10, J-10, Q-9, Q-10, J-9, 8-7, 5-6, etc., are weak hands in early position and should not be played for several reasons. First, you just don't have enough information to put in money with those types of hands. For instance, you don't know how many players will be in the pot, you don't know if the pot will be raised or even worse, double raised, and most importantly, you are the first or second to act in every round of betting. Even if you do call after the flop, you are still in the same position. You still don't know if the pot will be raised or double raised and it puts you in a very precarious position. One you could have avoided. Play very tight in early position and loose in late position. If you never consider position, then I want to play with you.

5. Taking it out on the dealers. Forget about being angry at the dealer. Inside he is laughing at you. She really doesn't care whether you win or lose. Your anger is an attempt to make her feel guilty. She doesn't. He has dealt 1000 times as many hands as you've ever played, and each hand had at least one loser. They know that they are not responsible for the cards that you get, nor how you play them. In that respect, he could just as well be a robot there distributing cards. The dealers have nothing to do with the outcome and to think they do is ludicrous. By dwelling on this, your concentration will suffer and so will your bankroll. If you blame the dealer for your hardships, then I want to play with you.

6. Revenge. A player just put a bad beat on you and you won't sleep tonight until you pay him back. Fat chance! You start reaching, chasing hands. You’re going to show him a thing or two about poker. Most likely, unless you get very lucky, he's going to show you another winning hand and take even more of your money. Remember, he's not angry. He's probably quite happy with his wins and is playing his usual, steady game. You’re the one chasing with inferior hands against his normally good starting hands. And while his head is on straight, yours is not. He just played the cards he got to the best of his ability...the same as you were doing. Forget revenge, nobody did anything to you. If you can't get over a bad beat then I want to play with you.

7. Bluffing a weak player. Simply stated, if you try and bluff a weak player, it makes you a weak player. Weak players don't lay down hands, they call you with anything and everything. Some hands you just won't make anything and that's all there is to it. The only players that can be bluffed are solid players, for they respect the cards and the game. If a weak player gets bluffed once, he will never get bluffed again, ever, for fear he may be laying down the winning hand. This player has to be able to sleep tonight with nothing on his mind. If you try and bluff weak players it makes you weaker.

8. Calling with second pair after the flop. You hold J-Q and the flop is K-J-2. It is never correct to check and call in this position. It is only correct to check and fold, bet, raise, or fold. End of story. If you are second on the flop, chances are you will be second when the hand is over. Remember, it is what you save, not what you win that will ultimately be the difference between winning and losing. The chances of you improving your hand are exactly the same as the player with the K, and he has you beat to begin with. This is a common mistake by many low limit weak players. You can't turn cat food into caviar, so why bother? If you keep calling with second pair then I want you in the same game as me.

9. Check raising. Although I will get many arguments on this one, my position remains the same. Unless you are 100% sure that someone will bet, you should always bet when you flop the best hand. If you check one of two things will happen. You will get in 0 or 2 bets. If you bet, you will get in 1 or 3 bets. Which one is better? Think about it. Check raising is a bad play in most cases. There are exceptions to this rule, however, for the most part it is almost always correct to bet when you think you have the best hand. Unless of course you have the cold stone nuts and don't want to lose anyone. If check raising is your most common poker ploy then I want to play with you, for I will get some free cards and beat you when I should have been out of the hand.

10. Raising with flush draws. Another beauty and very common mistake by weak players. Why on Earth would you want to raise with a flush draw and chase out players on belly shots, open end straight draws, 1 pair, etc. It just doesn't make sense. You want everyone in this pot in case you hit your card. Raising gets people out and in a low limit game bluffing only works once in a blue moon. If you bet and someone else raises, that also knocks out potential revenue. The only time it is okay to bet is when everyone else checks and you are on the puck. Otherwise, just check and call. Raising on a flush draw accomplishes absolutely nothing except costs you money. You want as much money and players in this pot as possible just in case you complete your draw. If you don't complete it, you are going to lose anyway. If you raise with flush draws, I want you in my game.

11. Not leaving when you should. Another common mistake made by even the best of players. Whether you play once a week, once a month, or daily, when playing poker, losing is inevitable. Some days it just wasn't meant to be. No matter what you do it turns out ugly. These are the days that you need to punch out early. I've played with hundreds of players who simply refuse to throw in the towel for the day. They are frustrated, they are agitated, they are in a foul mood, they have been stuck for hours trying to get "even", and they are tired. In other words, they are completely off of their game. Playing a marathon session when you are stuck will be extremely detrimental to your bankroll. This happens to good players and bad players. Being fundamentally sound does not make one a good player. Being able to recognize when things are not going well puts you a level above most. When you are running bad and playing bad, yet, refuse to leave, then I want to be at your table.