How to Avoid Pre-flop Mistakes
Poker players are so concerned with protecting their stack that they sometimes get bogged down in analyzing too deeply before the flop. Of course, pre-flop play is very important. But some players actually get down to calculating the rake using the rake calculator!
Many new poker players make a few common mistakes before the flop. Let’s take a look at a few such mistakes.
Playing on Automatic Pilot
New poker players tend to read a lot of poker books. They watch YouTube clips top “learn” how to play. They find out that there are only a few hands that are wise to play before the flop especially for new players. They internalize the message and become automatons of before the flop play.
It gets even worse when we combine borderline hands with early betting position. New players are constantly calculating how many big blinds they still have and they often don’t realize that they haven’t won a substantial pot in a long time! Winning pots grows one’s number of big blinds but if you never bet on a borderline hand n early position, your opponents will be able to put you on a very tight range.
You might end up winning the blinds with a pair of aces! Well, la di da!
Playing on automatic pilot is as much a tell as scratching your head when you have a killer hand! Poker before the flop is a combination of playing smart and trying to outsmart your opponents. You need to play some borderline hands in order to outsmart opponents.
Automatic Pilots Tend to Ignore their Opponents Tendencies
It takes time to be able to recall insights you might have gathered from observing opponents’ play. In fact, players who play on automatic pilot usually are not observant enough to draw conclusions from their observations.
So, if a player opens too often in early or middle position and another player calls but doesn’t three bet, it should look to you that they are both betting from weakness waiting to see the flop. Of course, one of them might be betting from strength. Poker is also a game of taking chances. The automatic pilot player takes fewer chances and wins a lot fewer pots.
So, there are times that a player who tends to play a very tight game has to raise and automatons usually miss out on these opportunities.
It is Important to Keep a Record of Hands
We talk about keeping a record of hands because a record allows you to produce a body of work that is real, not theoretical. This is a lot easier to do when you play online at Juicy Stakes Poker or another online poker room. Writing down what happens on every hand will give you a written record of the hands. Since you will naturally fold about 70% of your hands anyway, you can use the “dead” time to create a written record of what each player did with which hands, in which position, against which opponents’ betting, and with which number of big blinds.
Players Have to Avoid Passivity
Many new poker players feel that players who are not passive are always aggressive. This is not the case in per or in most areas of life. There is a vast middle ground between passive and aggressive.
In fact, there is a psychological pathology called passive-aggressive simply because a person, in his or her everyday life, who exhibits only passive or aggressive behavior is considered to be psychologically disabled.
The same is true in poker! A player who is too passive will telegraph their hand whenever they bet as we saw above. A player who is too aggressive will lose far too much money as players stay in many hands these aggressive bettors bet on. Sure, there will be the odd hand where they bet very aggressively and actually have good hand but far more often they will bet aggressively with bad hands and they will lose their stack quickly as a result.
The true opposite of passivity in poker is betting on borderline hands in borderline position. This will confuse your opponents.
Give Borderline Hands Some Respect
The before the flop mistake here is to denigrate many borderline hands. Suited connectors are one such hand. Suited cards can become flushes; connectors can become straights. Many top pros play low pairs in select situations. They do so because it throws opponents off and makes them question themselves.
New players tend to be easily questioned or doubted because of passive play. When you can get an opponent to question himself instead of questioning you, you have set yourself up to win a few pots that you would otherwise have lost and probably have not even played!
Many Poker Players Over-emphasize Pre-flop Play
Every street is important in poker! This simple rule is lost on many new poker players. They want so much to see those three community cards that they pay way too much attention to finding ways to stay in hands to see the flop rather than becoming balanced in pre-flop and after the flop play.
The big mistake in over-emphasizing before the flop play is specifically because the flop consists of community cards. Everyone sees them. Everyone can use them. The players who are too anxious to see the flop tend to under-estimate the help the flop can give to their opponents!
It is a Mistake to Study All of the Pre-flop Mistakes at the Expense of Other Streets
Another way to over-emphasize pre-flop play is to learn more pre-flop mistakes that so many new players make than we have covered here. Pre-flop play can become an obsession.
Some players will call in early position with a hand they should fold “just to make my opponents question themselves”. Good opponents will begin to denigrate your play and will find hands in which they can fool you into calling or raising with very small winning chances.
Developing a Poker Strategy
Every poker game is different. You will play in some games against very good players and you will play in some games with very inexperienced players. If you use the same strategy against both sets of opponents, you will lose more to the good players and win a lot less from the poor players.
In many sports, a team’s coach will make “adjustments” at half-time. Sometimes the adjustments are so profound that the team looks entirely different from how it looked before half-time. In poker, you have to make adjustments on the fly throughout the game.
These adjustments will reflect the betting behavior of your opponents, position, range, and all other factors that you will have paid attention to as the game unfolded. You will have paid attention to post-flop play as well! As you make in-game adjustments, the post-flop streets become just as important as your and your opponents’ play before the flop.
Poker is Hard Enough without Making Unforced Errors
Juicy Stakes Poker has a great and varied line of games, stakes, and tournaments for players of all skill levels and bankrolls. We also do our best to provide advice and tutorials for players, especially new players who need to mature as poker players!