Considering The Magnitude Of Poker Mistakes

Guide To Winning Poker (33)

  • Mistakes involve either us or our opponents folding too much or not enough
  • Looking at who may have folded the best hand gives us a lot of good insight
  • We want to particularly avoid the mistakes which cost us the most money

It’s Not Just How Many Mistakes, It’s How Big

In order to properly get a gauge on the meaningfulness of mistakes that we may make as well as mistakes that our opponents may make, we need to look at the whole picture, which means how much these mistakes are costing us over a given time period. This is a real big deal as you might imagine, and in fact it’s what influences the results you get. I don’t mean having an influence, I mean the only influence.

This isn’t something that poker players tend to think about anywhere near enough, beyond the tendency to play too tight to avoid making bigger ones, and very often tight to the point where they are creating more mistakes than they are looking to avoid.

In order to play well though, we are required to not play afraid and look to what the best move would be overall in terms of long term equity. This isn’t that easy to do it seems as for instance not being bold enough is what tends to cost players out of position. That’s not the only example of this and anytime you are either intimidated too much by aggression or are afraid to be aggressive enough yourself you are putting yourself in a position to achieve lesser results.

The Small Mistakes Really Do Add Up Though

When we look at the magnitude of poker mistakes, we need to not only look at specific situations which lead to a bigger loss or risk of loss per hand, we also need to look at situations which produce smaller mistakes but more of them. For instance, you can end up losing a lot more money overall with moves like folding too much on the flop than you can with certain hands that you end up showing down, if these situations don’t come up anywhere near as often.

So therefore we could say that these smaller mistakes are of a lot bigger magnitude than we may realize. So once again, we are using the criterion of what a mistake is based upon whether or not we are folding better hands or folding out weaker hands with our opponents.

Now some people say that doing this bases things too much on the theoretical side, as we can’t ever know this since we’d need the cards dealt face up, but in practice what we will be doing is gathering as much information as we can and then using that to make our analysis. So there really isn’t a dichotomy between the two perspectives that people think they are, and all poker theory does is provide us with a better perspective to make better practical poker decisions.

Folding Too Much

This is a mistake that is the easiest to correct, although it’s very common in today’s game. If, based upon your analysis, your hand is more likely to be ahead than not, then we can say with certainty that you should not fold it, regardless of how much pressure an opponent puts on you.

Now the amount of pressure from an opponent may further define the hand and indicate more strength from them, or it may not, but that’s a different matter altogether. We of course will be using all the information we have to define our relative strength, but once again we can say with confidence that if we are ahead based upon what we know, then it would always be foolish to fold, at least in cash games without differing chip values. Certain situations in tournaments may prompt us to play more conservatively at times, but that’s beyond the scope of this lesson.

This all might seem pretty obvious, however when you look at how people tend to play, from the newer players right on up to the very accomplished, and perhaps especially the very accomplished, then you can really notice players folding what would otherwise likely be the better hand due to what they perceive as pressure on them. Pressure from an inferior hand is not only something that you don’t want to avoid, but it should be most welcome, as this involves a mistake by your opponents of a higher degree of magnitude.

So we instead need to be asking ourselves whether, based upon everything we know, including past tendencies and the way this particular hand has played out, whether we are ahead or not. If we are ahead, then several options may present themselves, but one of them definitely should not be folding the hand.

There’s also the issue of folding when we are behind but have enough fold equity to take advantage of that, which would be getting our opponents to fold better hands often enough to make raising profitable, either right now or later in the hand. So this is another case of being subject to the mistake of folding too much and is one what we also need to be constantly aware of.

Folding Them Out Too Much

This one can be more complicated, as simply by way of playing our own hands aggressively, we will get ourselves in a lot of situations where the opponent folds worse hands. This one has more to do with our opponents’ tendencies to play correctly than it does our playing better hands correctly, but we still can exercise some control over this.

An obvious example is being out of position and check calling with the likely best hand, in situations where an opponent may correctly fold to a bet but may bluff a lot if checked to, especially if they have the lead, which they often do. Keep in mind that there may and will be other reasons why we may be betting here, for instance if betting causes the opponent to fold too often in position, or to play inferior hands more aggressively by raising, getting more money in the pot when it’s in our best interests.

So it can be tricky to decide what to do in order to encourage our opponents to put money in the pot with likely weaker hands, but we can say that it’s a mistake on our part to get them to fold by taking a certain action when, based upon how they play, there was a better action that led to our making more money off of the hand.

It’s Really All About What Makes The Most Money Over Time

We of course want to always take the lines that will be most profitable over time, and looking at mistakes by ourselves, which we look to minimize, and the mistakes of our opponents, which we look to maximally encourage, gives us a very good framework, the best framework even, in order to decide how to proceed in given situations.

We can distinguish between two main types of mistakes at this point. We can call the first type a formal mistake, meaning a mistake in the decision to fold or not on their or our part. So in other words this involves our putting more money in the pot than we should have, or their putting more money in the pot than they should have.

We can then call the second type mistakes of degree, meaning that they not only put money in the pot, or we have, we or they have put in more money in the pot. An example of this would be in the case where we looked to take advantage of an opponent’s over aggression by betting into them and seeing them raise us with a weaker hand rather than just letting them do the betting.

Mistakes Of Degree Can Be Very Costly

It should not be a surprise that mistakes of degree can make a huge difference in your profit or loss against a player, and this is why fish lose money faster and lose more overall than better players, who know enough to look to limit the degree of their mistakes. So for instance they are less likely to call down hands and lose large sums than weaker players.

The trick though is still to use whether we are ahead or not as our guideline, and the more money an opponent puts in the pot over the course of the hand, the higher the likelihood that they have a real hand, and perhaps a better one. So this is when hand reading really can pay off, or a lack of proper hand reading can really cost us.

Now I do want to point out once again that overall, the smaller mistakes can add up to more money, but the bigger ones impact things more, and often much more, on a hand by hand basis. So we want to be particularly careful with these, both in terms of looking to avoid them ourselves, and also to best take advantage of our opponents’ tendency to make these bigger ones.

Playing Too Tight Or Their Playing Too Tight

With the smaller mistakes, meaning our folding too much or getting them to fold too often when they may have put in a little more, it comes down to our playing too tight or our forcing our opponents to play tighter in situations where we don’t want them to. Fixing our playing too tight is the easiest problem to fix, however we need to be aware of when we are playing too tightly.

Once again this comes down to folding too many better hands. Ideally we should be shooting to never do this, but that’s impossible, so what we need to rely on is the information we have on the situation and then let that guide us.

With getting them to fold too often, that’s something that we don’t mind seeing anyway, as we make a profit when this happens. As always though, it’s about choosing the most profitable line in a given situation, and we need to look at how much money we can make overall by getting them to fold versus keeping them in the hand. This can be a pretty complicated process but even less experienced players can develop a feel for that and capture at least some of the better opportunities by backing off.

There will be some players though that simply only will proceed with good cards, and in that case, while we will need better cards than normal to play on, we can look to make more money with them by ensuring that we don’t overplay our hands in cases where we could scare our nitty opponents off. So you don’t want to shove on someone where he will fold unless we are beaten for instance.

Playing Too Loose Or Their Playing Too Loose

Too loose play brings to bear the mistakes of degree a lot more. Tight players can make these, but loose players make a lot more of them and bigger ones as well. So the first thing we need to do is to make sure that we’re not playing too loose. In this case this means putting money in the pot, to various degrees, with what is likely the worst hand.

So in this case, we are wrong, and the cost of being wrong goes up, and perhaps it goes up a lot. One mistake often leads to another, as we put escalating amounts of money in the pot with every street, where in the end we either fold or lose at showdown. The same thing happens when our opponents play too loose, to our benefit this time, so we definitely want to have our eyes on that prize whenever the opportunity presents itself.

A common misconception is that playing too loose or too tight for that matter is seen in absolute terms, meaning that people think that there is a certain percentage of the time that you should be playing certain hands, or even certain percentages overall, like a certain VP$IP percentage, a certain pre-flop raising percentage, a certain c-bet percentage, and so on. This is absolutely wrong though and this only is meaningful in reference to how an opponent plays, and different opponents require different strategies and therefore different percentages.

I will continue this discussion inthe next article on poker mistakes.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series