Throughout the last year or so as I was grinding poker and giving lessons, I noticed several players with quite a bit of experience making way too many common mistakes. I know several of them have read a few books and are trying to think, but are they thinking about the right things? In this article, I plan to address a couple of the most common mistakes I have seen and try to provide some ideas on how to study more productively. Note that this article is intended for beginners, so please keep that in mind when reading and commenting.
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A very common mistake I would like to start with is open sizing. A good general default rule is to raise 3X the big blind pre-ante and 2X the big blind after the antes have started. One very important thing to note is that our opening size should never change based on our hand. The last thing we would want to do is 2X with K-J and 4X with Q-Q; our open size should not be directly correlated to our hand. We want our opponents to have no idea what we have, and opening for the same amount consistently allows us to do that.
Also, when opening, we need to know how much to make it if there are limpers in the pot. The default thought on limpers is to add 1X for every limper. For example, if it’s after the antes kick in and our normal open is 2X, but there are two limpers, we will open for 4X. These opening thoughts should be the defaults, but they can be changed if you have a good reason.
Just make sure if you change your opening size, don’t do it for one hand;change it for a round or two to stay consistent. For example, if I am at a table where 2X gets several callers, I may 3X instead to try to reduce the number of players seeing a flop. I would just make sure I weren’t changing my opening size too often, as consistency is important to keep our opponents guessing.
Now that we know the amount to open, the next step is to have a plan. Before deciding whether to open, we should have a plan for every player left in the hand based on their stack and our read. For example, let’s say I am in the cutoff with 30 big blinds and K-T offsuit and it’s folded around to me. In general, I think most players will open with two Broadway cards when it’s folded around to them and they are in the cutoff with K-T offsuit, but that may not always be correct.
It’s very important for us to look at the stack sizes of the remaining players left to act and have a plan for each. If the players left have plenty of chips and we have no reads, our plan would probably be to open and then c-bet most flops. If any of them are short stacks, we need to decide if we would be willing to open and call their all-in pre-flop.
Their stack size and likelihood of shoving can help us make a decision. If two of the three players, or all three, were short stacks, I wouldn’t open in this spot with K-T offsuit very often, if at all, because I would expect to get shoved on too often. K-T offsuit won’t play well against most shoves.
Another thought in a situation with three short stacks could be to shove instead of open. If we were in the cutoff with 30 big blinds and the three players remaining had 10 big blinds or less, the last thing we would want to do is open and have to call a raise. If we are going to play the hand, a better option could be to shove, as their calling ranges will be much tighter than their shoving ranges over an open.
The point here is to think ahead and have a plan for every stack left to act before opening. Thinking ahead will help us make better decisions and avoid trouble spots like opening and getting shoved on and it being a surprise. Before I open, I know how I will react to each player left in the hand whether they call, raise, shove, or fold. It should be a rare occurrence for us to be surprised or have to reevaluate.
I am sure most of you have some familiarity with the two common mistakes I addressed above. What I have noticed is that several players try to do what I described above, but neither do it often enough nor realize the importance of needing to do it consistently.
During a recent conversation with a friend I play local live poker with, I realized that there are so many decent players who could play even better with a nudge and some direction. My friend is a decent player and has read several books, but the problem seems to be how he went about it.
Poker is a complex game that requires study and practice. I think way too many players read a book and then try and apply it. But, after reading an entire book, how much will the average person be able to apply? In my opinion, poker should be approached as a college class. If you decide to read a book, do it one chapter at a time. After every chapter, play and apply what you learned.
Read the same chapter a couple of times, talk about what you’ve read with other players, and master the chapter before moving on. If possible, I suggest finding a friend to talk poker with because talking poker is one of the best ways to improve.
I would like to leave you with a testimonial from Cody from Oklahoma. Cody wrote, “My poker game remained unimproved for years. Only after engaging conversation with good thinking players did I truly realize how much time I had wasted and that I was well behind the curve. The most important of the eye-opening discussions was in regards to having a plan for the actions of players behind you in order to avoid sticky situations.”
This article was written by John cracker9ballReynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at email@example.com or visit Variance101.com.