3 Rookie Mistakes That Cost Me Money in Texas Hold ‘em
Now that I have been gambling for about a year, I have pretty much tried every game under the sun. Poker was the last category that I pursued, and Texas Hold ‘Em was the game that I decided to try first, and it was a struggle.
I was used to short and simple games like blackjack and craps, where there is only one round of betting and only one move. The multiple rounds of betting and knowing which moves I could make at what time was overwhelming for me.
But I didn’t give up. It took several tries, but I am finally getting the hang of the game. And now that I have a basic understanding of the game, my previous mistakes are all too apparent to me.
I have finally realized some of the most significant reasons that I lost almost every game I played, so I wrote this blog to help other beginners avoid that fate. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and save some money in the process!
Playing Too Many Hands
The biggest mistake that I made as a rookie was thinking that I had to play every single hand. I’m used to blackjack, where if you don’t play a hand, you are essentially ending the game, so it took me some time to realize that I could fold if I needed to.
I eventually learned that folding was a good idea, but then I had a hard time knowing what hands were worth folding and which ones were worth playing on.
Some of my friends had won several rounds on relatively weak hands, like a two-pair, so I thought that I could do the same.
At first, I only allowed myself to fold post-flop, thinking that the flop would help me figure out what my hand was worth. That method worked some of the time, but I lost a lot of money by betting on hands that I should have just folded on immediately.
One valuable lesson that I learned was that the value of your hand goes beyond the cards in front of you. What I mean is that you could have a decent hand, but it is meaningless if another player has a better one.
Here is an example of a hand that should have been guided by the other players. I had a three of a kind that I was pretty excited about. The player next to me called, but the next player raised to more than twice the initial bet.
That should have been an indicator to me that they had an even better hand, but I convinced myself they were just bluffing. I called and ended up losing more than three times what I had initially wagered.
Playing Too Passively
When your options are to fold, call, or raise, calling seems like a happy medium. Calling allows you to continue playing without risking unnecessary amounts of money. It looks like a perfect move, most of the time.
The problem with this type of thinking is that other players can tell when you tend to call on most hands. It gives them an opportunity to raise the bet, even if they have a worse hand. They can take advantage of your consistency and make more money for themselves.
Another problem that comes from making the same moves repeatedly, no matter what that move may be, is that it gives your opponents too much information about your hand.
If you are a player that calls almost every time, and then you suddenly raise, they will assume that you have a better-than-average hand.
When players are familiar with your raising habits, they will have a better idea of how to play against you. You might still win the hand, especially if several other players fold, but the stakes will be smaller because no one was willing to risk more money.
My friend Jim picked up on my call habit almost immediately. There were several hands that ended with me folding because he kept raising the bet. Most of the time, he didn’t have a superior hand, but he knew that he could trick me into thinking he did.
Then I was dealt one of the best possible hands you can get, a king of clubs and a queen of clubs! I was calm at first, knowing that the flop could make or break it for me.
But when an ace of clubs and ten of clubs came out in the flop, I started getting excited.
So, I raised more than I had in almost any other round. Jim responded by folding immediately, and a couple of other players followed suit. I ended up losing the hand because I still need a jack, but even if I had won, it would have been one of the smallest wins of the night.
Jim eventually felt guilty because he knew that he was taking advantage of me as a new player. He was kind enough to clue me in by telling me how obvious my betting habits were, but not until after he had won several hundred dollars off of me.
Bluffing Too Often
Once I had finally learned how to mix up my betting patterns and learned how to fold when I needed to, I began trying this new thing called bluffing.
My first few attempts were laughable because I tend to be easy to read. But I eventually learned how to keep a straight face when I saw my hand, and it started to pay off.
The first time I won on a bluff was when I had a terrible hand, a 7 and a 4. The flop had another 4, so I at least had a pair, but I knew it was a worthless hand, so I decided to use it as an opportunity to try my new skill.
I called and raised, but never drastically until the other players folded. There was one player left, and it turned out he was bluffing even worse than I was.
I was so excited about my win that I kept trying to bluff on several subsequent hands. The other players figured out what I was up to, but not before I was able to win a couple more rounds.
Bluffing is a great tool to have in your poker arsenal, but it is vital that you don’t overuse it. The more you bluff, the more your opponents will expect that of you, which will just make it less effective.
Everything that I have learned about playing poker can basically be summed up by the lyrics of Kenny Rogers’ hit song The Gambler.
“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.”
Unfortunately, Kenny doesn’t give you more direction on how to do that.
I am still learning the best strategies for playing Texas Hold ‘Em, but I have learned the importance of paying attention to the other players. Having multiple opponents is one of the things that separate poker from other casino games.
It is easy to let the other players intimidate you, but if you are smart, you can also use them to help your own game. They are what makes the game more interesting, so learn to appreciate them.
If you are a Texas Hold ‘Em rookie, the best advice that I can give you is to keep playing. The only way to get better at this game is to practice.
Online casinos are great for learning the basics of the game, but you also need to play games in person so that you can determine how the interaction with other players affects your games.
If you live far away from a casino, you can always try joining a neighborhood poker night with some of your friends and colleagues. Hopefully, they will be more helpful to you than Jim was to me, and they will help you learn instead of taking advantage of you!
If you can’t find a poker night that is already happening regularly, you could always try hosting one of your own.