Mistakes are going to happen in poker. For one reason or another, you’ll be able to look back on a session or a single hand and, with the benefit of hindsight, say, “I made a mistake there.” It’s just part of the game. What makes a good poker player is one that not only can identify their mistakes but one who can correct them. The easiest mistakes to correct are the ones everyone makes early in the game, preflop. Here are five easy fixes to terrible common mistakes. Right these wrongs and you’re headed the right direction.
Preflop Mistake #1: Not Flatting on the Button
Many poker players have the tendency to fold the button much too frequently. Being on the button is prime position and there are several ways to take advantage of it. For instance, because of the value of playing last post-flop, you can justify taking a flop with a wide range of hands for the right price. This is especially relevant to live poker, as live players generally do not play so aggressively from the blinds. Always look for ways to take advantage of your position, especially on the button.
Preflop Mistake #2: Overvaluing Offsuit Hands
Players often overvalue weak, offsuit broadway holdings. This is especially dangerous from middle positions, where players raising before you can be expected to have a tighter range, and therefore stronger broadway holdings than you. Some of it is human nature- you see a KJo, you naturally see these as good cards, which they are. However, together, as a combination, they simply aren’t as strong as you think. If you play too many offsuit broadways, you’ll often watch the dealer push a big piece of your stack away from you as a result of having an outkicked top pair. For this reason, it’s better to play a hand like 98s over KJo in these situations; suited connectors will rarely be dominated, and can make nutted hands capable of winning big pots.
Preflop Mistake #3: Calling Extremely Large 3-Bets
The fact of the matter is, against huge 3-bets, you’re going to get terrible pot odds to call. Check out the pot odds calculation against a standard 10BB 3-bet after we opened to 3BB:
We have to call 7BB more to win our raise (3BB) + their 3-bet (10BB) + dead blinds (1.5BB), which comes out to 32.6% equity needed.
Now, look at the same calculation against an 18BB 3-bet:
We have to call 15BB more to win our raise (3BB) + their 3-bet (18BB) + dead blinds (1.5BB), which comes out to 40% equity needed.
That’s about 8% more equity needed in order to continue. This, along with the fact that most live players 3-bet with only their strongest hands, clarifies why calling in these spots is so troublesome.
A good strategy to use against excessively large 3-bets is to fold all but your very strong hands, and 4-bet only your strongest hands. Also, if you observe a player making the mistake of calling large 3-bets too often, you should consider exploiting that player by implementing the large 3-bet into your game.
Preflop Mistake #4: Having No Plan
All of the mistakes listed above come from having only loosely constructed a plan to follow. Pre-flop is a big moment in poker where many simple mistakes can be made. The first step to winning at poker is to have a solid pre-flop strategy. Before heading back to the felt, make sure you have an answer for these pre-flop questions and don’t play another hand until you do.
Which hands will you open-raise when it is folded to you from each position?
Which hands will you raise?
With what range of hands will you continue when a player in front of you raises?
Once you open-raise, how will you respond to 3-bets from each position?
Preflop Mistake #5: Mixing it up
Arbitrarily varying your poker play is the biggest pre-flop mistake you can make. It’s even worse than having no plan at all. Many players do this and often get beat up on later in the hand for their pre-flop decisions. While it’s true that adjustments in poker are important, you should strive to remain balanced while occasionally varying your game to exploit your opponents’ tendencies and mistakes. However, to do this, we make adjustments with a purpose. What it comes down to is the math. Even though you may fool some players, you aren’t making up for the value you would extract by simply 3-betting. In the long run, you make so much money by re-raising [AA] pre-flop that it is nearly impossible to recoup that value through deception of flatting.
When you decide to mix up your play, it’s because we have considered the options presented to us. We should never make a play just for the sake of doing something different because, ultimately, it serves no purpose.