12 Poker Beginner Mistakes That Will Kill Your Winnings

Poker Beginner Mistake
Everybody was a poker beginner at one time or another. And it is easy to make a lot of mistakes when you are first starting out.

I know that for me, before I ever turned pro and ended up writing books about this game, I went through many, many years of making a lot of the same mistakes at the poker tables.

In most cases, I had to learn through trial and error what works and what doesn't. But I don't want you to have to spend years going through all this as well!

So in this article you will learn the top 12 poker beginner mistakes that will kill your poker winnings so that you can hopefully avoid them yourself.

Poker Beginner Mistake #1 - Not Understanding the Power of Initiative

One of the hardest things for many poker beginners to learn is the power of initiative in poker. And what I mean by this is being the person in control of the hand. Or in other words, the raiser.

So this is why you will see many poker beginners limp into the pot for instance. Now, there can be a time and a place where this makes sense. I am not saying you should never, ever limp.

But it should be very, very rare because it is simply a proven fact (you can check in any poker tracking program) that the aggressor or raiser in poker wins more pots.

And the reason for this is pretty straightforward. Most of the time in poker nobody really has much of anything good, often a pair or a weak draw at best.

So the person who has taken control of the pot preflop will often win the pot by simply continuing to exert their aggression after the flop.

Poker Beginner Mistake #2 - Not Understanding the Power of Position

The next crucial poker beginner mistake that literally took me years to learn was just how important position is in poker.

Now once again, I just love checking the data in poker because opinions will always vary.

So you can open up any tracking program like PokerTracker or Hold'em Manager and as long as you have a decent sample of hands (100k+), you will see that you are winning by far the most from late position.

I have coached hundreds of students before and I have seen their databases. Over significant samples sizes I have never seen this vary.

Late position by the way are the seats like the button and the cutoff where you get to act last after every single postflop street.

This is enormously important in poker because it means that you get to get in every last value bet and bluff with the benefit of already seeing them act before you.

This is why it is imperative that you learn early on to play tighter in early position and the blinds and to open up a lot more in late position.

Poker Beginner Mistake #3 - Failing to Play in Good Poker Games

The next massive mistake that all poker beginners make (and many never actually learn this at all even after 5 or 10 years) is that you can't "crush" a tough poker game.

Poker is a game that is played between people and it doesn't matter how much experience you have, how many books you have read and so on, if there isn't a soft spot in the game, then you aren't going to win big.

You have to find the players who make large fundamental mistakes like playing too many hands, calling down with any pair or draw after the flop and so on if you truly want to win big in poker.

This is why I believe that table selection is the most important part of being a professional or semi-professional poker player these days.

Poker Beginner Mistake #4 - Failing to Get Past Basic Variance

Another huge mistake that I see poker beginners making is not playing enough hands especially before coming to conclusions about their results.

You can find them everywhere, on forums, in casinos or in your home games. These are the guys who get hung up on individual hands, bad beats and so on.

The problem with this is we don't play this game for individual hands or even individual days. Poker instead is a game with a short term luck element automatically built in. So therefore, you can only determine your results over periods of time such as months or years.

Now believe me I get it though, we live in a day and age where it is all about the fast results now. But unfortunately this is just not the way that poker works, nor will it ever work this way.

As I often say, poker is literally the exact opposite of a get rich quick scheme. You have to put in the long hard hours at the tables (and away from them) if you really want to see real results in this game.

If you are just in this thing for a quick buck, then it probably won't end well for you.

Poker Beginner Mistake #5 - Not Having the Right Bankroll

The next poker beginner mistake that I see all the time is not being properly bankrolled. And believe me, once again, I get it. A lot of people want to just deposit $10 and see if they can "run it up."

But once again this is failing to understand the reality of how this game works. You really need to have at least 30 buyins in order to overcome basic variance in cash games.

And if you play tournaments or sit and gos you can multiply this number many, many times over.

So the very lowest stakes cash game online has a $2 buyin meaning you should have $60 to play that game and this is the very lowest amount that I would recommend.

Honestly, for most beginners I would recommend even more than this. Variance is simply a reality of the game and 20 buyin downswings can happen even to good winning players these days.

If you take poker seriously, then you need to make sure that you have the right bankroll for the games you play in right from the very start.

Poker Beginner Mistake #6 - Playing Stakes That Are Too High

Another common poker beginner mistake I see especially online is playing stakes that are too high. A lot of people will say that they simply cannot take games with buyins of $2, $5 or $10 seriously.

The problem with this line of thinking though is that often the games that they consider to be "real money" of $100 or more are full of hungry sharks ready to pounce on a poker newb like yourself.

Many people fail to realize that even at stakes as low as 25c/50c blinds online these days you will encounter many professional poker players. These guys aren't messing around and they aren't fish either.

As a newcomer to poker, or even as somebody who has been playing in the casinos for a little while with some success, these guys are probably going to fleece you very quickly.

Your best bet is to take the humble path and start in the $2 or $5 games first. If you start wrecking these games, cool, just move up right away. But you need to prove that you can indeed beat these games first before taking on the big boys.

Poker Beginner Mistake #7 - Not Moving Up When They Should

Now on the flip side of this, I also see plenty of poker beginners staying in the low stakes games for way, way too long. And the problem with this is that nobody gets rich at the micros!

As I have discussed many times before, it really should only take you a couple of months to start beating the very lowest stakes online especially if you follow the system outlined in my free poker strategy guide.

But I see some people who continue to play at these limits for years and years. Now believe me I get it, because I used to do the exact same thing. It's nice to just get that easy money and barely ever lose.

However, if you ever want to truly make some real money in poker, or at least a significant side income, then it really is necessary that you move up and challenge yourself in higher stakes games at some point.

Poker Beginner Mistake #8 - Tilting All Their Winnings Away

The next most common mistake I see poker beginners making is tilting all of their poker winnings away.

Essentially, they are doing fine, making some profit and then a fish comes along, bad beats them a few times and they proceed to lose their mind and give all their money away.

I have seen this again and again over the years at the micros and also back when I used to coach poker players at the micros, this was a very common theme.

If you want to be successful in poker, then like I discussed before, you are going to have to start viewing this game with a long term perspective.

You cannot allow yourself to get emotional over one bad player who gets lucky against you. Because this will happen again and again and it is just a part of the game.

So you either need to develop some strategies to keep yourself off of tilt when this happens or you need a proper quitting strategy in order to prevent these unnecessary losses from happening again.

Poker Beginner Mistake #9 - Over-Thinking the Game

The next most common poker beginner mistake that I see these days is over-thinking the game. And this has become more and more common in recent years with the large amount of poker training materials that is now available out there.

Many people who are new to the game and have not even played 100k hands in their entire career are spending far too much time studying everything they can get their hands on and spending countless hours debating hands on forums, in YouTube comments on Reddit or where ever.

The problem with all of this is that you don't need to be some poker genius in order to beat the micros. All you need to do is consistently apply a simple TAG strategy like I outline in all my poker books.

And what's more is that you don't get paid to talk about poker or to study complex theories. You only get paid when you are actually playing the game (assuming you are a winning poker player).

So my advice is to find one strategy, one mentor, one coach who is a proven winner in the games that you play in and just study that. And then get to the tables and start grinding.

Poker Beginner Mistake #10 - Bad Bet Sizing

Another common mistake that I see beginner poker players make is using tournament style bet sizing or bet sizing strategies meant for much higher limit games at the micros.

Honestly if you just went raise 3x preflop, and then 2/3 pot postflop on every single street (depending on your hand, the board and the other players in the hand of course), you really could not go wrong.

But I see many people using all sorts of bizarre blocker bets, probing bets and slowplay these days after the flop where they are simply losing value against a very basic opponent who would have paid them off for much more.

I see the same thing preflop with all sorts of weird little mini-raises or severely under-sized 3Bets in loose passive games where they are simply throwing away money.

This is like voluntarily selling your car which has a market value of 10k for 5k. If you seriously just hate money, then sure go ahead and do this.

But if winning at poker is important to you, then I would highly suggest learning some good bet sizing strategy early on and not straying from that.

Poker Beginner Mistake #11 - Fancy Play Syndrome

And that leads right into my next poker beginner mistake which is fancy play syndrome, the destroyer of so many micro stakes bankrolls.

Basically what this means is trying to use some crazy 10th level thinking play that you saw some high stakes poker player do against some half drunk beginner in your $5 game online.

Here's what will happen in reality.

Your extra fancy river check/raise (because you are representing the flush and he should TOTALLY understand this) will actually just go right over his head and he will quickly call you down with his top pair.

Like I have mentioned many times on this blog before, if you want to have success in poker, especially when you are starting out at the lower limits, then you have to learn to keep everything as painfully and stupidly simple as possible.

Trust me, this is what actually works in these games. Keep the fancy plays out of your game until you are actually playing against high level world class competition in high stakes games.

Poker Beginner Mistake #12 - Not Embracing the Grind

Poker is a tough game. It isn't for the faint of heart and the games are not easy these days either. I am one of the few people out there who actually tells you this nearly every single week on this blog.

In a word, poker is a grind. And it is a long and hard one if you truly want to be successful at it.

I got to where I am today by putting in longer harder hours than anybody. In fact that is what I prided myself on. They might be more skilled than me but they will never ever outwork me.

I used to play so much poker that I got accused of being a "bot" nearly every single day.

PokerStars actually started putting a CAPTCHA on my poker tables every once in awhile to force me to prove that I was a real live human being. This is because they got so many complaints about me playing too much and being an "obvious bot."

Look, I am not saying all this brag. After all, I am nowhere near one of the best poker players in the world and there are lots of guys out there who have made way more money in this game than me.

I am just trying to give you a glimpse into the kind of dedication that it takes if you truly want to succeed in poker. You simply have to want it more than the next guy, way more.

And yes, even when this game has been kicking your teeth in for days, weeks and sometimes even months on end.

You have to be willing to persevere through it all and simply soldier on. You have to fully embrace the grind.

Final Thoughts

So there are the top 12 poker beginner mistakes that I still see people making all the time these days. Some are easy to avoid, some took me years to learn.

But if you want to create real lasting consistent results in this game then my best advice is to do things right from the very beginning of your poker career.

Make sure you know the fundamentals of initiative, position, bankroll management, bet sizing, game selection and emotional control and among others.

And above all, be ready to persevere no matter what this game throws your way, and have the drive and discipline to keep improving every day and putting in the long hours at the tables, no matter what.

Make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet if you want a complete strategy plan for your success.

Are you a poker beginner? Are you making any of the mistakes listed in this article? Let me know in the comments below.

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing?

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing? It Might Shock You

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing?
People often ask me can you win at poker without bluffing and I think my answer is a little bit shocking to some of them.

Yes, you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing! In fact most big winning poker players actually do very little bluffing. Televised poker in particular tends to skew our perception of the game by hand picking a lot huge bluffs to show us.

But the truth is that most of the time people are not bluffing in poker anywhere near as much as you think and you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing. This is even more the case if you play online poker.

But there is of course a lot more to it than this, and in order to achieve the highest winnings possible in your poker games, you should work at least a few bluffs into your game plan.

Don't worry though because I am going to cover it all for you below in this article!

Do You Need to Bluff to Win at Poker?

So as I just mentioned, no, you absolutely do not need to bluff in order to win at poker. This is especially true at the lower stakes which is likely what you stakes you play.

My name is Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams I am the guy who is well known for having played millions and millions of hands at the lowest stakes online with some of the highest winnings in history.

Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am very, very rarely bluffing at the poker tables. Many people have found this out the hard way over the years.

Heck, I just don't even have the time to be bluffing you when I am playing on 10 or 20 other tables! So when I am betting big and raising it is usually because I have a big hand.

But still to this day people call me down all the time just to see it. This is the one time they are going to catch me in a big bluff they convince themselves. Nope, he has the nuts again!

You won't see me doing this for example very often:

And the reason why I don't bluff very much at these stakes in particular is because of what I just said, they love to call me down.

Why would I try to bluff a bunch of guys who just love to call me all day? I have literally made a career out of these guys.

So if I suddenly decided to start bluffing them then that would just be like lighting money on fire. Poker is all about reacting to what your opponents do.

If they are going to call me down like crazy, cool. Then I will just show up with the nuts every time when I am betting big.

Play money poker is the most extreme example of this. You should never, ever, ever, ever bluff in play money poker ever. Because they do not fold anything for any amount!

If on the other hand I am playing in a game full of weak players who fold too much, then I am going to be bluffing these guys all day. And you will encounter these games as you move up the stakes in real money games.

I think you catch my drift. It's all about adapting to the game you are playing in.

Most games at the lower stakes though (live or online) are full of calling stations. You don't want to be bluffing these guys.

Don't Confuse a Continuation Bet With a Bluff

Now a point that trips a lot of people up is continuation betting. A continuation bet is when you raise before the flop and then "continue" your aggression on the flop with another bet.

You need to know that a continuation bet is NOT a bluff. A continuation bet instead is actually a standard play in poker that you should be making most of the time especially against a single opponent.

As I discuss in my poker strategy books, you should be continuation betting on the flop somewhere around 60% or 70% of the time. Against, some really, really weak/tight players you can even go higher than this sometimes.

So this means that a good portion of the time when I am betting the flop as the preflop raiser, I don't have much of anything on the flop, maybe ace high or a weak draw, sometimes nothing at all.


I have AJ♣

I raise preflop and a random opponent calls me in the blinds



Random opponent checks to me

I am continuation betting almost every time here!

The reason why this bet is not a bluff and you should be doing it often is because it is very profitable. Also, you need to remember that Ace high is often actually the best hand here.

Lastly, most people tend to give you too much respect as the preflop raiser anyways and fold too much on the flop. For instance, a lot of people will fold their pocket 4's or pocket 5's here when you bet.

This is just free money that you should always be picking up.

A Double Barrel Isn't Necessarily a Bluff Either

Another play that you might see me making at the poker tables a lot is a double barrel. This is when you raise preflop, continuation bet on the flop and then bet again on the turn.

If you don't know when you should be doing it (what opponents, what turn cards etc.), check out my double barrel cheat sheet right here.

Now most of the time when I am double barreling at the micros, I have the goods.

As I mentioned before, I am not screwing around at the lower stakes in particular. I know most of them love to call me down, so when I am betting, they are going to lose.

However, there are some occasions where it can still be a good idea to double barrel even when you only have a draw for example. And this is the case versus weak opponents.


You raise on the button with 98

A tight reg calls you in the big blind



Your opponent checks

You continuation bet



Your opponent checks

You should double barrel!

This is an example of a hand where I am going to be betting again on the turn (even though I only have 9 high) a very large amount of the time.

The reason why is because the ace is a great scare card and my opponent has also shown weakness by checking to me again on the turn.

And to sweeten the deal even more, I still have the flush draw in my back pocket even if he decides to call my double barrel here on the turn.

So this is a slam dunk bet on the turn even though we are technically "bluffing."

As I talk about in The Micro Stakes Playbook you can also use tons of different HUD stats like WTSD% to find out which players are most likely to fold in a spot like this.

Bottom line though is I still don't even consider this to really be a bluff. It is simply a profitable poker play against the right players, on the right turn card.

Bet Big When You Have It - Don't Bluff the Calling Stations

The real key to success at the lower limits (either online or live) is value betting strongly and frequently with your big hands like top pair, two pair, trips, a straight or a flush.

A lot of people do the exact opposite though. They try to trap their opponents with these hands. I blame televised poker once again for this, giving people a distorted image of how poker works.

As we already discussed, you don't want to try and bluff a calling station. But you have to remember that the exact opposite applies as well!

That is, you never, ever, ever want to slow play versus a calling station. Because once again, they love to call. And you like money right?

This is one of the biggest mistakes that I still see so many people making at the micros in particular these days is just throwing away their money trying to slow play against calling stations.

So this is why when I hit a strong hand versus one of these players who like to call too much at the lower stakes I will often just go ahead and bet all three streets with it.

In other words, I will do the most painfully obvious thing in the world: Bet with my good hands.

It sounds so simple right? But many people try to complicate poker. There must be more to it than this they try to convince themselves.

They tell themselves that they need to play more tricky because that is how Daniel Negreanu plays on TV in heavily, heavily edited high stakes poker tournaments.

But this isn't how your $10 games on the internet play and you aren't Daniel Negreanu either. The way to beat the low stakes games that you play in is very simple actually.

I have made obscene amounts of money in these games (relatively speaking anyways, 6 figures+) by simply making the most braindead obvious plays over and over and over again.

Now of course not everybody is a calling station at the lower limits any more and you do need to adjust your game like I mentioned before versus some of the better aggressive players for instance.

However, one of the biggest keys to your success in most low stakes loose passive games is to just keep everything as simple as possible. And this means not bluffing very often and simply making the most obvious play possible with your good hands, bet them.

But I Just Love to Bluff!

Now some people might say, but Nathan, I just love to bluff so much, I get a thrill out of it, I can't control myself!

Ok cool. Believe me I get it. And this is actually a good thing. It will serve you well in higher stakes games where you need to out-think much stronger opponents and have lots more tricks up your sleeve.

But for now, if you are playing low stakes (which you probably are if you are reading this article), then you really have to cut most of this bluffing out of your game.

As I have mentioned all throughout this article you do not win at poker by bluffing a lot in most low stakes games. In fact you honestly do not need to bluff at all in most loose passive games.

And this is just part of the discipline and the ability to adapt that comes with being a strong poker player. You have to understand what kind of environment you are in and adjust to that.

As I often mention on this blog and in my books and poker YouTube videos, winning poker at the lower limits is actually pretty damn boring.

Seriously, it's mind numbingly boring at times. If you want to win that is.

There just isn't much you can do except sit around and wait for the nuts against many of these people. So if you want to win you need to control your urge to bluff so much.

Final Thoughts

So can you win at poker without bluffing? Well, to finally answer this age old question once and for all, the answer is yes, you absolutely you can win at poker without bluffing!

In fact in most low stakes loose passive poker games you should actually do very little bluffing if you want to win at the highest clip possible.

Now there are a few situations such as flop continuation bets and double barrels which should definitely be a part of your game. But these aren't really even bluffs, they are just good poker plays.

The bottom line is that you need to value bet strong and frequently at the lower stakes with your good hands and keep the bluffing to a minimum. This is how you will have the most success in these games.

If you want to know how I quit my job over 10 years ago to become an online poker pro and travel the world, (while doing very little bluffing at all), make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Do you think you can win at poker without bluffing? Let me know in the comments below!

Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing?