How to Stop Playing Too Many Hands in Poker: 3 Simple Steps

How to Stop Playing Too Many Hands in Poker
A big problem that many people suffer from at the poker tables is playing too many hands. This can be especially easy to do if you have a big stack in a tournament or even in a cash game.

A lot of people will think that they can afford to splash the chips around a little bit more because of this.

But this is a dangerous game to play because many of your opponents will be waiting for a good hand and therefore you will often need to get lucky in order to win. In other words, the odds are against you.

This is going to make it very difficult for you to win over the long run when you are trying to fight the basic math so often.

It is a much better idea to have strong starting hand requirements especially in small stakes poker games and let all the recreational players play bad hands and lose with them.

So in this article I am going to give you 3 strategies that you can start using next time you play in order to help you stop playing so many hands at the poker tables.

1. Play More Poker Tables

The first tip that I always suggest in order to stop playing too many hands in poker is to simply play more tables. If you are playing online poker then you can literally play almost as many tables as you want.

The reason why adding more tables will help you play less hands is because it will keep you busy. You will be more likely to have a decent hand somewhere. This helps prevent you from getting bored and playing trashy hands out of sheer boredom.

Another advantage to playing more poker tables is that you get to the long run and achieve your true results and true win-rate in poker much faster.

Most people severely under-estimate just how long the long run actually is in poker. It will often take at least 100k hands for you to get a solid idea of where your real abilities stand in this game.

To put that into perspective, this could represent months of play for somebody who plays regularly online. And this could represent a year or more of play for somebody who plays regularly at the casino.

The short term luck element in poker (which is also called "variance") is very real and takes a long time to overcome. So not only will adding more poker tables help prevent you from playing so many bad hands, it will also help you get to your real results faster.

2. Use Starting Hand Selection Charts

Another way to stop playing too many hands in poker is to use starting hand selection charts. These are basically visual aids that tell you exactly what hands to play from each position at the table.

I actually include "The Starting Hand Cheat Sheets" as a free bonus for anyone who purchases one of my poker strategy books.

These charts tell you exactly which hands to play from every position at the poker table for both 6max and full ring.

Playing Too Many Hands in Poker
6max button range from "The Starting Hand Cheat Sheets"

If you are brand new to poker then I would suggest just printing these out and having them handy while you are playing. You can even just post them on your wall if that will help!

As you gain more and more experience playing poker though you will quickly memorize these basic hand ranges and not have to think about them so much anymore.

It's kind of like learning how to drive a car. It was probably difficult and slightly stressful for you to remember everything in the beginning, but it is probably totally automatic for you now.

The bottom line is that using some starting hand selection charts can help keep you in line at the poker tables and prevent you from playing too many bad hands.

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3. Know the Math

Another way to help yourself stop playing so many hands in poker is to understand the math. This is really the entire reason why we want to have good standards when choosing which hands to play in the first place.

For instance, if you choose to play every single trashy off-suit Ace for instance like:

A2, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7 and so on,

Then this can be a real problem if you run into a player who only plays AJ or better for example. And you can see why when I bring up the PokerTracker hand equity calculator.

Playing Too Many Hands in Poker

If you play a hand like A6 and run into somebody playing only good ace hands like AQ you have only slightly more than a 1 in 4 chance of winning the hand.

I am sure I don't need to tell that is not good!

Now of course there are some caveats to this point. If you are in a steal position for instance (i.e. button, cutoff or it is folded to you in the small blind), then it is totally fine to play all of these ace hands.

This is because you have so few players left to beat and the value of stealing the blinds is very important in both cash games and tournaments.

And in tournaments you also want to be applying pressure on the mid and short stacks around pay bubbles in particular because they will often be too afraid to stick their stack in the middle without a really strong hand.

But in more typical situations, you want to make sure that you understand that the math is against you most of the time when playing crappy hands. It is usually going to be much more profitable to have higher standards and dominate them instead.

Don't Be the Fish!

And the real reason why you want to stop playing too many hands in poker is because this is what the recreational poker players do (i.e. the fish).

Now I am pretty sure that the last thing you want to do is end up being the fish yourself!

Playing too many hands is the number one reason why the fish consistently lose so much and it is because of the mathematical reasons that we just discussed above.

I gotta be honest here though.

A huge part of learning how to play tighter just boils down purely to discipline. Discipline (and patience) is the biggest part of becoming a winning poker player and this is the first step that you absolutely have to learn.

Recreational poker players don't exercise any discipline in their game. The play poker purely for fun. They can't make a tough fold when they should. And they don't know how to stop playing so many trashy hands before the flop either.

Unless you want to end up playing like them (and getting their terrible results as well), it really is crucial that you learn to stop playing so many trashy hands. Make the mental commitment to change this bad habit of yours next time you play poker.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article gave you a few pointers on how to stop playing too many hands in poker. This is one of the first and most valuable lessons that you need to learn in order to have success in this game.

This is why this is the first thing that I discuss in my best selling poker book, Crushing the Microstakes.

That is, how to cut down on how many hands you play and exactly what hands to play in all situations (see page 66 of the book for the charts).

If you find yourself playing too many hands out of boredom though, then you should try adding another table if you play online. This will force you to tighten up because you will simply be too busy to play too many trashy hands.

You should also consider memorizing some starting hand selection charts in the beginning to help you stay on track. Print them out if necessary and have them ready any time you need them.

And lastly, you want to make sure that you understand the math as well. Being dominated in poker sucks (i.e. A6 versus AQ). You don't want to be fighting uphill battles like this too often.

This is the #1 reason why the bad players lose in poker. They play bad hands and often lose to the tighter players who have a higher pair, a better kicker and so on.

Lastly, if you want to know how to consistently make $1000+ per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Let me know in the comments below if you play too many hands in poker and how you are working on fixing it!

playing too many hands poker


  1. Discipline is the hardest part. I also have found I tighten up playing zoom (similar to more tables in a way). I think it makes me play more how I should and causes less careless play because it's easier mentally to just fold and move on. Just have to remember that it does the same to others and they're going to be playing tighter too.

    1. Good point about Zoom! This definitely helps people play tighter as well.

  2. I purchased Crushing the Microstakes a couple weeks ago but did not receive any of the bonuses mentioned? Would love to have a copy of starting hands cheat sheet. As always, your are awesome. Thank you for all you do for us

    1. Hey David,

      The download link for the Starting Hand Charts was included with your download link for the book. If you need another set of links, just send me an email,

  3. Hello there, I've started playing Poker seriously for the first time in december after years of absence and I definetly can confirm the boredom part.

    Tilt isn't just being pissed off or angry because something bad happened, it's also more subtle like boredom. If you have a lot of time waiting around you might start playing worse hands just to be involved or maybe even go on social media / watch videos on the second screen and therefore don't perform 100%.

    My advice to any beginner would be to study your preflop chart until you know it by heart and then start playing atleast three tables as soon as possible. When I added a third table it was the first time I was enough involved in the tables at all times so other distractions weren't even possible.

    Try to be active at atleast one table at a time, may it even be just checking HUD-Stats, recolouring your opponent, taking notes.

    I almost guarantee better success with that.
    My first month where I made a significant profit (in relation to the limit - it's still NL2 to be fair) was when I played three tables and up.

    1. Good advice Gwel and glad to hear you are profiting so far!

  4. Nice one, man!
    I've been playing satisfactorily in NL2 and NL5, with a good win rate. But this week I found myself in a really fish-like win rate (lose rate?) when looking for some stats and spots: I was calling too many 3bets, either than majority in position, versus 3beters (12-18%) from the blinds. I am very awared that I should play more hands vs these guys, but I had lost my mind in many of these hands. Is there some strategy or article to help me playing the correct hands and more powerfull posflop in these spots?
    Thanks, Man!

    1. Hi GIlberto,

      Glad you enjoyed this article!

      How to defend against 3Bets is a massive topic that I can't really answer properly in a short comment like this. I wrote a massive guide recently though to defending against 3Bets. You can find that right here:

      And I cover how to defend 3Bets in much more detail in all of my books, especially Modern Small Stakes and my latest one, The Micro Stakes Playbook.

  5. Anonymous03 March

    I’m a newbie, about 2,000 hands in. This article reenfirces the fact that I need to really learn the starting hands for each position. I’ve tightened up my play but I’m leaving money on the table, so I need to make better call/raise decisions. Thanks fir tour awesome material!!!!

    1. Glad this article helped! Definitely important to focus on these fundamentals when you are first starting. After awhile, it will all be automatic for you.

  6. Hi Nathan,

    I bought your book and video series all ready. Is any chance to get 'starting hands cheat sheet'? Is it for free or do I need to pay for it?

    Thank you for your time.


    1. Hi Daniel,

      It's free for all Crushing the Microstakes buyers. Send me an email at and I will send it to you.

  7. Really good chart for begginers :) important is to deviate from this "standard" after you learn some basics. Mainly because population on micros overfold a lot so you should start stealing blinds with almost any two cards.
    Also playing less hands doesn't always mean better hand, for example when CO open and BTN flat and you are considering squeeze from BB its definetly better to do with 76s than AJo. Even tho ATo is "better hand". This was my leak when I started playing poker. I thought the offsuit brodways are much better then some 76s

    1. Thanks and I agree, my charts are just for beginners. Experienced players should adjust them to the table conditions.

  8. nathan, got a quick question, i know nobody gives out free advice, but just hoping. the only thing i can do consistently is play poker. i lived in ny and played my friends account in nj and was winning micros on 888 nj. a lot of fish and the random number generator seemed reasonable.But I moved to california and the only place to play is americas card room. I 9 table micros with a hud, poker tracker 4. I was making money consistently over the 2 months i played in NJ. But on acr, i think its unbeatable. I don't trust it. I am sure there are bot rings colluding and sharing hole cards. I am positive. Also, the random generator seems funny here. It's as if, you have to play from behind to win on this site. If the colluding bots don't get you the generator will. I highly doubt you have ever heard of anybody making money on acr micros over 100k hands. I don't play from behind, and am very aggressive when ahead. The suckouts when i am ahead are way more than normal(i have large sample size) and i feel that when i fold when i am behind, that i would be getting there more often than not.(I mean if the suckouts happen more often than not, then I should be playing poorly to attempt to suckout and create big pots) I am a very disciplined folder. So, since i only play from behind with pot odds, and get sucked out more than normal when ahead, plus the colluding bots, it's unbeatable! 100% unbeatable. Anyway, what do you recommend I do? I could play live, but 1 table full of regs at my local casino. it's a 2-3 no limit game with a $300 buy-in. making $20 per hour, $100 per day! I have a family! lol!. I ultimately want to 9 table with hud 50 cents -1 dollar on 888 nj. I am sure i could make a living that way but i am in california!

    1. Hi Carlos,

      You can find all the poker rooms that I recommend (including USA friendly ones) here:

  9. Hey Nathan, I am surprised that you did not include as #4 (#5?) one method of tightening up, for which there is an incredible side benefit:

    OBSERVE/ANALYSE hands in which you folded.

    Immeasurable insight about your opponents' weaknesses (that you can thus exploit!) comes only from focusing on players and noticing mathematical mistakes. Easier to do when not involved in the hand yourself, objective and not biased by results of the hand.

    But that is really hard work always paying attention to stacks, positions, bet sizes... yet that is how you grow strong as a player, how to be pro-active in advance of situations instead of reactive and panicky!

    It is boring folding 80% of early/middle position hands -- so use that free time to LOOK FOR THE MISTAKES that your opponents don't realize they are making.

    For example: ignpring low SPR bybset-mining short stacked after being 3bet by LAGs, or cold calling offsuit Broadways multiway, or betting too big for value on dry boards or too small as a bluff on wet boards multiway. Or even never floating or check-raising (so then you know to never barrel or to always bet for thin value when checked to). Figuring out "the other team's playbook", it is kinda like being a "spy"... and it pays off huge. Just not EASY.

    1. Thanks for the reply and the tips Darren!