Don't Use These 5 Bad Poker Strategies (Big Mistake!)

Bad Poker Strategies

This article was written by contributor Fran Ferlan.

No two poker players are exactly alike. Yet, for some reason, a great number of beginner poker players make predictably similar mistakes. 

They didn’t learn them anywhere, they just do them unconsciously. If you were to ask them why they made a certain play, they’ll conjure up a reason, albeit usually a bad one.

This article will take a closer look at 5 strategies (for lack of a better word), why so many players still insist on doing them, and why you should dispense with them altogether. 

It will also give you better alternatives, and save you a lot of money and the heartache in the process.

Bad Poker Strategy #1 - Open Limping

Open-limping is one of the telltale signs of recreational poker players. It’s basically broadcasting to the whole table: 

I’m a fish, please take all of my money!  

Open-limping is the act of calling the big blind when you are the first person to enter the pot, and it’s virtually never a good idea for a number of reasons:

1) When you open-limp, you have zero fold equity. If you don’t enter the pot with a raise, you can’t take down the blinds uncontested preflop.

2) You leave yourself vulnerable to raises and reraises, meaning players after you have a chance to apply pressure on you instead of the other way around.

3) You’re inviting players to limp behind you, which can often lead to multiway pots. 

(By the way, a multiway pot is the one with 3 or more players involved, as opposed to a heads-up pot with only 2 players involved).

It’s harder to win multiway pots because the more players involved, the more likely it is for someone to make a strong hand combination that beats you.

This is something that Nathan calls the "Snowball Effect" and he made an entire video explaining it:

4) You have no initiative. When you enter the pot with a raise, you are the one that is perceived to have the strongest hand. 

This allows you to keep applying the pressure postflop with continuation bets, or c-bets.
(A c-bet is simply a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor).

5) Open-limping fails to build up the pot for value. If you have a strong hand, you want to build up the pot as quickly as possible, otherwise you’re just leaving money on the table.

So you’re better off ditching this “strategy” from your arsenal altogether (and focusing on my 15 proven poker strategies instead!)

But many beginner poker players still open limp because they just want to see the flop as cheaply as possible. 

However, doing so can actually be far more costly. 

If someone raises behind you (which they will most of the time), you won’t get the opportunity to see a cheap flop at all. And even if nobody raises, your post-flop prospects aren’t too great either. 

You’ll often end up playing a pot with a bunch of opponents, out of position, and without initiative. None of which works in your favour. 

Besides, most hands miss most flops in no-limit Texas hold’em, so open-limping achieves nothing to hedge your bets. 

Some players try to go for deceptive lines like open-limping with really strong hands, and re-raise them when someone raises behind them. 

This is also not a great idea. Not only do you also invite multiway pots that decrease your chances of winning the pot, you’re also practically turning your hand face-up. 

Anyone paying even remote attention will figure out you have a strong hand, and won’t give you any action unless they have Aces or Kings themselves. 

As a rule, you’re always better off raising with strong hands yourself for the reasons above. This is discussed in much more detail in Crushing the Microstakes as well.

Unlike open-limping, limping behind (i.e. limping when another player already open-limped) can be profitable in some situations (like playing a speculative hand with decent implied odds), but that’s an entirely different topic.

If you are the first person to enter the pot, remember you’re basically always better off coming in with a raise.

Bad Poker Strategy #2 - Donk Betting

Just to make it clear, donk betting is not necessarily a derogatory term. 

It simply means betting into the previous street’s aggressor, denying them the opportunity to make a continuation bet.

For Example:

A tight player raises from the button preflop and you call from the big blind with KJ

The flop comes:


You decide to make a bet.

This is called a "donk bet" because it goes against the flow of the action (you are the preflop caller, not the preflop raiser and therefore you are expected to passively check instead of betting out).

While there might be situations in which donk betting can be a profitable play, as a general rule, it’s best to avoid it. 

Some beginner poker players do it because “they want to find out where they stand”, i.e. to gather information. 

However, there are a couple of flaws behind this reasoning.

In no-limit Texas hold’em, there are two main reasons you want to put money into the pot. 

You can either value bet (trying to get paid by weaker hands) or bet as a bluff (trying to get stronger hands to fold). Betting to find out where you are in the hand accomplishes very little.

By the way, check out my recent Texas Hold'em "cheat sheet" for even more advanced tips if you have been playing for awhile already.

Suppose you call an open-raise preflop and decide to fire off a bet out of position on the flop. Your opponent calls. What does that tell you? 

They can have a mediocre or a drawing hand and want to see the next card. They can have a very strong hand and are trying to trap you. 

Or they can have absolute air and called you with the intention of taking down the pot on future streets. You’re none the wiser, but you put money into the pot nonetheless. 

Betting to gather information is a non-starter. You’re gathering information either way. 

Every time you put money into the pot, you have to have a defined reason for doing so, meaning you either bet for value or as a bluff. 

This means you need to have an idea which weaker hands can pay you off, or which stronger hands can you get to fold.

This is a basic fundamental tenet of how to beat small stakes games by the way, as discussed in Modern Small Stakes.

Bottom Line:  

If you’re donk-betting, you’re putting money in with an informational disadvantage. 

In poker, information is power, and with the lack of information, chances are you’ll be bleeding money more often than not.

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Bad Poker Strategy #3 - Min Betting

Like with other strategies on this list, there is some sort of logic behind them. The problem is, that logic is unfounded at best, and totally nonsensical at worst.

Enter min-betting. Some amateur poker players bet the minimum possible amount into the pot in order to...I have no idea.

Some do it to gather information and find out where they stand in the hand. 

As discussed with donk-betting, this doesn’t make much sense because a good player will just call you anyway (because it is so ridiculously cheap for them), in order to take the pot away later.

This is why min-betting (i.e. betting the absolute minimum amount possible) is easily one of the biggest amateur poker mistakes you can possibly make.  

If you min-bet and someone raises you, they could be value betting or they could be bluffing. You have no idea.

Other players min-bet as a so-called blocking bet. A blocking bet is a small bet made in order to prevent your opponent from making an even bigger bet when you are playing out of position. 

The hope is, your opponent will just call you instead of making a medium or large bet themself. 

This makes sense in certain situations, but if you opt for this sort of a blocker bet, you don’t want to go for a minimum amount. Betting something between 20 and 33% of the pot is a better option. 

If you min-bet, you’re giving your opponent no incentive to fold whatsoever, as they can call you profitably with virtually any two cards. 

If you bet 5 cents into a 2 dollar pot, for example, you’re giving your opponent insane pot odds, meaning they can call you profitably holding two napkins in their hand.

This is why if you want to get really good at poker fast, you need to avoid this bad poker strategy like the plague!  

What’s more, they’ll often correctly interpret your bet as a sign of weakness, which gives them an incentive to come back at you with a raise of their own. 

If you encounter such a situation, it can be hard to put your opponent on the correct range of hands. They can be value betting you or bluffing you with absolute air, and you’re none the wiser either way. 

Remember, you always want to have a reason for betting or raising, either for value or as a bluff. 

You also want to force your opponents to make tough decisions when they play against you, and calling 5 cents in a 2 dollar pot is no decision at all.

By the way, I discuss this in much more detail in my new Elite Poker University training. 

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Bad Poker Strategy #4 - Slowplaying Strong Hands

Slowplaying is the act of playing strong hands passively rather than aggressively in order to conceal your hand strength.

For Example:

You raise KK from the button and a recreational player calls from the big blind

The flop comes:


The recreational player checks.

You decide to check as well.

This is called "slow playing" because you almost certainly have the best hand in this situation and you decided not to make a bet.  

While there certainly are situations in which slowplaying can be profitable, a lot of beginner poker players make the mistake of slowplaying when they should just play their hand as straightforwardly as possible.

If you are a beginner poker player, you’ll ideally want to play against opponents that are beginners themselves.

In order to find the beginners by the way, you can simply use a HUD if you play online. People sometimes ask me if HUDs are worth it these days.

Yes, and this is yet another reason why!

And the fact is most beginners tend to play fairly passively, i.e. checking and calling instead of betting and raising (which of course your HUD will also confirm for you). 

In these situations against these types of players, slowplaying is basically leaving money at the table.

This is something that Nathan discusses in detail in his new poker millionaire tips videos.

In order for slowplaying to be effective, you need to rely on your opponent building up the pot for you, and that simply won’t happen often enough for slowplaying to be profitable. 

If you have a really strong hand, your best bet is to just put as much money in the middle as soon as possible, because you expect your opponents to continue with a number of hands you’re comfortably ahead of. 

This is called value betting, and it’s where you can expect the most of your long term profit to come from. 

Winning poker is not nearly as much about deceiving and outplaying your opponents, as much as it is about capitalizing on your opponent’s mistakes. 

And these mistakes include mostly playing passively, calling too much, chasing all sorts of draws, and rarely folding. So slowplaying is hardly the best way to capitalize on these mistakes. 

Now, some people might object to that approach, saying they don’t want to scare their opponents out of the pot with big bets and raises. 

To that objection, it’s worth getting familiar with the concept called elasticity. 

In poker, an elastic opponent will continue playing the hand depending on how big of a bet they’re facing. Inelastic opponents, on the other hand, will continue playing the hand regardless of the price. 

They don’t care about the pot odds they’re getting, they only care about their hand strength (or lack thereof) and hardly anything else. 

If they connected with the board in some way, they’ll continue regardless of the price, and if they didn’t, no amount of slowplaying or other deceptive lines will compel them to put money in the pot. 

This concept of elasticity is just an abstraction, of course. Not one player is perfectly elastic or inelastic, but most beginner poker players will fall on the inelastic side of the spectrum.

Going for deceptive lines like slowplaying can be useful against your more observant opponents, or hyper-aggressive players who like to splash the chips around

But against your average recreational player, chances are your deception will go right over their head. Instead, play your big value hands as straightforwardly as possible, and count your money.

Bad Poker Strategy #5 - Overplaying Pocket Aces

Pocket Aces are the strongest starting hand you can get in no-limit Texas hold’em. 

They are about 85% favourite to win against another random hand, and about 81% favourite against a range of other pocket pairs, for example. 

So there’s very few situations in which you wouldn’t be comfortable getting all the money into the pot preflop with Aces against a single opponent. 

The problem with pocket Aces, however, is it’s still just a single pair. If you get involved in a multiway pot (a pot with more than one opponent), your hand equity goes down drastically.

Check out my recent "ultimate" poker odds cheat sheet for much more on this by the way.  

That doesn’t mean you should just shove all-in if you’re dealt Aces, but you need to be aware of the fact that your hand could be vulnerable, and you aren’t automatically guaranteed to win with it. 

Pocket Aces can get even more problematic if you employ other “strategies” on this list, like slowplaying, which can cause you to end up in a huge multiway pot with a bunch of opponents. 

For example, if you have pocket Aces in a multiway pot with 3 opponents, your hand equity is only about 64%. 

So a better bet is to thin the field preflop, build up the pot, and ideally play in position against only one or two opponents. This decreases the chances of your Aces getting cracked.

Speaking of which, a lot of amateur poker players even claim they dislike pocket Aces because they “always get cracked”. 

This is a ludicrous notion to say the least. Statistically speaking, Aces are the best starting hand, and will be one of your biggest long-term winners. 

With that said, yes, sometimes they will lose to an inferior hand. That’s poker. 

Having the best starting hand isn’t a license to print money. As mentioned, it’s only one pair, and there are times where you’ll need to let them go. 

For example, if you face a raise on big money streets (the turn or river) on a wet, coordinated board, you can be pretty sure your pocket rockets are no good anymore. 

Getting away from big hands without getting emotionally attached to them is one of the things that separates poker pros from the amateurs.

It is also one of my top 5 guaranteed ways to quickly improve your poker skills these days.  

Because quite frankly, overplaying big hands is one of the biggest reasons most people lose money playing poker, period. 

Over the long run, you won’t lose a lot of money with 72 offsuit. It’s these big hands that end up only the second best that are going to end up costing you the most. 

Like they say, the worst hand in poker is the second best hand.

And as the great investor Warren Buffett always reminds us, you must protect your downside when picking stocks and when playing poker.

Bad Poker Strategies You Must Avoid (Summary)

So to recap, here are 5 amateur poker “strategies” you’re better off avoiding.

1. Open-limping. If you are the first player to enter the pot, do so with a raise. Coming into the pot as the preflop aggressor will put you in a much better spot postflop, and will make playing poker easier, and more profitable.

2. Donk betting. Betting into the previous street’s aggressor can be a viable option in certain spots, but as a general rule, you’re better off check-raising instead, either as a value bet or a bluff.

3. Min-betting. Betting 5 cents into a 2 dollar pot makes zero sense. It also screams weakness, and leaves you vulnerable to raises from your opponents, while making it very hard to put them on a correct range of hands.

4. Slowplaying big hands. Unless you’re playing against a bunch of hyper-aggressive opponents, you’re basically leaving money on the table with slowplaying. 

Really strong hands come by rarely in no-limit hold’em, so not capitalizing on them when they do is a huge detriment to your winrate.

5. Overplaying pocket Aces. Aces are the best starting hand in no-limit hold’em, but it’s still just a pair, and they will lose sometimes. 

Don’t get too attached, and be ready to dump them if you think they’re no good anymore. Even 72 offsuit has 11% equity against pocket rockets.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete strategy for crushing small stakes poker games for $1k+ per month, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Bad Poker Strategy