5 Awful Poker Plays Only Newbs Make

5 Awful Poker Plays That Only Newbs Make

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

If you’re a beginner poker player, you’re bound to make a lot of mistakes. There is nothing wrong with that, as mistakes are a natural part of the learning process.

However, some mistakes are worse than others, so in order to become a winning poker player, you need to eliminate these mistakes from your game ASAP.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the 5 worst beginner poker mistakes you absolutely need to avoid.

Awful Poker Play #1: Open Limping

Open-limping is a telltale sign of a recreational poker player. It’s basically announcing to the whole table: “I’m a huge fish, please take all my money!”

Open-limping means calling the big blind instead of open-raising when you are the first player to enter the pot.

This is not to be confused with limping behind, i.e. calling the big blind after another player or players have already open-limped.

A lot of beginner poker players like to limp a lot because they like to see a lot of cheap flops.

However, this ends up costing them a lot more over the long run, and they often don’t even get to see the cheap flop they are hoping for.

There are multiple reasons why open limping is a bad idea.

a) You can’t win the pot outright preflop.

When you open-raise, you can sometimes take down the pot preflop right away if all the other players fold. 

If you open-limp, however, the players in the blinds have no incentive to fold their hand. This means that you’ll need to find a way to win the pot postflop, which is hard to do when you’re open-limping.

This brings us to the second reason why you shouldn’t open-limp.

b) You will have no initiative.

The player who open-raises preflop is the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand. This gives them the initiative, i.e. a chance to continue the aggression postflop.

When you are the preflop aggressor, you have the opportunity to make a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) on the flop.

C-bets are usually profitable, meaning you should be inclined to c-bet on most flops unless there’s a very specific reason not to.

If you open-limp, on the other hand, you won’t have the opportunity to make a c-bet on the flop, which will make it harder for you to win the pot.

c) You won’t build up the pot with your strong hands.

If you want to win big in poker, you need to be able to win big pots. And to win a big pot, you first need to build one by betting and raising.

If you open-limp with your strong hands, you won’t be able to build up a big pot post flop. 

This has to do with pot geometry: small changes in your initial bet sizing can lead to dramatically bigger pots on later streets.

The sooner you build up the pot, the easier it will be to ship the rest of your stack in the middle later on in the hand.

Some beginner players intentionally open-limp in order to conceal their hand strength. Then they re-raise when another player open-raises.

This limp-reraise tactic is another awful newb tactic that isn't as profitable as you might hope for.

Bottom line: if you have a strong hand, your best bet is to build up the pot with it as soon as possible, and don't rely on other players to build up the pot for you.

d) You will often get raised.

Finally, open-limping will often end up more costly than simply open-raising. If you think open-limping is a good way to see a cheap flop, think again. 

What will end up happening most of the time is that another player will raise you, meaning you won’t be able to see the flop unless you pay up. 

And you will often need to pay up more than the price of the standard open-raise.

Only this way, you won’t have any benefits of being the preflop aggressor.

If you open-limp, more experienced poker players may begin targeting you, meaning you will rarely be able to see a cheap flop.

As mentioned, open-limping is a telltale sign of a recreational poker player, so you’re telegraphing to the whole table they should try to take a stab at your stack.

So if you are the first player to enter the pot, do so with an open-raise. This will signal to the rest of the table that if they want to get involved in the pot with you, it’s going to be on your own terms, and it’s going to cost them.

This will make your postflop play much easier and more profitable over the long run.

I’ve mentioned that limping behind is different than open-limping.

Unlike open-limpling, limping behind can work in some cases. 

For example, if you have a speculative hand that can potentially win you a huge pot postflop, you can consider limping behind.

Hands like small suited connectors or small pocket pairs may fit the bill, for example.

Still, even if other players limp in front of you, consider open-raising instead, as these players are more than likely to be recreational players as well.

When you open-raise when another player open-limps into the pot, this is known as the isolation raise, or an iso-raise for short.

Iso-raise is a profitable play that will often allow you to play a heads-up pot (meaning a pot with only two players involved) against a recreational player.

This is one of the most profitable spots in no-limit hold’em, period: Playing in position against a single opponent as the preflop aggressor.

If you’re using a hand tracking software like PokerTracker 4, you can check these stats for yourself to see how much money you’re making in a spot like this compared to other spots.

Check out Nathan's recent video for the 5 best beginner poker tips.

Never miss any new poker strategy videos, join 70,000+ subscribers.

Awful Poker Play #2: Min Betting

Of all the awful poker plays on this list, min raising is arguably the worst offender. 

That’s because it accomplishes nothing else but announcing to the whole table that you’re a poker fish.

Min betting means betting a minimum amount into the pot, i.e. a single big blind.

For example, if you’re playing NL5 online and you bet 5 cents into a $2 pot.

Min betting makes absolutely no sense from a mathematical standpoint, yet a lot of beginner poker players revert to this tactic for one reason or another.

In poker, there are two main reasons why you put money into the pot.

You can either bet for value or as a bluff.

When you bet for value, you’re hoping to get called by weaker hands. When you bluff, you’re hoping to get stronger hands to fold.

Min betting accomplishes none of these things, so it’s useless.

If you have a strong value hand, you want to build up the pot as much as possible. One of the cornerstones of the winning poker strategy is maximizing your profit with strong value hands.

If you have a strong hand, why would you only bet the minimum amount?

Conversely, if you’re trying to bluff, nobody is going to fold to a min bet, because it makes no mathematical sense.

Even if someone has a weak hand, they will still call a min bet because they’re getting insane pot odds on a call.

For example, if you bet 5 cents into a 2 dollar pot, you’re giving your opponent 40:1 odds on a call. This means they would need to win only 2.44% of the time to call you profitably.

Check out my other article on everything you need to know about poker pot odds for more info on the topic.

Some beginner players use min betting as a sort of a “blocker bet.”

A blocker bet is a small bet made out of position that is designed to prevent your opponent from making a bigger bet themselves.

This is usually done to get a cheap next card or to see a cheap showdown.

However, min betting doesn’t work as a blocker bet, because there’s nothing preventing your opponent from making a bigger bet themselves.

In fact, it may have the exact opposite effect. Your opponent could (correctly) interpret your min bet as a sign of weakness, and make a big bet.

This means that making a min bet actually makes it less likely for you to see a cheap card or a cheap showdown.

If you want to make a blocker bet, you should size it up to about 20% to 33% of the pot instead.

Learn to Make $2000 Per Month in Small Stakes Games With My Free Poker Cheat Sheet

Are you struggling to create consistent profits in small stakes poker games? Would you like to make a nice part time income of at least $2000 per month in these games? Blackrain79 free book 
If so, then I wrote this free poker cheat sheet for you. 

This is the best completely free poker strategy guide available online today. It shows you how to crush the small stakes games step by step. 

Learn exactly what hands to play and when to bet, raise and bluff all in! 

These are the proven strategies that I have used as a 10+ year poker pro to create some of the highest winnings of all time in these games. 

Enter your details below and I will send my free poker "cheat sheet" to your inbox right now.


Awful Poker Play #3: 3-betting a Minimum Amount

Another awful amateur poker play is 3-betting a minimum amount preflop.

A 3-bet preflop is a re-raise against another player’s open-raise.

This is a very powerful play that takes the initiative away from your opponents.

You can use a 3-bet to either build up the pot with your strong value hands, or as a bluff to make your opponent fold and win the pot right there.

The former is called a value 3-bet, and the latter is called a bluff 3-bet, or a light 3-bet.

However, a lot of amateur players mess this up by 3-betting a minimum amount.

For example, villain open-raises to 3 BB, and you 3-bet to 5 BB.

There are a couple of problems with this play.

First of all, you’re failing to build up the pot with your strong value hands. Let’s say you are dealt pocket Aces, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

Your goal is to win as much money as possible, so why would you only 3-bet a minimum amount?

poker 3bet

Some players may object that they don’t want to scare their opponents off with a huge 3-bet, but this is completely missing the point.

You are already conveying that you have a strong hand when you are 3-betting anyway. Betting less doesn’t somehow hide the fact that you believe to have a strong hand. 

Why not getting paid for it while you’re at it?

On the other hand, if you don’t have a strong hand, and you’re 3-betting as a bluff, it’s a bad bluff.

The point of a bluff is to get your opponent to fold, and in order to do that, you need to present them with a tough decision.

And calling a small 3-bet is no decision at all. Nobody is going to be impressed with a minimum betting amount. They will call your 3-bet at best, or come over the top with a 4-bet of their own at worst.

A 4-bet is a raise against another player’s 3-bet.

So if you are going to 3-bet at all, use an amount that will actually give your opponent pause.

If not, you’re better off simply flat calling or folding.

If you’re not sure what to do, you should probably fold.

Example Hand #1

You are dealt AQ in the SB (small blind).

Villain open-raises to 3x from the CO (cutoff).

You: ???

You should 3-bet to 12x.

In this spot, you should make a sizable 3-bet for multiple reasons.

First of all you want to give your opponent pause. You will be playing the rest of the hand out of position, so you want to let your opponent know that it's going to cost them if they want to play with a positional advantage against you.

If you think your opponent is weak and is likely to call you with a lot of weaker hands, you want to build up the pot while your hand is likely ahead. 

Building up the pot right away will also mean a smaller effective stack size, which translates to an easier play postflop.

As a general rule, it's easier to play with a shallower stack size than with a deep stack size, because your decisions are going to be more straightforward.

This is another reason why you should build up a big pot with your strong hands ASAP.

For more advanced poker strategies, enroll in Blackrain79 Elite Poker University.

Whether you are a tournament or a cash game player, you will learn everything you need to quickly build up a bankroll and climb the stakes with confidence.

You will learn the advanced hand reading techniques the pros use to crush the games, even in today's competitive environment. 

You will also learn when to pull the trigger on that big river bluff, or pull off a huge hero call with confidence. 

This is in addition to 17 hours of advanced poker training, hundreds of step by step example hands and downloadable "cheat sheets" below all 50 videos.
If you are serious about taking your poker game to the next level, enroll today.
Get $100 OFF Use Code: ELITE100

Awful Poker Play #4: Donk Betting

Donk betting is not always necessarily a bad play, as there are some spots where it may work.

Donk betting means betting out of position into the previous street’s aggressor.

For example, you call a bet preflop, then bet on the flop instead of checking to the preflop aggressor.

Donk betting breaks the natural flow of action, because the preflop aggressor is the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand. 

This gives them the opportunity to make a c-bet, so a “standard” play is to check to the preflop aggressor.

There’s nothing wrong with donk betting per se, but the problem is that a lot of amateur players do it simply because they have no idea what to do with their hand.

So they resort to donk betting as a way to “see where they stand” in the hand, i.e. as a way to get information.

But this approach doesn’t work at all.

Suppose you donk bet and your opponent calls you. What information does that give you exactly?

They may have a weak hand, but they called you because they have a positional advantage and want to push you out of the pot on later streets. They may have a mediocre or a drawing hand.

Or they may have a strong hand that they’re slowplaying.

Either way, you’re none the wiser, but you’ve committed money to the pot anyway.

As mentioned, there are two main reasons to put money into the pot. You can either bet for value or as a bluff. 

Betting to get information isn’t a good enough reason to commit money into the pot, even if it worked, which is usually not the case.

A better alternative to donk betting is check-raising.

Check-raising is a very powerful play that can only be done out of position.

Adopting a check-raise into your arsenal is a great way to make up for the positional disadvantage and to keep your opponents on their toes.

If you have a strong value hand, check-raising will allow you to build up the pot more than you could with a donk bet.

If you’re bluffing, you will come off much stronger with a check-raise than you would with a donk bet, which will make your opponent more likely to fold.

Example Hand #2

You are dealt A8in the BB (big blind). 

Villain open-raises to 3x in the CO (cutoff). You call.

Pot: 6.5 BB

Flop: K96

You: ???

You should check-raise.

This is a great spot for a check-raise for a few reasons. 

You missed the flop, but you have a very strong drawing hand. Any heart will give you a nuts flush. You also have a backdoor straight draw.

A backdoor draw means you need both a turn and a river card to complete your draw.

You could just check-call, but check-rasing is a better play in this spot.

If you check-raise, this would be considered a semi-bluff.

You are semibluffing when you don’t have a strong hand yet, but have the potential to make one on future streets.

If you check-raise, you can potentially take the pot right there on the flop. 

As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the faster you should play it.

Check out my other article on how to play flush draws for more info on the topic.

If your opponent calls you, you can potentially take down an even bigger pot on future streets if your flush draw completes.

Playing strong draws aggressively is usually a good idea because it makes it easier to get paid off once you actually complete your draw.

If you only start betting big once a third heart comes on the turn, your opponent may be unwilling to give you any action.

Completed flush draws are fairly easy to spot, even to recreational players, so your implied odds aren’t as good as they would be with more concealed draws.

This is discussed in much more details in Modern Small Stakes.

Awful Poker Play #5: Chasing Bad Draws

Another common amateur poker mistake is chasing bad draws.

Chasing bad draws means calling with draws that aren’t likely to complete without the correct pot odds, or chasing draws that even if they complete, don’t give you the best hand.

We’ll take a look at a few examples to explain these in more detail.

Not all drawing hands are created equal. If you have a drawing hand, there’s two main factors you need to consider:

a) how many outs does your drawing hand have and 

b) how strong is your hand going to be if your draw completes.

An out is a card that you need to complete your draw. The more outs you have, the stronger your draw.

A lot of beginner poker players tend to play just about any draw hoping to get lucky, but this is a big mistake that will cost you money over the long run.

In no-limit hold’em, most draws don’t complete, and a drawing hand is almost always an underdog to a made hand on the flop.

So you should only play drawing hands if you have sufficient pot odds on a call.

Then you need to compare your pot odds to the odds of your draws completing to see if you can continue playing the hand profitably.

I won’t get too deep into this topic here, but you can check my other article on everything you need to know about the poker odds for more info on the topic.

Aside from the number of outs you have, you should also consider how strong your hand is going to be if you manage to hit your draws on the future streets.

Even if your draw completes, you aren’t automatically guaranteed to win the hand, because your opponent may end up having an even stronger hand.

For example, let’s say you are dealt a hand like 54 and the flop is: K92

You have plenty of outs to a flush, but your opponent can still beat you with a stronger flush.

This doesn’t mean you should only play drawing hands that are drawing to the nuts, i.e. the strongest possible hand combination on the board. It just means that you have to take the reverse implied odds into account.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially win on later streets if your draw completes. 

Reverse implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially lose if your draw completes, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand.

This is why you should refrain from playing suited junk hands. Weak suited hands will often get you in trouble because you run the risk of your opponent having a stronger flush than you.

Example Hand #3

You are dealt 76 and the flop is: AT9

This is a textbook example of a weak draw.

You have an inside straight draw, meaning you only have four outs to complete your draw. 

By the way, you can use the so-called rule of fours to quickly calculate the percentage chance of your draw completing.

Rule of fours: simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4 to get a rough percentage chance of your draw competing from flop to river.

The rule of fours gets slightly less accurate the more outs you have, but it works well in most in-game situations.

If you want to know the chance of your draw completing on the next street (flop to turn or turn to river), you simply multiply the number of outs by 2 instead of 4.

The chance of an inside straight draw completing is 16.5%, so the rule of fours is quite accurate.

In addition to the fact that your draw is unlikely to complete, there’s another problem: you are not drawing to the nuts, so you might not win the hand even if you complete your draw.

You are drawing to the bottom end of a straight, so If your opponent holds QJ, they will have a stronger straight than you.

There’s also a potential flush draw on the board, so your opponent can potentially beat you with a flush if a third spade rolls around on future streets.

Of course, all of this is not to say that you should never continue playing the hand in similar situations.

If you’re getting decent odds on a call, or if there’s another way for you to win the hand (like bluffing your opponent out of the pot, for instance), you can still play the hand profitably.

The point is that you should consider the risks, and only play if the potential reward outweighs the risk.

If not, save your money and wait for a better spot.

In poker, you don’t need to swing at everything trying to get lucky. In fact, this is the best way to burn money fast.

Instead, wait until the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour, then take the swing.

Check out Nathan's recent video for more profitable poker tips.

5 Awful Poker Plays That Only Newbs Make - Summary

To sum up, here are some common bad plays you should avoid at all costs. And you don't need to study a bunch of advanced poker strategy to know this.

1. Open-limping

If you open-limp, you can’t win the pot outright preflop, you are playing without the initiative, you risk getting raised, and you’re failing to build up the pot with your strong hands.

If you’re the first player to enter the pot, do so with an open-raise instead.

2. Min betting

Betting 5 cents into a $2 pot makes zero sense. Nobody is going to fold to a min bet, and if you’re betting for value, you’re leaving a ton of money at the table. If you are trying to make a blocker bet, go for a bigger bet size (20-33% of the pot should do the trick).

3. 3-betting the minimum amount

Similar to min betting, 3-betting the minimum amount makes no sense. You’re not building up the pot with your strong value hands, and you’re not giving your opponent any reason to fold if you’re bluffing. You also leave yourself vulnerable to getting re-raised, which can put you at an awkward spot.

4. Donk betting

Donk betting can be a viable play at times, but in a vast majority of cases, check-raising is a better alternative. Check-raising allows you to build up the pot more with your value hands, and it adds more weight to your bluffing than donk betting.

5. Chasing bad draws

Chasing bad draws means either chasing draws that aren’t likely to complete, or chasing draws that don’t give you the best hand even if they do complete.

You should only play drawing hands if you’re getting the correct odds on a call, or if there’s another way for you to win the hand (like bluffing your opponents out of the pot, for example).

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy I use to make $2000+ per month in small/mid stakes games, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

5 Awful Poker Plays That Only Newbs Make