6 Terrible Plays Only Bad Poker Players Make

6 Silly Things Only Bad Poker Players Do

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

Poker is a game of skill, and skilled poker players can spot bad players from a mile away. 

That’s because bad poker players have glaring weaknesses in their game, and routinely give off signs of their lack of skill without even realizing it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 6 terrible plays only bad poker players do. Make sure to never make any of these 6 truly awful newb plays!

Conversely, if you see another players giving off these 6 obvious tells, you can mark them as a fish right away.

Let’s get right into it.

Sign of a Bad Poker Player #1 - Open Limping

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

Open-limping it’s the act of just paying the big blind when you are the first player to enter the pot instead of open-rasing.

This is not to be confused with limping behind, which means limping when another player has already limped into the pot.

Limping behind can work in some case, but open-limping is generally a bad idea.

If you are the first player to enter the pot, you should do so with an open-raise.

There are multiple reasons why open-raising is preferable to open limping:

A) you get initiative

The player who open-raises is perceived to have a stronger hand than the player who calls or limps preflop. 

This gives them the initiative post flop, i.e. the opportunity to continue with the aggression with a continuation bet (or a c-bet for short) on the flop.

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

When you open-limp, however, you have no initiative, so you don’t have the opportunity to make a c-bet on the flop. 

This means that you automatically put yourself at a disadvantage through the rest of the hand.

B) you can win the pot outright preflop

When you open-raise, you can win the pot right away if all of the other players fold their hand.

If you open-limp, on the other hand, you’re giving your opponents zero reasons to fold their hand, and you are letting them realize their hand equity for cheap.

Worse yet, you will often get raised yourself, so you often won’t be able to a cheap flop, either.

C) you are building up the pot with your strong hands

If you want to win big in poker, you need to win big pots. 

And the best way to go about it is to try and build up the pot yourself, preferably as early on in the hand as possible.

The bigger the pot preflop, the easier it is to ship the rest of your money in later on in the hand.

This has to do with pot geometry; seemingly small adjustments in your initial open-raise size can lead to dramatically bigger pots on future streets.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate this.

Example Hand #1

You are dealt AA, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em. 

You open-limp on the BU (button). The small folds, and the big blind checks.

Initial pot size: 2.5 BB

You make a full-pot bet on the flop, turn and river, and your opponent call you down all the way.

Final pot size: 77.5 BB

Now let’s look at what would've happened if you open-raised to 3 BB instead with a similar action seqeunce.

You open-raise to 3 BB, get called by the player in the big blind, then fire a pot sized bet on flop, turn, and river.

Final pot size: 108 BB

You get the point. 

What started out only as a 2 big blinds difference in the initial bet sizing ballooned to a 30.5 difference in the final pot size.

Bottom line: When you are dealt strong value hands, your best bet is to build up the pot with them as soon as possible.

By the way, check out my recent video on the 9 things good poker players will never do.

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Sign of a Bad Poker Player #2 - Min Betting

Of all the silly things on this list, this is one of the worst offenders.

To min bet means to bet a minimum amount into the pot. For example, if you are playing NL5 online, the pot is $2, and a player bets 5 cents into the pot.

Min betting makes zero mathematical or strategic sense, and is a sure sign of a recreational poker player.

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

You are betting for value when you are hoping to get called by weaker hands, i.e. you think you have the best hand and want to extract value from it.

When you are bluffing, you are hoping to get stronger hands than yours to fold. In other words, the only way for you to win the pot is by getting your opponents to fold.

Min betting accomplishes nothing but announcing to your opponents that you don’t really know what you are doing.

If you are betting for value, why would you only bet a minimum amount? Conversely, if you are betting as a bluff, it’s a really ineffective bluff. 

Nobody is going to fold to a min bet, because the price on a call is too good to ever fold, regardless of the cards someone might be holding.

In the above example of betting 5 cents into a $2 pot, your opponent would be getting 40:1 odds on a call, meaning they could call you profitably with two napkins in their hand.

Check out my ultimate guide to poker odds for more info on the exact math by the way.

Some recreational players don’t use min bets either as a bluff or a value bet, but a sort of a blocker bet.

A blocker bet is a small bet made out of position that should discourage your opponent from making an even bigger bet themselves.

The idea is that they will simply call your bet instead of raising, which will allow you to see the next card for cheap or get a cheap showdown.

But min bet is not an effective blocker bet, either. 

There’s nothing stopping your opponent from coming back at you with a raise of their own, because your own bet is so insignificant compared to the pot size.

Worse yet, they could (correctly) interpret your min bet as a sign of weakness, and try to push you out of the pot with a bet of their own.

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

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Sign of a Bad Poker Player #3 - Playing Suited Junk

One of the most common amateur poker mistakes is playing too many hands. 

This includes playing just about any suited hand just because it’s suited.

Examples of suited junk hands: 




Playing suited junk for the prospect of catching a flush post flop is a losing strategy for multiple reasons.

First of all, it’s quite rare to make a strong hand combination in no-limit hold’em, and flushes are no exception.

If you have a suited hand, the chance of flopping a flush is only 0.8%.

The chance of flopping a flush draw is better (about 11%), but this is also far from likely.

Even if you do manage to hit a flush post flop, you’re still not guaranteed to win the hand.

For example, if you make a flush with a hand like J5s, you can still theoretically lose to a stronger flush, as any suited Ace, King, or Queen has you beat.

This means you need to take the reverse implied odds into account when playing weak suited hands.

Implied odds refer to the amount of money you can potentially win on future street 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 one of the biggest problems with playing suited junk in general: you’re not drawing to the nuts, i.e. the strongest possible hand combination on a given board.

Contrast this with better hands like suited Aces. When you play a suited Aces, you are ALWAYS drawing to the strongest possible flush, meaning you don’t have to worry about the reverse implied odds.

Another problem with suited junk is that these cards have very poor playability post flop if they don’t make a flush (which will be the case a large majority of time).

Aside from making a flush, suited junk hands have very limited ways they can connect with the flop.

You should only play cards that have a reasonable way to connect with the flop, and drop the rest.

Check out my other article on exactly which starting poker hands to play to know precisely which ones.

Let’s take a hand like Jack-Five suited as an example.

Aside from making a (mediocre) flush, it can’t connect with the flop in a lot of different ways.

If you make a pair of Jacks, for example, you often won’t have a top pair hand, because there are plenty of overcards that threaten to make your hand only the second best.

An overcard is a stronger card than the cards on a certain board.

For example, on a board like J84, Aces, Kings, and Queens are overcards. 

Even if you make a top pair, you still have another problem to contend with, and that is the weak kicker.

A kicker is the card that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can determine the winner of the hand if both players have the same combination.

For example, if both you and your opponents have a pair of Jacks, a player with the stronger kicker wins the pot.

Since one pair is the most common hand combination you will make in no-limit hold’em, kickers can often determine the winner of the hand.

If you play hands with a weak kicker, you run the risk of your hand being dominated.

You always want your hand to dominate your opponents, instead of the other way around.

That’s why you should be very careful when playing hands with weak kickers, because you will often end up having only the second best hand, which is the worst hand to have in poker.

Sign of a Bad Poker Player #4 - Buying in For a Minimum Table Amount

Another telltale sign of recreational poker players is buying in for the minimum table amount. If you see a player buying in for less than the table maximum, it’s a recreational player 99% of the time.

Recreational poker players buy in for less than the table maximum because they are not comfortable with playing with a full stack. 

In other words, they buy in for less so they can minimize their potential losses.

They also have no bankroll to speak of, so they buy in with whatever money they have in their account.

So if you see a player buying in for a weird amount, like $7.23 in NL10 cash games, it’s probably the last of their “bankroll”, and you can tag them as a recreational player immediately.

If you buy in for less than the table maximum, you’re telegraphing to the whole table that you’re not confident enough in your playing abilities.

Good poker players will always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible, so they can maximize their potential profit.

It’s true that if you buy in for less, you have less to lose, but this is a backwards way of thinking about it.

In poker, losing some money from time to time is inevitable. This is just the nature of the game, and there’s really no way around it short of not playing it altogether.

When you play poker, you should be prepared to lose your entire stack (or a couple of them, for that matter) at any given moment.

As the saying goes, scared money never wins.

If you’re not comfortable with losing your entire stack, it’s a good sign that you’re playing in games beyond your skill level and/or your bankroll.

If live cash games are too cost prohibitive to you, you can try online poker as an alternative.

On most online poker sites, you can buy in for as little as $2 on NL2.

In fact, I’d argue that this is the best poker format to hone your skills and learn the basics of a solid tight and aggressive (TAG) poker strategy.

Online cash games are very convenient, run 24/7, and attract a large number of recreational poker players.

They are also less cost prohibitive than live cash games, and run quite faster than cash games in a brick and mortar casino.

This means you can put in bigger volume, and learn the ropes with the sheer power of repetition.

You can also learn the deep stack strategy, which is arguably more complex than tournament poker with shallower stack sizes.

Check out my full guide on how to beat NL2 for much more on how to smash low stakes.

Sign of a Bad Poker Player #5 - Chasing Bad Draws

Recretational poker players tend to play too many hands, but they also tend to cling on to them a lot longer than they should, especially when they hold something what they consider a strong hand.

They also love to chase action, so if they get any sort of a drawing hand, they’ll usually be reluctant to get away from their hand, despite the fact that their draw won’t complete most of the time.

In no-limit hold’em, most draws don’t complete, so you should only chase draws that have a reasonable chance of completing, provided you’re getting good odds on a call.

6 Silly Things Only Bad Poker Players Do (Avoid This!)

In this context, chasing means calling a bet with a drawing hand and hoping your hand improves on future streets.

At its core, poker is a game of math and probability. 

Winning poker is all about making plays with positive expected value (+EV plays), and avoiding spots with negative expected value (-EV plays).

When playing poker, you should think in term of expected value. 

You can calculate the expected value by figuring out how much you stand to win and how often you are expected to win, then comparing it to how much you stand to lose and often you are expected to lose.

In other words, you’re assessing the risk and the reward, and if the reward outweighs the risk, your play has a positive expected value.

Recreational poker players don’t think in terms of expected value (or in any other mathematical terms, for that matter).

Instead, they make decisions based on their hunches, emotions, and even superstitions.

This is why they make huge fundamental mistakes like chasing draws without any regard how often they actually complete.

When talking about chasing bad draws, I’m referring to:

a) draws that aren’t likely to complete and

b) draws that even if they complete, don’t give you the strongest possible hand.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate the point.

Example Hand #2

You are dealt 87 in the BB.

A tight and aggressive player open-raises to 3x from the MP (middle position).

You call.

Pot: 7 BB

Flop: AJT

You check. Villain c-bets 3.5 BB

You: ???

You should fold.

This is a textbook example of a weak draw a lot of recreational poker players like to chase.

Let’s unpack why this spot can get you in a lot of trouble.

You have an inside straight draw, and any 9 will give you a straight. This means you only have four outs, so your draw is highly unlikely to complete. 

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

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.

In this spot, you have four 4 outs, so by using the rule of fours (4 x 4 = 16), you can calculate that your chance of completing the draw is 16%.

In reality, your chance of improving is 17%, so you can see that the rule of fours is fairly accurate.

Here’s the caveat, though. Your chance of completing a draw does not equate to your chance of actually winning the hand.

Your chance of winning the hand is actually even smaller, due to the reverse implied odds.

Notice that even if you complete your draw, your opponent could still end up with a stronger hand.

If a 9 comes on the future streets, your opponent can still beat you if they hold King-Queen, giving them a stronger straight.

Also, there are two diamonds on the board, meaning one of your outs is “tainted”. If a Nine of diamonds comes on the turn, your hand will improve, but your opponent's hand could potentially improve into a flush.

This means you need to discount one of your outs, as well as your overall hand equity.

Finally, even if you improve to a straight and your opponent does not improve to a stronger hand, you still won’t be able to win a huge pot, because you’re playing out of position.

Playing out of position will put you at a disadvantage throughout the hand. You won’t be able to build up the pot as effectively, because your opponent can exercise pot control due to their positional advantage.

Bottom line: there’s a number of factors working against you, and chasing a draw like this is unlikely to be profitable over the long run.

Check out my complete guide on how to play straight draws for a much deeper dive.

Sign of a Bad Poker Player #6 - Complaining About Their Bad Luck

This one really isn’t related to the strategy aspect of poker is but it’s worth highlighting nonetheless.

Poker is a game of skill, and the most skilled players will win over the long run. 

But poker also has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can lose for prolonged periods of time even if you are playing perfectly.

But here’s the thing: 

this is true for every single player who has ever played poker. Good poker players accept this as a natural part of the game, and don’t ever complain about it.

Bad poker players, on the other hand, constantly complain about how they’re running.

6 Silly Things Only Bad Poker Players Do (Avoid This!)

They will also be quick to point out when somebody plays a hand “wrong”, usually after being on the receiving end of a bad beat or a suckout.

Funny enough, you never hear anyone complain about another players misplaying their hand when they happen to win.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you can’t banter and share funny anecdotes at the table.

You can even share bad beat stories, but at least make it amusing.

Nobody cares about how your Aces got cracked three times in a row, or how you always miss the diamond flush draws. 

Peddling bad beat stories is not going to score you any sympathy points. 

At best, it’s just going to put a target on your back, because other players will see that you are easily rattled, and can’t handle the swings that are part and parcel of poker.

Poker is a brutal game, and anybody who has played it long enough will have their fair share of bad beat stories and unbelieveable bad luck.

But there is not much to do about it, because bad beats are an integral part of the game.

However, being on the receiving end of bad luck means you are actually playing in profitable games.

As the saying goes, bad players deal bad beats, and good players suffer them.

So take bad beats for what they really are: an inconvenient obstacle on an otherwise very profitable journey.

Venting out about your bad beats or complaining about your opponents may make you feel better in the moment, but it’s not going to do you any good over the long run.

If anything, you’re just priming yourself to always focus on the negative outcome, which can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy.

Remember that variance cuts both ways, and sometimes you’re the one doling out bad beats and rivering other players.

To become a winning poker player these days, it takes more than knowing which hands to play in which position.

You also need to be familiar with the latest advanced poker strategies, practice proper bankroll management and game selection. 

On top of that, you need to be able to handle the inevitable swings when the cards simply won't be falling your way.

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6 Silly Things Only Bad Poker Players Do - Summary

Despite there never being more advanced poker strategy available these days, a great number of players still make catastrophic blunders on the felt.

Some of it has to do with the lack of knowledge, but it's often just the result of impatience and emotional decision making.

To sum up, here are 6 telltale signs of bad poker players. If you spot any of these in your opponents, there’s a high probability they’re a recreational poker player.

1. Open-limping

If you open-limp, you can’t win the pot outright preflop, you are failing to build up the pot with your strong hands, and you’re running the risk of getting raised. 

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

2. Min betting

There are two main reasons to commit money to the pot: you can either bet for value or bet as a bluff. Min betting accomplishes none of the two, and it only shows that you don’t really know what you’re doing. 

If you want to make a blocker bet, go for a bet that’s somewhere between 20% to 33% size of the pot instead of min betting.

3. Playing suited junk

Playing suited hands just because they are suited is a bad long term strategy due to the simple fact that it’s quite rare to make a flush post flop in no-limit hold’em. 

Suited junk is still junk, and should be thrown away.

4. Buying in for the minimum table amount

If you are playing cash games, you should always buy in for a maximum table amount. 

If you’re not completely comfortable with losing your entire stack (or a couple of them, for that matter), it’s a good sign you should probably drop down in stakes. 

5. Chasing bad draws

Most draws don’t complete in no-limit hold’em, so you should only chase draws that have a reasonable chance of completing AND give you decent odds on a call. 

Chasing bad draws is one of the telltale signs of recreational poker players, and it’s a great way to quickly burn through your money.

6. Complaining about bad luck

If you play poker for long enough, you’re going to encounter prolonged periods of bad luck sooner or later. 

But this is something that happens to everyone, so there’s no point in complaining about it. You won’t get any sympathy points, and you’re just going to put a target on your back.

If the variance gets too overwhelming, take a break and live to fight another day.

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6 Silly Plays Only Bad Poker Players Make