5 Common Poker FAILS (Avoid These Awful Plays!)

5 Common Poker FAILS

The secret to winning a lot of money from poker is simple: Just don’t make any mistakes. 

It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s still true. 

The amount of money you win will often not come from your superior poker skills, but from the inadequacies of your opponents. 

Since you can’t control what cards you’re being dealt, or how your opponents will play, the best you can hope for is to curb your mistakes to a minimum.

Making some mistakes is inevitable. They’re a natural part of the learning process.

However, some mistakes are worse than others. And by worse, I mean far more costly.

This article will highlight 5 such mistakes you should ditch from your playbook altogether. 

You should also be on the lookout for these mistakes in your opponents. 

Make a note of it, as they will more than likely be your best customers.

Poker Fail #1 - Open Limping

Open-limping is one of the telltale signs of a recreational poker player. 

While there are exceptional situations where open-limping could be a valid play, it’s usually best avoided.

Open-limping is the act of just calling the big blind when being the first player to enter the pot instead of open-raising.

For Example:

You have A♥️K♠️ in a $1/$2 game and you just call the $2 preflop.

Recreational players like to do this because they just want to see the flop as cheaply as possible, but what ends up happening more often than not is that they end up paying a bigger price for it. 

This can be because other players open-raise, and they end up calling, and consequently losing even more money post flop. 

There are a couple of reasons open-limping is a bad idea:

A) You can’t win the pot outright preflop if you don’t raise. 

If you open-raise, especially from the late positions (i.e. the cutoff and the button) you can often win the pot outright if players from the blinds fold. 

If you don’t, you’re inviting multiway pots (pots with more than two players involved), which brings us to the second problem.

B) You will often play in multiway pots. 

If you open-limp, you’re inviting other players to limp after you, and you end up playing in multiway pots. 

The more players involved in the pot, the less chance you have of winning, because more players have the chance to connect with the board in some way.

C) You’re vulnerable to getting raised. 

If you open-limp, players behind you can open-raise, so you often won’t have the chance to see a cheap flop. 

What’s more, if you call the open-raise, you will go to the flop without the initiative and the range advantage.

D) You won’t have a chance to make a continuation bet on the flop. 

A continuation bet (or c-bet for short) is a bet made by the previous street’s aggressor. 

The open-raiser is perceived to have the strongest hand, meaning they can keep applying the pressure post-flop. 

C-bets are usually profitable, regardless of whether or not you connected with the flop. If you don’t open-raise, you aren’t perceived to have a strong hand, so you will play the rest of the hand at a disadvantage.

E) You fail to build up the pot with your strong hands. 

If you have a strong hand, you want to build up the pot as quickly as possible, and if you just open-limp, you’re leaving the money on the table. 

Some recreational players will open-limp with their strong hands to “trap” their opponents, i.e. conceal their hand strength. 

But more often than not, this ends up backfiring, because as stated previously, you run the risk of playing in multiway pots, so your strong hand can get beaten more easily. 

Even if your “deception” works, you’ll often just end up winning way less money than you could have by open-raising and building the pot yourself.

I could go on, but you get the point. There’s far more problems than benefits with open-limping, and the “deception value” doesn’t make up for it. 

If anything, it will backfire more often than not. So if you take any one thing from this article, ditch the open-limping from your repertoire altogether.

While the 5 poker fails in this article are bad enough... 

They are nothing compared to the 5 absolutely AWFUL poker plays I discussed in a recent video!

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Poker Fail #2 - Donk Betting

As with other plays on this list, there are times when donk betting can be a valid play, but only if you know what you are doing. 

In reality, however, recreational players employ this play because they have no clue what to do, so they donk bet and hope for the best.

A donk bet is a bet made out of position when you are not the previous street’s aggressor. 

For example: 

If you call an open-raise preflop out of position preflop with a hand like A♠️J♦️, then fire a bet on the flop...

You are donk betting. 

And just to clarify, a donk bet is not a derogatory term per se anymore (although it used to be 10+ years ago when I first became a poker pro).

As the name itself comes from "Donkey", which poker players used to call bad players, but not as much anymore. 

So why is donk betting usually a bad play? 

It’s because it disrupts the natural flow of action, so to speak. 

A previous street’s aggressor is the one that is perceived to have the strongest hand, so it’s natural to assume they will be the one to continue the aggression, because they are the ones with the initiative and the range advantage. 

(A player with the range advantage theoretically has more strong hands in their range than their opponent, based on the aggressive actions taken in the hand).

When you donk bet, you’re taking the initiative away from the other player. 

This is not bad in and of itself, but recreational players usually do this when they have some sort of mediocre hand and they don’t know what to do with it. 

This is the main problem with donk betting:

As said before, you should bet either as a value or as a bluff. Betting to “find out where you stand” or “just because” is not a good enough reason to put money into the pot. 

If you donk bet with a marginal hand, one of these things will happen:

A) Your opponent will fold all their weak holdings. 

This means your hand was ahead, but you failed to extract any value out of it. Had you checked, your opponent could have tried to bluff you, so you could have extracted value that way.

B) Your opponent will call you down. 

This doesn’t tell you much. They could have a strong hand that they’re slowplaying. They could have a mediocre or a drawing hand. 

Or they could just have Ace-high and are trying to float you. (Floating is calling a bet with the intention of trying to take down the pot on later streets with a bluff). 

C) Your opponent will raise you. 

This will force you to either fold (which means you’ve put money into the pot for nothing), or to call with a hand that is quite likely behind.

None of these is an ideal scenario, to say the least. So if you have a mediocre hand, check-calling or check-folding are better, and less costly alternatives to donk betting. 

If you have a strong value hand, or if you want to bluff, check raising is a far better alternative. 

Check-raising for value will let you put more money into the pot, and check-raising as a bluff (or a semibluff) appears a lot stronger than donk betting, so you’re giving your opponent more incentive to fold. 

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  5 Common Poker FAILS 

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Poker Fail #3 - Calling With Weak Draws

As a general rule, calling is the last line you should consider in most situations. As the old adage says, if it’s good enough for a call, it’s good enough for a raise. 

And while there are certainly situations in which calling is the most +EV play, there are far more spots where you’re just bleeding money this way. One such situation is calling with a weak drawing hand.

What I mean by a weak draw is two things: 

1) Either calling with draws that aren’t likely to complete, as you don’t have a lot of outs (an out being a card you need to complete your draw, so the less outs you have, the weaker your draw), 

2) Or calling with draws that, even if they complete, won’t make the strongest possible hand combination. 

In other words, your hand could improve, but your opponent could end up with an even stronger hand. Let’s break down these two spots in more detail.

When pondering a call with a drawing hand, you should always consider how many outs you have, and what kind of pot odd and implied odds you’re getting. 

Pot Odds = Total size of the pot / Price to call

Suffice it to say, the better the pot odds you’re getting, the more often you can call profitably with your drawing hands.

How to get your pot odds

In order to know whether or not your call is +EV (positive expected value), you need to know how often your draws will complete, then compare it with the pot odds you’re getting. 

Since you won’t have the luxury of taking out the calculator and crunching the numbers on the felt, it might be worthwhile to remember how often certain draws complete.

Chance of improvement from flop to river:




I recommend that you write these down by the way.

And if you want to know all the basic poker math, check out my free poker odds cheat sheet.

As you can see, flush draws and open-ended straight draws complete quite frequently, as they have 9 and 8 outs, respectively. 

On the other hand, inside straight draws don’t complete as often, as they only have 4 outs.


To quickly calculate your percentage chance of improvement, you can use the so-called "rule of 4": Simply multiply the number of outs you have by 4 to get a rough percentage estimate. 

This rule gets less reliable the more outs you have, but it works fairly well in most game situations. 

If you only have one card left to draw (i.e. chance of improvement from turn to river), just multiply your outs by 2 instead of 4.

Now, even if you are getting decent pot odds on your call, it doesn’t mean you should call with any random drawing hand. 

This brings us to the second problem with weak draws, and that is calling with hands that aren’t drawing to the strongest possible combination. 

Even if your draw completes, you run the risk of your opponent having an even stronger hand.

For example:

If your hand is 43

And the flop is: K98

You are drawing to a flush, but your opponent could easily hold a stronger flush like AJ

Or suppose you have an open ended straight draw. Let’s say your hand is T♠9♠

And the flop is Q♣J2

You are drawing to the so-called ass-end of a straight. 

If the turn card is a King, your opponent could have a hand like Ace-Ten, which could cause you to lose a huge pot. 

So you should be extra careful in these spots, and consider the reverse implied odds. 

While the implied odds tell you how much money you could potentially win on future streets, the reverse implied odds tell you how much you could lose if your draw completes, but your opponent ends up having an even stronger hand.

In particular, don't play these 5 bad poker hands which have tremendous reverse implied odds!

Poker Fail #4 - Min-Betting

Of all the poker fails on this list, min-betting has to be the most nonsensical one. 

Min-betting, as the name suggests, is betting the minimum amount into the pot. 

This happens most often in online poker, and it’s another telltale sign of a recreational player. 

Betting, say 5 cents into a two dollar pot makes zero logical and strategic sense. 

Yet fish do it all the time still, and yet they wonder why they lose.

min betting poker

When you’re betting in poker, you’re basically doing it for two distinct reasons: either as a value bet (when you want to get called by weaker hands), or as a bluff (when you want to get stronger hands to fold). 

Betting a minimum amount accomplishes neither of these. If you’re betting for value, why would you only bet the minimum? 

And if you’re betting as a bluff, you’re giving your opponent no incentive whatsoever to fold. 

If you bet five cents into a two dollar pot, you’re giving your opponent 40:1 pot odds on a call, meaning they can call you down profitably with virtually any two cards.

Recreational players do this sometimes as a sort of a blocker bet. A blocker bet is a small bet made out of position that will hopefully deter your opponent from making a larger bet themselves.

Please note:

This is not to be confused with a blocker hand bluff. 

You can re-raise preflop (sometimes) with a blocker hand like A♥️4♥️ against some specific player types.

This advanced play actually made #6 on my list of the 65 best micro stakes poker tips.

But with a typical blocker bet, recreational players are just hoping they get a cheap next card or a cheap showdown this way. 

If that’s your objective, blocker bets could make sense, but you’d have to size them differently to produce the desired effect. 

Something between 20% and 33% pot size should do the trick. 

Betting a minimum won’t do. Your opponent will (correctly) interpret your min-bet as a sign of weakness, and could make your life difficult. 

They could either try to bluff you, seeing your min-bet as weakness, or even make a thin value bet. 

(A thin value bet is a bet made when your hand is probably ahead of your opponent’s range, but only by a slight margin. 

This is different from a regular value bet where your hand is comfortably ahead of your opponent’s range).

Poker Fail #5 - Bluffing the Recreational Players

Of all the mistakes on this list, this one may be the most costly. 

As with anything else poker, there certainly are spots where bluffing recreational players can be profitable.

In fact, in a recent video I finally revealed my advanced river bluffing strategy:

However, please never use the strategy in this video against the fish!

And that is because it is highly advanced, and therefore, they will probably just call you down without even thinking about it.

No two poker players are exactly the same though, so saying you should never ever bluff against recreational players is not really helpful. 

Still, as a general rule, you should think twice about bluffing them, regardless of how well thought out your bluff attempt might be. 

That’s because your bluff attempt will probably go way over their head anyway. There’s way more to pulling off a successful bluff than just having nerves of steel. 

You need to take into account the previous action in the hand, as well as the player history, make sure you can credibly represent a strong hand AND that your opponent is actually capable of folding. 

The last part of this equation is crucial, as recreational players simply don’t like to fold. There are a couple of reasons for this:

a) Recreational players play for fun. Folding is boring. Folding means not playing. Staying involved in the hand is more fun, and therefore preferable to recreational players.

b) Fish don’t care about math. As mentioned in the previous point, calling weak draws is a mistake a lot of recreational players are keen on making, regardless of the expected value of their play. 

They don’t care about the odds they’re getting. They don’t care about how slim of a chance their hand has of improving. 

c) Fish love hero calling. A lot of recreational players have the wrong idea that everybody is out there trying to bluff them all the time. 

Don’t prove them right. They will call you down with all sorts of mediocre hands, and they will end up looking like a genius.

d) Fish get irrationally attached to their hands. Fish have a hard time letting go of what they perceive to be a strong hand. 

Whereas a more skilled player will take into account their relative hand strength and find the fold button, recreational players care only about their absolute hand strength. 

5 Common Poker FAILS - Summary

To sum up, here are 5 poker fails you should avoid at all costs, in no particular order of egregiousness.

And you don't need to be some genius studying advanced poker strategy all day to understand them.

1. Open limping

Doesn’t allow you to win the pot preflop, doesn’t give you the initiative, invites multiway pots, leaves you vulnerable to getting raised, and leaves money on the table when you have a strong hand. 

Limping behind an open-limper can sometimes be ok, but that’s a different story.

2. Donk betting 

Can be a valid play in some specific situations, but more often than not, other lines are preferable. 

If you have a mediocre or a weak hand, check-calling or check-folding are usually better. If you have a strong value hand or if you want to bluff, you’re better off check-raising instead.

3. Calling weak draws

Either calling draws with slim chances of improvement, or draws that, even if they complete, don’t make the strongest possible hand combination. 

When you have a weak draw, always consider the reverse implied odds.

4. Min-betting 

Betting a minimum amount into a huge pot makes zero mathematical or logical sense whatsoever. 

If you want to get a cheap card, either check-call or make a more sensible blocker bet (between 20% and 33% pot should do it).

5. Bluffing recreational players 

The goal of bluffing is to get your opponents to fold. Recreational players don’t like to fold, so don’t bother. 

Save your bluffs for players who are actually paying attention!

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5 Common Poker FAILS