6 Things You Will Never See the Best Poker Players Do

6 Things You Will Never See the Best Poker Players Do
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.

The secret to making a lot of money from poker is this: be the best player at your table.

So how do you become the best player at your table? You identify and eliminate all the mistakes (aka leaks) from your game.

To help you do that, here are 6 common leaks you will never see from the best poker players. 

By eliminating these leaks from your game, you’ll be on the right way to start crushing and climbing up the stakes in no time.

Let’s get right into it.

1. The Best Poker Players Will Never Play Junk Hands

One thing you will never see from a decent poker player is getting to showdown with some random junk hand.

So what is considered a junk hand in no-limit hold’em?

Junk hands are bad starting hands that have very poor playability post flop.

In other words, these hands have a very limited number of ways to connect with the board, so you should avoid playing them altogether.

Examples of junk hands: 




You get the point. These hands will very rarely “smash the flop”, and will cost you money over the long run.

To smash the flop means to connect with the flop and make a very strong hand combination, like two pair or better.

You should only play hands that can connect with the board in some meaningful way, and ditch the rest.

These hands include pocket pairs, strong broadway hands like Ace-Jack or King Queen, suited Aces and suited connectors.

6 Things You Will Never See the Best Poker Players Do

If you want to know EXACTLY which hands to play in each table position, make sure to grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

These hands have much better playability post flop, meaning they have a better potential to make strong combinations like straights, flushes, full houses and so on.

In poker, most of the money you’ll win will come from spots where you make strong combinations like these, and your opponent has a hand that’s strong enough to give you action.

In other words, most of the money will come from your strong value hands. Value hands are the ones that can comfortably get called by a lot of weaker hands.

It’s a lot harder to make a decent hand with junk hands, so you shouldn’t even bother playing them in the first place.

Take a hand like J2s as an example. This hand is an example of suited junk hand that a lot of amateur poker players love to play for the prospect of catching a flush post flop.

But it’s actually very rare to make a flush in no-limit hold’em, so if you only play a hand in the hopes of catching a flush, you’re going to burn through a lot of money before you catch one.

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

The chance of flopping a flush draw is a lot better, but it’s still far from likely.

The chance of flopping a flush draw with a suited hand is only about 11%.

And even then, you need to rely on hitting your outs on future streets, which also doesn’t happen most of the time.

Now, let’s assume that you manage to hit a flush against the odds. You’re still not guaranteed to win the hand, because you don’t have the nuts.

The nuts means the strongest possible combination on a given board.

For example, if you make a flush with a hand like J2s, you’re still potentially losing to any suited Ace, King, or Queen of the same suit. 

That’s an insane number of combos that potentially beat you.

So making a strong combination like a flush is unlikely to say the least, and even if you make one, you’re still not guaranteed to win the hand.

What will happen far more often is that you’ll just miss the flop completely, or make a mediocre hand that can get you in a lot of awkward spots.

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

Example Hand #1

You are dealt J2 on the BU (button). Villain open-raises to 3x from the MP (middle position). You call.

Pot: 7.5 BB 

Flop: JT3

Villain bets 4 BB.

You ???

This is an example of an awkward post flop spot you're better off avoiding altogether.

In this spot, you have a top pair, but it’s not anything to be particularly stoked about.

Your opponent could easily have a stronger Jack because you have the weakest possible kicker. This means that you’re losing to any other Jx hand.

A kicker is the card in your hand that doesn’t help you make a certain hand combination, but can determine the winner if both players have the same combination (like top pair, for example).

Even if your opponent doesn’t have a Jack,  you still have a lot of overcards to dodge on future streets.

Any Ace, King, or Queen threatens to make your hand relatively weaker.

Suppose you call the flop bet, the turn comes with an Ace, and your opponent makes another bet.

Are you really going to be comfortable with calling them down with a second pair and the worst kicker?

Probably not.

This is an example of a spot you’re better off avoiding altogether. If you’re dealt a junk hand like J2s, just fold it preflop without giving it a second thought.

Now, some players might object that it’s possible to smash the flop with any starting hand.

What if you fold your Jack-Deuce and the flop comes J22?

To that objection, it’s worth pointing out that possible does not equal probable. 

It’s certainly possible to smash the flop with any hand, just like it’s theoretically possible to win the lottery.

It can and will happen to some people, but it won’t for the vast majority.

At its core, winning poker is all about odds and probabilities. It’s possible to be a long term winner in this game because you have a skill edge over your opponents.

And that skill edge entails being familiar with probabilities. 

If you play better hands on average than your opponents, you can expect to win more money than them over the long run.

Sure, you might get lucky here and there and get away with playing all kinds of junk, but sooner or later, the math is going to catch up with you.

Check out my recent video for the 9 beginner poker strategies you need to know.

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2. The Best Poker Players Will Never Buyin for the Minimum Amount

If you play poker cash games, you have the option of choosing your buyin amount.

You should always buy in for the maximum table table amount, which is usually 100 big blinds for cash games.

Good poker players will never buy in for the minimum amount. So if you see a player buying in for the minimum, you can usually peg them as a recreational player right away.

The only exception is the players who are employing a short stack strategy, but this is very rarely the case.

Decent poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible.

The more chips you have in front of you, the more money you can potentially win.

Let’s use an example to illustrate the point. Let’s say you are dealt pocket Aces, the strongest starting hand in no-limit hold’em.

A player open-raises, you 3-bet, and the open-raiser 4-bet shoves all-in. You snap call, and your pocket Rockets hold up.

Congratulations, you just doubled up. If you bought in for 40 big blinds, you’d have another 40. But if you bought in for 100 big blinds, you would have won 100 big blinds instead (minus the rake, of course).

So the more chips you have in front of you, the bigger your potential upside in any given moment.

You never know when you’re going to flop the stone-cold nuts and your opponent will start betting into you.

When this happens, you want to have a full stack behind you to take advantage of your good fortune.

Also, having a big stack allows you to put pressure on your opponents. 

If you have your opponents’ stack covered at all times, they’re going to have to think twice before getting involved in a pot with you.

This means you can bluff them more effectively, since every decision can potentially cost them a significant chunk of their stack.

As the great Doyle Brunson said: "The key to No-Limit is putting a man to a decision for all his chips."

Now, some players may object that you’re also risking more money if you buy in for a full amount, and fair enough.

But this logic equates with planning to fail.

When playing poker, losing some money from time to time is inevitable. So it doesn’t really make sense to try to lose less by buying in for less.

If you really don’t want to lose any money playing poker, the best option would be to stop playing altogether.

If you’re not comfortable with losing your whole stack at any given moment (or a few of them, for that matter), it’s a good sign you should probably drop down in stakes.

Either way you cut it, buying in for less than the maximum amount telegraphs to the rest of the table that you’re not really confident in your playing abilities.

This automatically puts a target on your back the minute you sit down to play.

Check out my other article by the way on the 5 most common poker fails, you absolutely must avoid.

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3. The Best Poker Players Will Never Open-limp

Open-limping is a telltale sign of a recreational poker player, and it’s something you will never see from a decent poker player.

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

This is different from limping behind, when you limp in after the other player(s) have limped in before you.

Here’s a few reasons why open-limping is usually 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. 

The bigger the pot you build up preflop, the easier it is to ship the rest of your stack in the middle post flop.

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

The standard open-raise size for cash games is 3 big blinds.

So if you’re playing a $1/$2 cash game at your local casino, the standard open-raise is $6.

You can vary your open-raise size in some situations to take advantage of specific player tendencies or table dynamics.

For example, if another player open-limps, you can open-raise in order to isolate that player and play a heads-up pot against them post flop.

When you do this, this is called an isolation raise (or iso-raise for short).

The standard iso-raise size is 3 BB + 1 BB per limper.

So 4 big blinds for one limper, 5 big blinds for two limpers etc.

Check out my ultimate preflop bet sizing cheat sheet for a much deeper dive.

Example Hand #2

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt AQ on the BU (button). A loose and passive player open-limps from UTG (under the gun). Another player limps behind in the MP (middle position).

You: ???

You should open-raise to (at least) 5 BB. 

This is a perfect spot for an isolation raise.

You have a very strong hand that can get action by a lot of weaker hands from your opponent’s range. You want to build up the pot with it as soon as possible.

There are two limpers in front of you, so by using the standard iso-raise bet sizing formula, you should raise to 5 BB.

But since the original open-limper is likely to be a recreational player, you can bump it up even more to 6 or even 7 big blinds.

You are doing this to take advantage of their overcalling tendencies, since you can easily get action by a lot of weaker hands.

You’re also playing the pot in position, which significantly boosts your EV (expected value).

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4. The Best Poker Players Will Never Min Bet

MIn betting means betting a minimum amount (i.e. a single big blind) into a pot, and it’s another telltale sign of recreational poker players.

You will never see a decent poker player making a min bet, because it makes very little strategic or mathematical sense.

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 value betting when you expect to get called by weaker hands. You are bluffing when you expect to get stronger hands than yours to fold.

Min betting accomplishes none of the two, so it doesn’t serve any other purpose other than 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 the minimum amount? 

And if you’re betting as a bluff, nobody is ever going to fold to a min-bet.

For example, let’s say you play NL10 online, and bet 10 cents into a $5 pot. 

You are giving your opponents 50:1 odds on a call, meaning they can call you down profitably with virtually any two cards.

Worse yet, they may interpret your min bet as a sign of weakness and come back at you with a raise.

When it comes to bet sizing, you should always choose a bet size that’s conducive to the goal you’re trying to accomplish.

For example, if you are value betting, you should consider which hands are likely to give you action and how much would they be willing to pay you off.

Similarly, when you are bluffing, think about which hands are likely to fold, and what’s the optimal amount to bet in order to do so.

Either way, the answer is unlikely to be a single big blind.

Some players make a min bet as a sort of a “blocker bet”.

A blocker bet is a small out of position bet made with the intention of discouraging your opponent to make a bigger bet themselves.

This is usually done in order to see the next card for cheap or to see a cheap showdown.

But a min bet is not effective in that regard, either. Your opponent can simply ignore your bet and make a big bet regardless.

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

Check out my ultimate post flop bet sizing strategy guide for a much deeper dive.

5. The Best Poker Players Will Never Donk Bet

Donk betting is something done almost exclusively by recreational poker players, and it’s something you will almost never see from a decent poker player.

To donk bet means to bet out of position into the previous street’s aggressor.

For example, you call out of position preflop, then fire a bet on the flop when you’re the first player to act.

The reason why donk betting is usually a bad play is because it disrupts the natural flow of the action.

The previous street’s aggressor is the one that’s perceived to have the strongest hand. This gives them the opportunity to continue their aggression on future streets.

Donk betting means you’re taking the initiative away from the aggressor.

While there may be spots where this could be a good idea, you’re usually better off check-calling or check-raising instead.

That’s because your opponent has the range advantage, meaning they theoretically have more strong hands in their range than you.

This means you can’t credibly represent a number of strong hands, because your range is capped.

A capped range means there’s an upper limit of strong hands you can hold, whereas an uncapped range can contain all the strongest range.

Your range gets capped when you make a range-capping action like calling. Your range gets capped because you would have probably raised if you had a really strong hand like pocket Aces or pocket Kings.

Now, some players may deliberately choose to slowplay these hands to conceal their hand strength, but that’s besides the point.

If you do decide to go for a deceptive line like slowplaying, you’re defeating the whole purpose of it if you decide to donk bet.

Most of the time, recreational players donk bet because they have a mediocre hand that they don’t really know what to do with.

So they blast a donk bet (usually with a pot-sized bet) in order to take down the pot right away.

But again, this is not the most effective strategy.

If you’re trying to bluff your opponent out of the pot, check-raising is a much more effective alternative.

Not only does check-raising display more strength, but you’re also winning an additional bet that your opponent made.

The same goes if you actually have a strong value hand. By check-raising, you are able to get more money in the middle than you would with a donk bet.

Example Hand #3

Cash Game, Effective Stack Size: 100 BB

You are dealt A7 in the BB (big blind). A tight and aggressive player open-raises to 3x from the MP (middle position). You call.

Pot: 6.5 BB

Flop: Q62

You: ???

You should check-raise.

In this spot, check-raising is likely to be the most +EV option.

You have the nuts flush draw, which is a very strong draw both in terms of the number of outs and your relative hand strength.

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

This is espeacially the case if you're up against a decent player like in this example. 

By check-raising here, you are semibluffing, because you can either win the pot outright if your opponent folds, or you can take down an even bigger pot on future streets if you manage to hit one of your outs.

For more advanced poker strategies like this, check out The Microstakes Playbook.

6. The Best Poker Players Will Never Complain About Bad Beats

Another thing you will never see (or hear) from good poker players is sharing their bad beat stories.

A bad beat is a situation where you put your money in with a big mathematical advantage, but you end up losing the pot regardless.

For example, you go all in preflop with pocket Aces, you get called by pocket Tens, and a third Ten comes on the board.

While these situations suck, they’re an integral part of the game, and there’s really no way around them.

As long as you play poker, you are going to have to deal with bad beats. The only way to stop bad beats from happening is to stop playing the game altogether.

Poker has a short term luck element involved, meaning you can lose despite playing perfectly.

And sometimes, this will keep happening over and over again due to bad variance.

Simply put, variance measures the difference between how much you expect to earn over a certain sample size, and how much you actually earn.

For example, let’s say you bet on the outcome of the coin flip 10 times. You would expect to win 5 times out of 10, since the chance of winning a coin flip is 50%.

If you win more than 5 times, you are experiencing positive variance, and if you win less than 5 times, you are experiencing negative variance.

So is it possible to lose a coin flip 10 times in a row? It’s highly unlikely, but it’s certainly possible. 

So how does this relate to poker? 

Simply put, there will be periods where you’ll keep losing despite the odds being in your favour.

Let’s take the pocket Aces versus pocket Tens as an example again. Pocket Aces have 80% equity against pocket Tens, and have roughly the same equity against other pocket pairs, as well.

So is it possible to get your Aces cracked three times in a row? Again, it's unlikely, but it's certainly possible.

While these situations are frustrating, it's worth remembering that there's nothing you can do about it, so it doesn't really make sense to get worked up about it.

As a poker player, the best you can do is keep getting your money in with a mathematical advantage and hope for the best.

In other words, you have to think in terms of expected value, not the individual outcomes of certain hands.

Complaining about bad beats, especially to other players, only shows that you can't handle the presssure.

Other players may pick up on it and go out of their way to target you, just because they sensed you can be rattled easily.

So the next time you get a bad beat, smile through it and be content with the fact that you've made the right play.

If you can't do that, just call it quits and live to fight another day.

Poker can be incredibly frustrating at times, and you don't have to keep at it if you can't play your absolute best game.

Knowing when to quit is also a skill. So if you can't resist the urge to start berating your opponents for their asinine plays, it may be a good sign to call it a day.

Check out my video on the 9 ways to stop losing at poker for more.

6 Things You Will Never See the Best Poker Players Do - Summary

You don’t need to be a world class professional to make money in this game. But if you want to improve your results, it may be worthwhile to look at what the best players in this game are doing right.

This means learning the latest advanced poker strategy, but it also means avoiding some common mistakes you will never see from decent players.

To sum up, here are 6 things you will (almost) never see from the best poker players.

1. Playing junk hands

In no-limit hold’em, only about 20% of the starting hands are likely to be profitable over the long run. This includes pocket pairs, suited connectors, suited Aces, and strong broadway hands.

This is a broad oversimplification, of course, but you will rarely see a decent player getting to showdown with some random junk hand.

2. Buying in for a minimum amount

Good poker players always want to have as many chips in front of them as possible. So if you see a player buying in for less than the maximum table amount, you can probably peg them as a recreational player right away.

Either way you cut it, buying in for less than the maximum amount decreases your potential winnings, so you should always buy in for the full amount.

3. Open-limping

Open-limping is one of the telltale signs of recreational players. If you’re the first player to enter the pot, you should do so with an open-raise.

If you open-limp, you can’t take down the pot preflop, you’re playing the hand without the initiative and the range advantage, you fail to build up the pot with your strong hands, and you run the risk of getting raised yourself.

4. Min betting

There are two main reasons to bet in poker: either to bet for value, or to bet as a bluff. Min betting accomplishes none of the two, so you should ditch this play from your arsenal.

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

5. Donk betting

To donk bet means to bet out of position into the previous street’s aggressor. While there are some exceptional spots where donk betting may be a viable strategy, it’s usually a sign of a recreational poker player.

A preferable alternative to donk betting is to check-call or to check-raise. A check-raise is much more effective if you want to build up the pot with your strong value hands, but it’s also a much stronger bluffing move.

6. Complaining about bad beats

Bad beats are a natural part of the game, and there’s no stopping them short of quitting the game altogether.

Good poker players find a way to come to terms with bad beats, or at least do their best not to let them affect their game.


This article was written by Fran Ferlan
Poker player, writer and coach
Specializing in live and online cash games

For coaching enquiries, contact Fran at email@franferlan.com
Or apply directly for poker coaching with Fran, right here

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.