Common low-stakes cash game leaks

Poker Strategy RSS / Matthew Pitt / 25 October 2010 / Leave a Comment

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Players at all levels make mistakes (although obviously not Phil Ivey) it is just the mistakes made by those at the lower end of the money spectrum are generally much more noticeable and far more frequent than those playing for substantial sums of money.

Another major difference is most medium to high stakes players realise they have made a mistake and then take steps to rectify these mistakes and plug their leaks. Lower stakes players, as a general rule, do not do this hence them still being low stakes players. However, if you are reading these pages then it is highly unlikely you are your standard low stakes player and you are wanting to know what are the most common mistakes at your games and how do you fix them. Am I right? If so read on.

In today's game most people have preflop play sown up, there are always exceptions to the rule like in all walks of life, but on the whole even micro-stakes grinders have a grasp on position and starting hand selection. But one mistake that is common is completing the small blind far too often. An example would be completing the small blind holding queen-three offsuit after two players limped in front of you. Getting seven-to-one pot odds look great but you are far better off folding because you are highly unlikely to win the hand unless you hit a miracle flop of Q22, QQQ or 222 and even then you will be hard pressed to win a large pot unless your opponents have also flopped a big hand too. By all means play some hands from the small blind but do not simply call just because you are getting amazing odds, you will be out of the position and have a rubbish hand, a recipe for losing money.

Another facet of preflop play that is certainly worth mentioning is the inability to isolate limpers when you have position on them. You will make most of your money from weak players and what shouts out "I am a weak player" more than someone limping under the gun? How many times have you seen an early position limper only to either limp behind with a medium strength hand or simply folded? By taking the initiative and raising them preflop you are putting pressure back on them. You are giving them the chance to fold and you take the pot preflop or you are forcing them to play in a larger pot whilst being out of position with what will usually be a relatively weak hand. Both scenarios are obviously pretty good for you.

A lack of aggression post flop is another major leak, particular on the turn and river. Unless they have been living under a rock for the past five years then anyone who plays poker knows about continuation betting and most are aware of the concept of floating the flop so you need to be prepared to fire a second barrel on the turn. When I first started playing I lost count of the number of times I would raise preflop with say king-queen and get one caller, then continuation bet a J-5-2 flop, get called then proceed to check the ten on turn and the 6 on the river and lose to ace-high. Nowadays, I am prepared to fire two, and sometimes even three, barrels if needed. Obviously this is player and board specific play but image if I bet again on the turn with my king-queen with the board reading J-5-2-T then my opponent, unless is either insane or has some unbelievable read, is folding ace-high all day every day.

Finally, missing out on river value bets, most often because they have checked to induce a bluff, is another major leak and one that should make you very frustrated. On numerous occasions I will see players raise preflop and get a caller, then bet on a Kc-4d-2d flop, then again on a 8s turn but then check when something like a 9s arrives on the river. Their opponent checks behind and loses with pocket tens versus the player's ace-king. By checking to induce a bluff the player with ace-king has allowed the player with tens to see a showdown on the cheap. His tens have some showdown value so he is unlikely to turn his hand into a bluff. By simply betting again, the player with ace-king would have probably got a call from the tens of his opponent but also other possible hands in his range namely QQ, JJ, weaker kings, and almost certainly hands containing eights and nines. Instead our hero loses out on another street of value, which in the long run can often be the difference between a winning session and a losing one.

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