Imagine that every time you made a royal flush and someone moved all-in on you you folded. It is a ghastly mistake and one that costs you money, but improving to a royal flush is so rare that even if you played for high stakes, this mistake wouldn't cost you that much money over the course of a typical year.
Now imagine that you make a relatively small mistake, one that either costs you a few chips in a tournament or a couple of big blinds here and there, but with this mistake you make it time and time again. This seemingly small error could be the difference between being a winning player and a losing one - or at the very least a breakeven player. Just like a small water leak in your house that goes unnoticed for several month, small leaks in your poker game can erode your profits.
One street that players frequently make mistakes on is preflop, which incidentally is the only street where you are guaranteed to be involved, even if you are only folding. Below are five common preflop mistakes that you almost certainly make on a regular basis and are costing you money in the long term.
Opening the pot with a limp is bad. Any hand that you deem strong enough to open a pot with should be opened with a raise. Limping is a passive play and playing passively reduces the number of ways that you can win a pot.
The only exception to this rule may be if your table is completely crazy and raising limpers and raisers alike. Here you may be able to justify limp-raising, but for the most part don't limp, start off with a raise.
Defending Your Blinds Too Loosely And/Or By Calling
How often have you seen the button open with a raise and decided to call in the big blind with a hand like Qc-Tc and then had to fold to a continuation bet when you completely whiff the flop. Or you check-call the flop only to check-fold the turn. Plenty of times I would say.
While defending your blinds is important - particularly in tournament poker - a large percentage of players defend their too liberally and with weak hands. Remember, that if you're defending your blind, you are going to be out of position for the rest of the hand so would ideally like a stronger hand to play with. Also, by just calling the steal attempt, you are handing the advantage back to your opponent. If you think your blind stealing opponent is trying to get his hands on your blinds with a weaker than anticipated holding, why not three-bet him and show him who is boss?
Altering Bet Sizes Based on Hand Strength
I am amazed that I still see this in today's game, but I do see it on a regular basis. I'm all for altering your bet sizes based on your position at the table, the table dynamics and where the weak players are seated, but I don't think we should ever be altering our bet size based on our hand strength.
All too often I will see a player raising 2.5 times the big blind as standard and then switch to a 4 times big blind raise with a vulnerable hand such as tens or jacks. These players may as well be playing their hands face up.
Calling Three-bets Out of Position
People seem to underestimate how tightly their opponents are three-betting them and start to call these three-bet far too often. I read a book by Andrew "BalugaWhale" Seidman where he said you should basically never call a three-bet out of position when you are 100 big blinds or less deep.
You need to realise that unless the three-bettor is going crazy with complete rags, your equity against him is a lot lower than you would like to believe. If you open with say pocket nines, unless he is three-betting you with a hand like 7s-6s or pocket eights then you're not in great shape. A hand such as Qc-Jc has almost 50% equity versus your hand not to mention your opponent has positional advantage over you, too.
If you think someone is three-betting you very lightly then make a stand and four-bet them lighter. Don't go committing extra chips to the pot when you don't have a lot of equity and don't have positional advantage.
Monitor Effective Stack Sizes
While you should be opening pots with a raise, you should take a look at the effective stacks of those players left to act before you make that opening raise. If there are shorter stacks of 10-15 big blinds left to act then you can probably drop the number of hands you will open with because it is likely you're going to face an all-in three-bet.
Oh so often I have min-raised from the button in a tournament only to then look at the effective stacks and realised the big blind has 12bb's to play with. They then shove on me and you have to fold a large part of your opening range and hand over some chips.
Monitor those around you and adjust accordingly.