Mistakes Cash Game Players Make

When I played sngs and tournaments, I once decided to take a break to play 6-max and heads-up cash games. However, given that my background was primarily preflop, I had a hard time with any hand that went to the turn. There are just so many decisions to make, factors to consider and ways to compound your mistakes.

That said, from the hands I played and coaching I received, I did learn a lot about what to do, and things not to do. I want to share some tips on the latter – namely mistakes that beginners should avoid making when playing cash games.

Beginners Limp Too Much

One mistake that I see from beginners is limping too much. Instead raising or re-raising, you call.

There are several reasons why this is a mistake.

  • When you limp into the pot you don’t build it, which is what you want to do when you have pocket pairs like AA, KK, QQ, etc.
  • When you limp/call you dilute your equity. Even with a hand like AA preflop, once you get 2-3 other players in the pot, your rockets aren’t worth much. You’re far from a lock to win the pot.
  • When you limp you have no fold equity. You can’t get guys to fold when you call, but you can if you raise.
  • You have no initiative, which is what you need to have fold equity for making c-bets, double barrels, etc. effective.

The bottom line is that when you limp, you leave money on the table, and if anything, you put yourself in a position to lose big pots.

Beginners Get Fancy

Beginners like to get fancy. They want to try what they see on TV or read in forums. However, most players aren’t good enough to make these plays. They don’t know when to use these plays or why they’re using them in the first place. That’s a big part of being good at poker.

That’s not the only reason to avoid fancy plays, though. The other reason is that you should only do what’s necessary, nothing more or less. In other words, why over-shove the river when a half-pot bet would accomplish the same thing? There’s less risk and variance on your part when you screw up, and chances are that your opponent doesn’t know the difference between the two plays anyway.

Beginners Never Give Their Opponents Credit

Because you’re playing at the lower stakes, I think it’s standard for many players to give their opponents less credit. Especially those that play a lot of hands.

You should definitely adjust against these players. Bet more hands for value, bluff less, etc.

However, when these players start to bet, raise and re-raise, whereas before they were relatively passive, you should take notice. And unless you have a good hand or read you should fold. Sometimes – just sometimes – even the fish show up with good hands.

Beginners Play Too Much From the Blinds

A mistake I used to make was playing too many hands from the blinds. I figured that I already invested some chips, so paying the difference to see a flop wasn’t that big a deal. Secondly, when the button raises your blinds a couple of orbits in a row, you assume they’re doing so without a hand, and you want to defend and make them think twice on future orbits.

The problem with playing from the blinds is that you’re almost always playing out of position on future streets. Most (beginner) players can’t play well enough in position, let alone out of position.

So I would recommend sticking to only premium hands from the blinds. At least to start with. As you improve and become (more) profitable it would make sense to start learning how to defend your blinds. But only once you become competent.

Beginners Play Too Many Tables

Lots of players, usually grinders or pro wannabes, make the mistake of playing several tables at once. They multi-table 15, 25 or 40 25nl tables so that they can build their bankroll and/or pay their rent.

I understand. I was there once, too.

However, the problem with this approach is that you won’t improve. Playing so many tables forces you to play robotic. But playing robotic removes the analytical and creative aspects of the game. It’s like hitting a plateau.

Worse yet, playing multiple tables can be (easily) exploited.

It’s much better to play fewer tables, say 4-8, and not worry about making a living at first. Focus on becoming a better poker player and you’ll find that your bankroll grows quickly, allowing you to move up in stakes. Once you move a level or two, you’ll have the funds necessary to pay some, or all, of your bills. You’ll have the skills necessary to play against better players, too.

Beginners Bluff Too Much

Beginners bluff too much. It’s almost cliché.

The thing is, it’s hard to bluff at the lower stakes simply because you have less fold equity. The players at these levels are passive and like to play lots of hands. So continuation betting, double barrels and check/raise all in bluffs are less likely to work. If anything, you’ll experience a lot of unnecessary variance. That’s the last thing you want when trying to improve and grow your bankroll.

Since players are so passive at these levels, it makes more sense to play hands for value. When you have a hand, you bet. Otherwise you fold/check/call, depending on the situation.

If you stick to this your bankroll – and screen, window, hairline, wife, puppy, etc – will all thank you.