At every level that I have played here, there are very common mistakes that players make. If you are making these mistakes then you are going to give away your chips. If you don’t know how to take advantage when others make these mistakes then you are not winning as much as you could be. But there is one mistake that I think is the biggest because most players make it almost every single time they are dealt their cards.
That mistake is playing too many hands.
The majority of people here play far too many hands. Way too many. I have played with people who will call every time preflop. I often see people who will play any two suited cards, or any two connected cards, or any hand with an ace in it.
I get it, it’s always more fun to gamble, to play most or all of the hands you’re dealt and see if you make something on the flop. But if you are doing this regularly you are giving away your chips and making it difficult to be a winning player in the long term. And to me, winning is the most fun part of the game.
Why does playing too many hands lose chips?
There are two big problems that will cause your chips to leak away over time if you play too many hands.
Firstly, in Texas hold ‘em you will make a 1 pair or better hand only about 30% of the time. If you miss the flop you are frequently going to have to fold. If you are playing 7-4 offsuit and you do make a pair, how often is that hand going to be the best one by the river? Usually not, so you end up having to fold it and lose the chips you put in, or you bet/call and lose an even bigger pot. Over time, the amount you make from the infrequent times that you do make a big hand like a straight is going to get eaten away by the times you put in some chips preflop and then have to fold.
Secondly, if you are playing too many starting hands then you are going to have frequent kicker problems by the river. For example, if you are starting A-6 offsuit, if you flop a pair of aces you are often going to run into a bigger ace and lose a healthy pot. If instead you fold that A-6 preflop you can avoid giving away those chips.
How do you know if people are making this mistake at your table?
A really easy way to tell is to count how many people are seeing the flop during one orbit of the table. If most flops have 5, 6 or more players in a full ring game, then you can be sure that people are playing far too many hands.
How do you take advantage of people making this mistake?
All you need to do is play fewer starting hands. As a start point, I would recommend only playing pocket pairs (AA-22), suited broadway cards (any two cards the same suit that are 10 or bigger), big unsuited aces (down to A-J offsuit) and suited connectors down to 8-7 suited.
Many players (and probably most here) would consider this a very tight range – this is less than 13% of all the possible starting hands which means that in a full orbit of the table you will be playing only 1 or 2 hands and folding the rest. But if you do this you will find that you are very frequently making the best hand at showdown so when you do enter a pot you’re more likely to win.
Is this strategy guaranteed to make you win every time? Of course not, there’s no such thing in this game. Sometimes you will have AA and lose to somebody’s 7-4 offsuit miracle two pair. But in the long run you will win more chips than you lose by playing this way, and that’s what makes a winning player.
If a lot of people are seeing the flop, you will often find a lot people getting all the way to showdown. The simple strategy is to try to have the best hand most of the time at showdown, and the best way to do that is to play only the best starting hands. Try it in your next session and let me know what results you get.