There was a fun thread a bit back about how bad pre flop limping is, and in general, I agree that pre flop limping is mostly bad, especially in many of the concrete situations where you are going to see it. It’s also probably one of the easiest parts of your game to modify, making it a nice target for coaching beginning players.
But obviously, a lot of players clearly win money with strategies that involve an abundance of limps, and even open limps. If those limps are -EV, then their edge post flop against their pool of players would seem to be sufficiently large to offset what would mathematically look like a bad initial investment. And so on the scale of the worst poker plays you can make, I don’t think limping likely ranks all that high.
And so that brings us to the question for this thread: what are the worst possible plays you can make? I’m thinking more about plays people really make, as opposed to what the optimal strategy might be if you wanted to lose all of your chips as quickly as possible.
So with that in mind, I ask the question: what are the worst poker plays?
My two worst but may not be the worst in the world of bad plays:
1: Thinking the River will save me.
My downfall early when I started playing was hanging on to see if the river would save me…shortened my stack way too fast vs the few times it payed off.
2. Getting Flushed!
Calling when I know full well the other players probably have a flush and of course they do!
On a side note…when playing a free roll sometimes for pure fun and a unique challenge…I pick a random card from 2-10 and only call when that number is in my pocket. Sometimes I last for a while but usually I don’t make if far. It forces me to be patient and to sharpen my bluff thinking. Kind of a training exercise. Since this is intentional I don’t think it qualifies as worst. I love it when low cards pull in some chips but obviously not a serious strategy or great play to grow a chip balance.
Nice discussion topic.
To slightly reframe this question, I don’t think that any poker play is bad per se, including limping. What is bad is not having a plan (or a strategy) to support a particular play.
For example, most players limp in with speculative hands simply hoping to hit something on the flop. Hope is not a plan, and playing this way is bingo, not poker.
Having a plan involves having made pre-decisions about what to do next. For example, if you limp in, what is your plan if someone raises preflop? What do you do if several players call that raise before the action comes back to you? If no one raises, how are you going to play the flop? With answers to these questions (which are not an exhaustive list), pre-flop limping can be profitable, especially against a passive field. Similarly, an abundance of limping could be successful as part of a small-ball strategy that is based on a combination of high-frequencies and having a post-flop edge over players without a plan/strategy.
Likely the worst action at the table is to continue calling when you think your hand is second best, close enough that you feel you have to call, but are unlikely to win. Two or three of those situations can ruin your whole day. “Don’t be there when the bomb goes off.” Especially in a no limit game.
There are plays that could be defined as objectively bad (e.g., cold 4-bet shoving with 72o or calling giant bets postflop with no pair/no draw/no plan to bluff). So, if you want the “worst” possible plays, it would be those.
But that is obvious enough, so for me the worst play that people make is overvaluing top pair. Some players will go 4-way to a flop with K9, flop top pair of 9s, and then end up going for stacks by either making huge bets, calling check-raises, or even re-raising. People on Replay bluff so rarely (and usually in an illogical way) that if your opponent is calling 3 pot-sized bets or betting pot into you or check-raising you, your top pair often won’t be good. Some people even raise top pair over another bet for protection and to see where they are. This is a surefire way to fold out worse hands and get action from better hands. Betting for “information” in general is one of the worst plays.
Another one that people here do a lot is min-betting. People will bet 1bb for 3 streets with top pair. It is the opposite of the above. You get no value for your hand and generate no fold equity.
Joe has covered most things, as always, with great accuracy!
From my low-stakes perspective, far too many people are incapable of putting a value on a drawing hand. I frequently see someone continue with their straight or flush draw against a pot or even 2x pot raise. I have seen far too many people continue on the turn, even to the point of calling a shove, with a straight or flush draw hoping for a lucky river.
Related to that is that, for all the observations about players who do not bluff often enough at various stages, it seems that the low stakes players are absolutely convinced that everyone bluffs and their ace high “must” prevail because … I don’t know … Ace high beats a flush or something?
If I were playing to lose, as suggested by @Yorunoame, I would follow Joes suggestions of over valuing top pair and also back ace-high and any straight and flush draws against all bets.