Every player makes mistakes, but some are more common than others.
When you’re first learning the game of poker, it’s the big mistakes that stick with you – the ones that cost you a stack. The thing is, however, that there’s an array of smaller mistakes that players make that greatly impact their game by incrementally pecking away at their chip stack.
Players that are new to the game have a habit of just not folding when they should, particularly when they have top pair. Yes, a pair of aces is a great place to start, but if you see two nines on the board and someone’s raising to you, it’s time to reevaluate what is happening.
The more you play, the less comfortable you’ll get with “marginal” hands, such as suited connectors that aren’t face cards.
Beginning players frequently get very excited when holding something like 8h9h when the flop hits and it’s 8s9dKh – that’s two pair, right? And a king that could build a flush if there’s some real luck, but as it stands there’s no straight or flush on the board, meaning that the odds are that they have the best hand, right?
The professional sees the same board and understands that there are three options: the other players have nothing, and he wins the pot on the flop, earning just a bit more than the blinds; his opponents have a pair, and might be willing to call out on a single bet; or his opponents have a set, or a bigger two pair.
This means that they’re either going to win a small pot or that anyone else willing to throw money in this pot is going to have them beat.
In fact, the only way the pro can make money off of the hand is if there’s another player holding a better hand, AA for instance, that overplays them.
With the occasional exception (and you’ll know when it feels right,” if you’ve got anything less than the higher end of a straight, you’ve got a marginal hand and shouldn’t be aiming for a very big pot.
It’s only when you have the proverbial nuts or an absolute monster that you should be willing to stuff the pot to the gills, and I recommend doing that over a number of hands – building to a triumphant finish on the river.