Poker Games Strategy Ep.5: Learn how to play poker from mistakes

The 5th episode of the video series about online poker strategy proves that mistakes are inevitable. Yet, the best way to learn how to play poker is actually by trying to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again! Making money in any online poker game is all about who makes the most mistakes. If we constantly play wrong, we donate money to better players who exploit our mistakes and weaknesses. By reducing the mistakes we make, the opponents return some of our money but we are still losing money. Making no mistakes while leading our opponents to make a lot of them is the perfect poker strategy to take all their money!

In the poker hand I’m discussing in this video it’s in fact me who makes a costly mistake. Although I do have the position at the table – and that is the button – I fail to fold my hand when it’s pretty obvious I’m behind. My hand is AK offsuit and preflop the player at middle position open raises. Normally a raise here should be the optimal play. However, given the tightness of the preflop raiser who has played only 2 hands in the last 30 orbits and due to me having position against them, I elect to flat call their raise. It would be easy to play with AK in position after all, even against a tight and possible good player. The preflop action is complete with both players at the blinds calling the raise as well. It’s a 4-way pot.

The flop is a great flop for my hand. With no flush draws and very few straight draws, my top-pair top-kicker hand is going to get plenty of value of worse Aces, maybe a couple of premium hands like Jacks, Queens or Kings who can’t find the fold button, a straight draw like 76 or an eight. How is it possible that a player holding 98 for example could actually call my bet? Well, perhaps my bet on that flop and sitting at the button would be considered as a bluff trying to take down a nice pot. Bad news is that all the players in the pot are regulars or good players. Small blind is the player I’m mostly afraid of, but big blind is also a very aggressive player who might give me trouble. It’s him who calls my bet while the rest fold.

Since he is a somewhat tight player, his call is a bit worrying but at that point their calling range is many Aces (even A2) and sets. Given their aggressiveness, I would have expected a raise if they held some peculiar kind of a straight draw and players like them usually fold medium pairs, like nines or an eight. They would have also raised with a two-pair hand (like A8 or A5), hoping to get value from hands like AT or AJ. I suppose they didn’t think my hand is that strong. So, worse aces and sets.

On turn their A3 has picked up two-pair, and A2 or A4 have picked up a straight draw. They check and now it’s up to me to either check behind or bet. If they had been a very loose player, my bet would be better justified. My turn bet will likely now get value only from AT or AJ but those are all the hands that I’m actually getting value from, regarding this tight player. I guess they are capable of folding A9 or worse at this point and they would reraise me, should their hand have improved or picked up those straight draws. In case of a reraise, I would have to make a tough decision and probably a fold should be advisable. So, there is one minor mistake I make by betting that dry board. Big blind surprisingly just calls and I am now more than convinced that I’m already beat!

River is a blank since I already explained that they are not drawing for a straight. If I were behind on turn, I am still behind on river. I was planning on checking that river but I am confronting with a pot-sized lead bet! Here is where I make the biggest mistake of the day by calling that bet! Villain was already playing with their hand face-up but I myself couldn’t let go of my hand. That’s a mistake called “married to your hand”! The big blind has either a set, letting me bet into them the whole way or a two-pair hand (like A8) that wants to get paid with on river, correctly assuming that I was going to check that river behind. Donating to good players should also be avoided, since a payback would be more difficult than playing agaisnt bad players.

What did we learn of this poker hand? Always listen to ourselves and stay true to our belief. I sensed I was behind on turn and I should have folded on river. The river bet should have made my decision even easier, but instead I lost more than half of my stack on river! The sooner we learn how to play poker by avoiding costly mistakes, the quicker our online poker bankroll will increase.