“It’s good to learn from mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
– Warren Buffet
I absolutely love this quote from the world’s greatest investor because it’s not just applicable to life; it also suits us as poker learners extremely well.
This is why I’m constantly going through my online poker database of hands, and I do the same thing with my students. We review hands and look for mistakes we made, so that we can work to NOT repeat those mistakes in the future.
Along the same lines, another great use of our study time is finding the mistakes of others and analyzing them. When we see what plays cost others valuable chips, and understand the reasons why these are poor strategies, this informs our game and we now know what plays and situations to avoid.
So, who should we first try to learn from?
Let me ask you a question, who makes the most mistakes at your tables?
They’re the weakest players at any table. They’re the marks that you’re always targeting. They love to see flops so they enter too many pots, and they remain in the pot for too long with weak hands and draws. These constantly repeated and costly mistakes make them the perfect targets for value.
This is great for sharks like you, who prey on the fishiest players, because you can work to isolate these mistake-makers for maximum profits.
And as a bonus, if you’re paying attention, fish can help you beyond the value they give to your bottom line. You can observe their most common and costly mistakes, analyze why they’re mistakes, and learn from them by working to NOT repeat those same mistakes.
So, what are the most common mistakes that fish make? And what MUST you do to avoid being a fish yourself?
#1: Fish limp into pots in an effort to see as many cheap flops as possible because they love making big hands.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT limp into pots. If a hand is worth playing, it’s worth raising. Raising gives you fold equity and you can win the pot right now before even seeing the flop. Plus, if you get called, you still have the same chances to hit a strong hand on the flop. And, as the preflop raiser you can make a continuation bet to put pressure on your opponents to fold.
#2: Fish defend their blinds too frequently, playing too many pots with subpar hands and from out of position.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT defend your blinds too frequently. Feel free to fold “pretty” hands like J8s, 75s, 98o and K2s. Only defend with hands that are toward the top of your opponent’s raising range. If your opponent is raising a 20% range with the worst suited-gapper being J9s, don’t defend your blind with 75s. Not only are you giving them positional advantage post-flop, they also have a mathematical advantage over your incredibly weak hand.
#3: Fish call bets and raises with multiple players yet to act, which often leads to harder-to-win multiway pots or facing re-raises.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT ignore the players yet to act. Consider how the remaining players may respond once you make your play. Calling an open-raise gives another player a great 3bet squeezing opportunity, or a greater price to enter the hand by overcalling. Calling a cbet in a multi-way pot on the flop gives another player better odds to call with their draws.
#4: Fish love making straights and flushes, so they can’t find a fold post-flop with any draw.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT call with just any draw. Count your outs, run the break-even math and if you’re getting the right price, make the call. Don’t forget that you have the option to bluff raise. If they’re folding versus a raise, you don’t even have to hit your draw to win the pot.
#5: Fish give value with weak hands because, “He might be bluffing, and my 3rd pair can win… so I call!”
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT ignore the signs that your hand is beat. When a player commits lots of chips over many streets, you’ve got to hold a strong hand yourself in order to avoid giving away your chips. Fish only look at the strength of their hand, and don’t consider the range of their opponent. Great players ALWAYS put their opponent on a range of hands. If their range of hands crushes your current holding, it’s probably a good time to exit.
This week is your opportunity to work to NOT make these same fishy mistakes. Write each of the five lessons learned above on a sticky note and attach it to your monitor or put it in Evernote on your phone. Warm-up this week by reading the list of five and committing to NOT doing these in every session you play.