Bad Habits That Are Ruining Your Poker Game

In almost any competitive activity, bad habits are the primary weakness that separates average players from those who ascend to a higher level of skill. Even for someone who might be world-class in their chosen field, a single bad habit can create a roadblock that keeps them from reaching their potential.  

In poker, bad habits can be especially harmful given how much variance there is in the game. Even top players will often have days where everything they see is awry and they play sub-optimally because of it.  

The difference between an above-average player and an elite one is all about breaking these bad habits and replacing them with good ones instead. This article outlines some common bad habits that many poker players tend to have, as well as some advice on how to break them so you can improve your game in the long run. 

Focus on the short term at the expense of the long term 

One of the most common bad habits among poker players is focusing too much on the short term at the expense of the long term. For example, you might call off your last remaining chips on a dry board because you don’t want to give up a free card, forgetting about the fact that this might cost you a shot at the next tournament you play.  

Another example is having patience on the turn but not the river, waiting to get a better hand to stay in pots that you would have otherwise folded earlier to save chips. If you have a good understanding of your win rate, you’ll be able to tell if you’re focusing too much on the short term.  

If you’re playing too loose or too tight with certain ranges, you’re probably focusing too much on the short term. Another sign of this bad habit is if you’re playing too many tournaments for your bankroll’s current size. 

You’re overly pre-flop aggressive 

One of the most common poker bad habits is being overly pre-flop-aggressive. This is particularly a problem for players who have a loose pre-flop image. Against certain opponents, such as those who play tight, being overly pre-flop aggressive may be a sound strategy.  

However, against other opponents, particularly those who know your game and know that you’re overly aggressive, it is not only bad play, but it can also become exploitable. This is especially true when you’re facing loose and passive opponents who love to call your pre-flop raises with a wide range of hands.  

This is not to say that you should never be the pre-flop aggressor, but rather that you should only do so judiciously and with a defined range of hands that are capable of getting the job done. 

You’re constantly checking back with weak hands 

Another common poker bad habit is constantly checking back with weak hands in the hopes of hitting a miracle card that never comes. This is especially the case when you’re in a late position and facing a pre-flop raiser, where folding to a raise is often the correct way to play.  

Even if you have a hand, you think is good, such as a pair of 10s on a 10-10-J-J board, you should still consider folding because the pre-flop raiser is likely to have a very strong hand, such as a set.  

In other words, because the pot odds are so low and the pre-flop raiser is likely to have a strong hand, it is almost impossible for you to win the pot by getting lucky. Instead, you should wait for a better opportunity to play the hand where the odds are more favorable. 

You have a bad time management habit that leads to you playing too many hands 

A bad time management habit can lead to you playing too many hands too fast. This could show itself in a number of ways, such as having quick decision-making skills, playing too fast overall, not taking enough time between hands in tournaments, and/or constantly being “on the clock” in cash games.  

If you think that you have a bad time management habit, you need to take steps to correct it. Make sure that you’re playing at a pace and in a manner that’s best for your gaming self. Limiting the number of hands, you play even if the game is soft, is a must. It’s because you’ll have more information to work with and more time to think about your decision-making process.  

You play passively and lose a lot of value when you’re ahead 

Another bad habit that many players fall into is playing passively when they have the best hand. Poker is a game that requires aggression and high variance. This means that you’ll likely have a lot more losing sessions than winning ones.

Bad Habits That Are Ruining Your Poker Game

However, if you’re constantly playing passively when you have the best hand, you’ll lose a great deal more than you should because you’re not getting enough value from your good hands. You should be more aggressive with your best hands and attempt to extract more value from them. This includes raising with hands like top pair or better, especially in multi-way pots. 

You constantly try to be tricky and overly deceptive instead of making easy, straightforward plays 

Another common poker bad habit is trying to be tricky and overly deceptive in your play when a straightforward, easy play is available. It is important to understand that deception is not a bad thing in poker, but rather that most deception comes from making straightforward plays that are easy to read and understand.   

For example, if you have a hand like the middle pair and the board is a low straight, you should raise in most cases, as this is an easy and straightforward play. If you have a hand-like top pair and the board is a high straight, you should almost always fold because it is a very straightforward and simple play that doesn’t take any thought at all.  

This is important because it will help you in two ways. First, it will help protect your chip stack when you’re playing a loose game against tight opponents because they will be less likely to call your straightforward plays. Second, and more importantly, it will help you to play at a more consistent level. 

Conclusion 

Bad habits can be hard to break, but they don’t have to be. They can also be easy to avoid in the first place, by keeping a few simple things in mind. This article outlines some common bad habits that many poker players tend to have, as well as some advice on how to break them so you can improve your game in the long run.