Never stop learning they say — in life, in love, and certainly in poker. One way to improve is to learn from your mistakes. But you have to realize what you're doing is a mistake first, before you can go about correcting it.
Below are five mistakes frequently made by players new to live poker tournaments, often without being fully aware they're making them.
1. Getting mad to try and get even
Rookie players tend to care far too much about the average stack, when it's your stack in relation to the big blind that you should really be worrying about. Nowhere does this manifest itself more than in a deep-stacked tournament.
I've lost count of the number of times I've seen players lose 10% of their stack in a hand during the first level to drop from (say) 250 big blinds to 225 big blinds, then sit there ruefully counting how many chips they've got left. They then proceed to play tons of pots to try and get back to starting stack. The result is they usually lose more chips. Don't get mad, and you might get even!
2. Acting out of turn
While this could certainly be a sub-heading under the umbrella title of "not paying attention," nothing shows you up more as being a rookie live player than acting out of turn and not realizing it. Not only is it bad etiquette, but it can affect how the hand plays out and thus the other players at the table, which is never good.
There are a couple of different grades of error here. Mucking your cards before the action is on you to get up to go to the restroom or chat with a buddy is the nut worst. Meanwhile if you're in Seat 1 or Seat 10 (next to the dealer), then the occasional mucking of cards out of turn is perhaps excusable — but if you're seated anywhere else, then it's just bad form.
One simple solution to stop acting out of turn is to cap your cards and not look at them until action reaches you — perhaps don't do this in a turbo, though!
3. Losing concentration towards breaks
If you're already thinking about dashing to the restroom or grabbing that sandwich 10 minutes before the break starts, then stop it. That period of time before the break is often a goldmine for getting bluffs and steals through, because most of your opponents will already mentally be "on holiday."
Correct this by thinking of it as an extension of the philosophy that you play the opposite way to the rest of the table (e.g., play tight at a loose table and loose at a tight table). When others' concentration appears to be lessening, that's when your focus should be even greater.
4. Not value betting enough (a.k.a., seeing monsters in every closet)
Although poker is one of the most democratic disciplines around — there are no barriers to playing as long as you've got the buy-in — the poker table can be a very intimidating place, especially if you're a newcomer to live poker.
That can lead to being afraid to look stupid for fear that your peers may laugh, show scorn, or in someway belittle you or your poker abilities. The way this fear usually manifests itself during game play isn't that rookies are afraid to bluff — far from it, it's that rookies very rarely go for thin value. Heck, even slam dunk value bets can start to look emaciated if you're a little gun shy.
It can be scary to fire that third barrel when a bad card hits the river, but it's important not to think "Oh, great... my relative hand strength just dropped quicker than a Game of Thrones spoiler."
Instead think back through the hand and ask yourself, "What hands can they have here and of those what worse ones will call me?" Answer those questions, and you'll know if you should go for thin value or not.
5. Engaging in table talk with superior players during a big hand
Table talk is fun. Moreover, table talk helps make poker fun. But if you get involved in a big hand with a pro or experienced player, then you're almost certainly going to give away more gifts than you receive if you try and play Banter Claus.
You might not think that's the case, but pros will pick up on the inflection of your voice, how confident you are in your replies, and plenty more besides. They might ask "Will you show if I fold?" Don't do it — if you do, you'll be giving away still more free information that they can exploit.
This also goes for when you're facing a river bet from an experienced player. Probing them for information seems like the smart play, but more often than not, they'll just lead you to the decision they want you to make, not the one you want to make.
Save the fun and games for when you've folded. When you're in a hand, put your game face on and keep quiet.