In 1962, Decca records wanted to take advantage of the skiffle group trend in England. They auditioned two bands and signed The Tremeloes, rejecting a four-piece group from Liverpool called The Beatles. In 1999, Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, offered to sell their search engine to George Bell for $1 million, coming down to $750,000 when he said no. He still walked away. Google is currently valued at over $1 trillion. When a British lottery announced its winning numbers, a woman realized she had won because she had her numbers written down. Sadly, her husband had thrown her ticket out, losing them a whopping $181 million.

We all make mistakes. They’re almost unavoidable, often harmless, sometimes costly, sadly repeated, but usually accompanied by a lesson to be learned the hard way.

The Titanic, the Hindenburg, Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Trojan Horse… mistakes that could have been avoided, yet mistakes from which people learned valuable lessons. And that is the beauty of mistakes. They teach us how not to repeat our errors and may even lead to better decisions later. Sure, success is wonderful, but Bill Gates correctly told us that failure is the best teacher. 

While that all sounds rather romantic, the people who can truly relate to the heartbreak of mistakes are gamblers. There’s nothing like losing a truck-ton of money at the poker table to teach us a lesson we hope never to forget. So, with tournament season heating up and the WSOP and Ignition’s 9th Edition of the GSPO on the horizon, we’ve compiled five of the costliest mistakes poker players must avoid. Pay careful attention to protect your sanity and your bankroll.

1st MISTAKE: Not Knowing Your Best and Worst Starting Hands

When you play in tournaments, stamina and endurance are the name of the game, you cannot go in on every hand. You have to overcome your salivating over juicy prize pools in a FOMO fog. It’s a rookie mistake that’s easily avoided by using a poker hand chart

If you’re a newbie, or just need a refresher, print a starting hand chart and memorize the best hands to play. It’s quite simple and after a short time, you’ll know when to stay in and when to fold. Look, a perfect starting hand doesn’t exist, but you can put the odds in your favor by using this chart to stay sane and in the black.

2nd MISTAKE: Overvaluing Hands

Many inexperienced players see what they think is a strong hand and then get beat by a pair of threes. Don’t overvalue a face card with a bad kicker – like a king with a four – which are often beaten by a pair of low cards. It’s a beginner’s mistake. Just keep in mind that players who make it to the WSOP know the value of every hand they are dealt. You should too.

3rd MISTAKE: Playing Out of Position

Reading your opponents means keeping track of their decisions and player position at the table is among the biggest impacts on those decisions. Playing out of position is like driving at night with your headlights off. You have no idea what’s coming. However, when you play poker in position, you have a chance to dominate the other players. 

The play always goes clockwise, so you have an advantage over opponents seated to your right. The primary advantage of being positioned late is that you have more information than players positioned early – they have to act first, without a lot of information. Plus, as early opponents fold, the chances of your hand being the best rises.

When you play in position, you can see everyone else’s moves before your turn. Armed with that information, you should know how to play your hand.

4th MISTAKE: Playing with Emotion

Be cool, stay cool, play cool. Maybe you’ve got great instincts, but don’t let cockiness or emotions take over your game. Sounds like simple, smart advice, but in the intensity of a poker tournament, emotions run higher than normal. There’s a lot of money at stake.

Bad beats happen all the time and chasing your losses is a big online poker mistake. You won’t catch up that way. If you’ve just lost big, take a moment or several moments away from the game. Remember, before you totally lose it, many online poker tournaments are quite generous about re-entry – sometimes offering two or more chances. 

The same advice goes for when you are winning. Feeling invincible could lead to playing loose, fast and aggressive, which often leads to overplaying your hand. You could end up kissing your big winnings goodbye.

5th MISTAKE: Not Managing Your Pot 

Pot management, or pot control, in online poker is one way to outlast your opponents. No matter how good you are at poker, expect your pot to grow and shrink with every session. Poker is 70% skill and 30% luck, so focus your skills on smart online pot management. Follow these five golden rules and live to fight another day.

  1. Don’t bet your rent. When you play poker online for real money, it’s essential to play with the money you can afford to lose. Keep your poker pot separate from your life money.
  2. Your bankroll sets the stakes. No matter the size of your bankroll, risk only a small percentage. When your ego pushes you towards higher stakes, and your pot says “no,” listen.
  3. Find your comfort level. If you’re nervous, choose lower stakes, even when you have the funds to bet higher. Don’t let pressure, especially during tournament play, ruin you financially.
  4. What’s your hourly rate? Calculate the number of big blinds and dollars you’re making every hour. As you play more hands, you’ll be able to calculate your expected hourly return over the long run.
  5. Apply a stop-loss strategy. What do you do when you’re losing, but you’re comfortable and feeling positive? Some pros keep playing, but others back away. Executing a stop-loss of two or three buy-ins for cash games limits any short-term damage from a downswing. 

Of course, the best way to avoid these and many other mistakes is to follow the poker strategy tips and advice we offer at Ignition Casino.