3 common poker strategy errors overheard at the tables


A huge benefit of playing live poker is getting to listen to the constant table chatter. The conversation typically gravitates towards proper poker strategy for obvious reasons. Players feel the need to discuss the proper (or quite often improper) way to play when certain situations arise.

Having listened to these discussions for the past 15 years or so, I have noticed the same common misconceptions keep popping up.  The top 3 poker strategy misconceptions I overhear the most during live play are:

1. Betting cannot be wrong when you have a good chance of being ahead

This one makes intuitive sense but can cost you dearly at the poker table. Being obviously ahead of your opponent’s perceived range does not necessarily mean a bet or raise is in order. For the most part, betting/raising should be done with one of the following goals in mind:

  • a. Getting a worse hand to call
  • b. Getting a better hand to fold
  • c. Trying to win a significant pot uncontested

There are plenty of situations where you are probably ahead of your opponent’s range yet you cannot achieve any of these goals. For example, 3-betting a loose opponent preflop with a hand like A-Q is often a gross error. When you consider which parts of his range he will fold and which part he will call or 4-bet, quite often you are just setting up your opponent to play perfectly. In other words, you are isolating the top of his range; he will call/raise when ahead and fold when behind. Just calling in this spot is usually more profitable then raising.

2. Having a huge chip stack means you can afford to make marginal calls

I often hear this in tournaments and even more shockingly during cash play. A lot of good players misunderstand the value of having a big chip stack.

The power of having a big stack lays in leverage.   Having a deep chip stack allows you to threaten your opponent’s stack early in the hand. Early hand aggression presents a problem for your opponent; he has to worry that you might put a lot or even all of your chips in the pot in the later betting rounds. A big chip stack allows you to threaten your opponent’s stack without needing to risk much of your own. This constant threat allows you to win a lot of small uncontested pots. Leveraging your big stack has nothing to do with being able to afford taking risks in big pots; it is about putting pressure on your opponent with very little risk involved.

3. When you flop a huge hand you MUST slow play to extract chips from your opponent

Most beginner and intermediate players like to slow play when they flop a big hand. However, “letting them catch up so they can pay me off” is often a losing proposition. The problem with slow playing is that the following conditions must exist for it to be profitable :

a. Your opponent must be trailing in the hand

b. He must be unwilling to pay you off if you show immediate aggression

c. He must have a decent chance of improving without taking the lead

d. He must pay you off often enough to make this risk profitable

These conditions occur infrequently. In turn, slow playing usually loses money.  Slow playing can be a strong profitable tactic but she be used sparingly, under the right circumstances.


Do you have any personal favorites to add to this list?  Agree or disagree with anything in my list?  Floor is yours, comment away!!!


  1. 4. Talking poker strategy at the table.

  2. Jeff Mcintyre

    Agreed Josh. As soon as you start talking strategy at the table you give me insights on:

    1- Your “Playbook”
    2- Your level of understanding of the game

    Give away so much information for what? To prove you were right? Do you ever find yourself trying to provoke strategy talk at the table to gain info Josh?


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