Top five mistakes amateur poker players make

By Jonathan Little

In this article, I am going to share with you five mistakes most amateur players make on a regular basis. If you stop making these mistakes, you will immediately see an increase to your win rate.

1. Overplaying marginal made hands

Almost without fail, every time I play a major tournament where lots of people satellite in, I see an amateur vastly overplay a hand like A-A after the flop. They see a flop of J-9-5, think they have the nuts, and strive to get all-in. In reality, when 300 big blinds go into the pot in this spot, A-A is almost always crushed.

2. Three-betting preflop with only premium hands

Many amateur players tend to play in a blatantly face-up manner before the flop. They three-bet (reraise) their best hands, or their best hands plus a few decently strong hands, such as A-J and K-Q, and call with their other playable hands. In reality, they should be three-betting with a range tailored to take advantage of their opponent’s strategy.

Against some players, you should three-bet with your best hands and your hands that are not quite good enough to call with, such as A-4o, K-7s, and 8-6s, because you expect them to either four-bet or fold. Against others, you should three-bet with an incredibly wide range to ensure you see the flop heads-up in position, because you know they will check-fold most of the time after the flop when they miss. I discuss this concept thoroughly in my short book Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Cash Games.

3. Playing incorrectly with a short stack

Most amateurs play either way too tight or way too loose with a short stack. Both of these problems can be quickly solved by diligently studying my completely free Push/Fold app. However, be careful strictly following charts because they assume your opponents play well, which often will not be the case. Other strategies, such as using an all-in/min-raise/limp/fold strategy may be ideal against your specific opponents.

4. Failing to study away from the table

I am constantly asked how I can make complex decisions at the poker table in the few moments you have to act. The answer is I have studied most situations away from the table. You are fooling yourself if you think you can come up with the correct decision in every spot with just a few minutes of thought. Poker is a difficult game that requires diligent study. Whenever you encounter a difficult decision, write it down and then take a look at it when you are finished playing for the day.

5. Worrying about short-term results

I have been told many times by amateur players that they can’t believe how unlucky they are. Usually these players have lost five tournaments in a row and can’t comprehend their “bad luck.” In reality, even if you are a world-class player, you will almost certainly go 20 or more tournaments in a row with no cashes at some point in your career if you play enough.

The sooner you comprehend the incredible variance that is inherent to poker, the sooner you can focus on the things that matter.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your friends. If you want to continue working on your poker skills, be sure to sign up for your free seven-day trial to my interactive training site,

Be sure to check back for another educational article!

Jonathan Little is a two-time World Poker Tour champion with over $7,000,000 in tournament cashes. He is a prolific author, coach, and owner of You can occasionally find him playing and commentating at Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights. This article and more can be found at

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