Mistakes To Avoid When Playing Live Poker

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A male dealer presents a deck of cards at a poker table.
BetMGM Dec 01, 2023, 9:32 AM

Poker tournaments are back with a bang! But before you head out to your venue of choice to participate in a tourney, it’s a good idea to hone your skills and improve your game by practicing online poker. This format is a popular way to get better at poker and is used by some of the most exciting up-and-coming professional players to study the game and practice their strategies. Before you book a seat at a tournament, read up on the differences between online and live poker, our list of common mistakes often made when playing live poker, and how to avoid them.

The Differences Between Online and Live Poker

A player who is new at poker may think that online and live poker are very similar. However, while the rules of the game are indeed the same, the experience is quite different. Here are some key differences between online and in-person poker:

  • Online poker is much faster than a face-to-face game.
  • In online poker, there are more multiway pots.
  • In live play, you can gain information by reading your opponents.
  • There are no additional tools to help you in live poker play.
  • Online play offers different variants of poker at all times of the day.

Now that you understand some of the key differences between how poker is played online and in person let’s look at some of the things you shouldn’t do when playing in person.

Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Poker in Person

Failing to study the game

Even if you think you know how to play poker, one of the worst mistakes you can make when playing in person is to head off to an event with nothing more than a basic understanding of the game. Poker greats constantly study the intricacies of the game. One of the most exciting up-and-coming players, Kyna England, is on record saying that she plays online poker to keep improving her skills. When the pandemic hit, she kept competing in online poker tournaments to improve her game.

If you’re just getting started or need to brush up on your skills, drop into the BetMGM online poker school. Here, you’ll find all the rules of popular games from Texas Hold ’em and Omaha poker variations to Spins and Fast Forward rules, as well as all the necessary guides, cheat sheets, and charts. You can also get loads of helpful advice, tips, and insights from our poker blogs (such as how to win against passive poker players and what software tools you can use to improve your game). Our blogs are constantly updated with new information that will inspire, entertain, and undoubtedly make you a more informed and better player.

It’s vital to remember that studying yourself is part of what it means to work through your mistakes. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, such as how you react under pressure or being able to keep a poker face when the good times are rolling, will be hugely helpful in almost every decision you make in the game. You’ll also need to understand other aspects of the game, from the variations best suited to your style of playing to managing your bankroll.

Visibly reacting to cards

As we just mentioned, studying the game while failing to study yourself will hamper your game from start to finish. The best way to go about correcting this mistake is to become more self-aware. While you’re watching your opponents and learning to “read” them more effectively, you want to be doing the same with yourself. It’s not something you have to worry about when you play poker games online, but you need to get into the habit of reading your own reactions.

This is particularly important if you play poker at an online casino. With no one to see you at your computer screen, you may have slipped into the habit of smiling when you’re dealt a pair of aces or frowning when you miss your draw. Do this when you play in person, and your reaction will be right there for everyone at the table to see, which will put you at a disadvantage.

A great pro tip to help you stop reacting to your cards is to watch the other players at the table as the flop is dealt and to avoid looking at your cards. You not only have a better chance of seeing your opponent’s reactions to their hands, but you’ll also have a moment to pause and steady yourself before looking at your own and controlling your reaction.

Going on tilt

On the subject of mastering your emotions as a poker player, you’ll want to avoid the mistake of going “on tilt.” This poker term means that you’ve let your emotions get the better of you. The result is that you won’t play as well as you could if you kept a cool head. Remember, even Phil Hellmuth’s legendary rants are part of a well-thought-out strategy.

There are two ways in which you can stop making this mistake. You can read up on the mental tips and skills needed to better control your emotions by, for instance, learning to meditate. The other option is to get up and walk away as soon as possible when you feel yourself starting to get angry or frustrated.

Not folding

Failing to fold to aggressive bets and raises is one of the mistakes most commonly made by beginners, regardless of whether you are playing in-person poker or poker games online. Don’t fall into the trap of refusing to fold with a marginal hand because you think an opponent is bluffing. Chances are that if you’re facing a low-stakes player who is playing aggressively, it’s likely they have a winning hand, meaning you should fold.

Even if you have a top two-pair and another player suddenly starts to play aggressively and raises, they could have made a flush or at least a straight. Go ahead and fold – you’ll have some stretch in your bankroll to play another day.

Focusing on outsmarting your opponent

If you’re really into poker, you’ve no doubt watched at least a few professional games. While watching the greats is a good way to get a feel for this online casino game, trying to copy how they might outsmart or trick an opponent is a mistake. The result can be that you bet your weak hands while you check and call other players’ strong hands.

Keep the basics in mind and remember that being the best poker player you possibly can means making one good decision after another. So, if you have a strong hand, go ahead and make a value bet. If you don’t, fold.

Making string bets

String betting is when you don’t place all the chips of your bet across the betting line, also known as the commit line, in a single go. In practice, this would look like you moving just one or a few chips at a time until you’ve reached the value that you want to bet. The next player may see you place some of your chips and assume that you are done and move to place their bet, only for your hand to return to your chips as you continue placing your wager.

This is considered poor poker etiquette and may be against the rules at some venues. Rather, play it safe and place your entire bet in one go.

Obscuring your smaller stacks of poker chips

On the one hand, it makes sense to have your smaller stacks of poker chips closest to you where they are clearly visible. However, if you place a smaller stack of chips behind a larger one in such a way that one of your opponents can’t see them, you may find yourself being reprimanded by the dealer or even ejected from the game. 

Knowing how many chips your opponent has is a vital part of poker and will affect the decisions other players make, so ensure your chips are clearly visible to all players at the table.

Choosing the wrong tournaments

Avoid this mistake by carefully selecting live poker tournaments that are right for you. Start by looking at the buy-in and the structure of the event. Don’t be tempted to play above your budget in the hope that you’ll bring in a big win.

Being a recreational player doesn’t mean you aren’t a serious player who still likes to win. Your reasons for playing poker are more casual, so there’s no need to put too much pressure on yourself or your game. Most amateur players are best suited to poker tournaments that have a low fixed buy-in, are fun to play, and give them a chance to try out for a solid cash prize.

Practice Playing Your Best Online Poker at BetMGM

Whether you’re completely new to poker or you want to take your game to the next level, with BetMGM, you can play without having to leave the comfort of your home. Playing online poker for real money on our site – whether by immersing yourself in live dealer poker games such as Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Three Card Poker or trying out your strategy in our online poker tournaments – will give you the opportunity to practice many of your skills without the pressure of playing in person. 

We also have a wide range of other exciting digital online casino games, as well as live dealer casino games. Depending on what you enjoy, you can have a go at popular table games or sit back and relax with fantastic online slots. 

All you have to do to start playing at one of the best online poker sites is register with BetMGM. After that, you can start working on your mistakes to improve your game or have a blast with any of our other exciting gambling experiences!

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.