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Things to Avoid in Tournament Poker

David “The Maven” Chicotsky

• Leading out with only one other player in the hand, for more than half the pot. How often do you see players lead out for the entire pot with top pair, only to garner a fold? Even check-raising with strong hands induces too many folds (in my opinion) to be an every-time type action. Sometimes taking a weaker line like check-calling, with more inherent risk and patience will garner you more chips throughout the entire hand. When you have a strong hand, don’t let your opponent fold on the flop. Be sure to gain chips through the turn and river as well.

• Re-raising too big pre-flop or on the flop. If you have a strong hand, don’t thin the field so fast by re-raising too big. Don’t be so scared of letting another card peel off that you forgo long-run value. How often do you see a player essentially over-bet the flop (or ship all in) only to show aces and proclaim, “I’m glad to take down the pot. Don’t want to get sucked out on.” This is the closest thing to ripping up money that poker offers. When you have a strong holding or are in a favorable position, make the most out of it. Value, value, value. That’s our main focus when sitting at the poker table. Don’t be a “risk based” player, be a “value oriented” player - it might be scarier at times, but it pays better.

• Let other people draw, just on your terms. Reality is, the majority of the time when players are drawing, they are going to miss their draw, not hit it. Don’t price players looking to draw out. Price them in, but at a bad price for them and a good one for you. Don’t be too focused on the short-hanging fruit to forgo being able to harvest an actual bounty.

• Berating the Fish: Let me get this out there, when someone makes a bad move - just bite your tongue. Do pros want to lash out at them? Absolutely. It’s one thing to think it; it’s another thing to say something. Let someone play bad and not even know it. Hopefully they won’t have busted their bankroll fast enough - where you can take their money in a month or two when you meet again. Don’t tap the glass and let the fish know what they’re doing wrong: Just say, “Nice hand” and go home and scream into your pillow. That’s my attempt at humor. Though seriously...

• Going too fast or slow in a hand. If you act fast, you’re more likely to make mistakes or miss critical information like stack sizes. Going too fast also creates a situation where you’ll give off a timing tell when you actually have to think about a situation. Very often, if a player always acts very fast and then all of a sudden takes their time during a hand, they’re likely to be in a “tough spot.” This allows you to put even more pressure on your opponent on the next street, as you might feel it’s a borderline situation for them. I listed “acting too slow” in a hand because, well, it’s just annoying! There really should be a poker shot clock as it’s almost unbearable to play (much less watch the game) when players are constantly tanking and Hollywooding for no reason.

  Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes at the poker table, but be sure to keep the above tips in mind when playing. Strive for long-term value and focus on doing the little things well on a consistent basis.

David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at

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