Learning From Your Mistakes

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Learning from mistakes is a crucial aspect in a poker player’s development. When a player loses a hand they have to understand why they lost it, honestly analyzing their play and the play of their opponents to determine the reason why they lost the hand. Sometimes, a player can lose a hand for as simple a reason as a river card strengthening an opponent’s hand. Other times, a player can make a critical mistake, such as making the wrong size bet, playing out of position, or applying pressure at the wrong time. One of the biggest differences between amateur and professional poker players is how one responds to their mistakes. Do they objectively critique the hand, or do they sum it up as a case of bad luck?

Recently, I was playing in a nine player sit and go on Poker Stars. I had been playing my normal tight-aggressive game, but I wasn’t getting cards I needed so I was among the lower stacks with five people left in the game. I’m finally dealt a big hand, A-K, and I raise from late position. Everyone folds their hands except for the player on the button, who simply called my raise. The flop came J-9-5. I checked and my opponent checked behind me. The turn was another J. I checked again, my opponent bet, and I check-raised all-in. As soon as I did this, a bad feeling washed over me. My opponent calls, showing A-9 for two pair. No help comes on the river and I am eliminated.

I knew I had made a mistake, and afterwards I analyzed my play to see why my decision to push all-in was wrong. First, I looked at the reasons why I did push all-in. I had done so because I thought I could force a fold, figuring that because of my raise preflop, my opponent should be afraid that I did hit the J or had an overpair, some hand that was much stronger than his. However, I realized that my actions previous to my all-in were not in line with what my all-in was saying. I checked on the flop, and normally I would bet on the flop if I made top pair or did otherwise believe that I did have the best hand. The main reasons why people check raise is to try and extract more chips from an opponent, or the person is trying to win the pot with a bluff. My actions on the flop and turn contradicted each other, and so my opponent was able to arrive at the conclusion that I was bluffing and eliminate me from the game.

By analyzing my play, I realized just how I made a mistake. This is a sort of mistake that I am prone to making, as I am an aggressive player and I also have a tendency to make quick decisions, sometimes not thinking them through enough. I won’t be making this particular mistake any time soon, but I cannot say that I will never make it again. I have learned from this mistake, and am hopefully a better poker player after analyzing how I came to make this mistake.

One Response to “Learning From Your Mistakes”

  1. Mike

    This hand was a great example to use as a poker strategy article. However, I have a few questions regarding this particular situation:

    1. What level was the Sit n Go at? What were the blinds at?

    2. The number of chips is important to know. We know that you’re short stacked, but how is your stack compared to others at the table? You said you raised preflop, but how much? Also, by pushing on the turn, you didn’t tell us how much over the top it was for your opponent to call. Perhaps he was calling simply because of pot odds?

    3. I’d like to know more about the thoughts that were going through your head, as well as what you thought your opponent had. If I put myself in your exact situation, I would have thought that checking the flop after a preflop raise is a sure sign of AK or AQ, and unlikely to be a monster like JJ.

    4. It’s great that you’ve become a better poker player from analyzing this hand. But what’s really important is that readers can also become better players through your guidance of the hand.


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