Losing at Poker

I’ve seen it more times than I care to count; forum threads that start with I suck so hard at poker and I don’t know why….

The reason is different for each player. Some players suck at bankroll management or avoiding the craps tables, while others suck at reviewing hand histories and folding hands like K2s.

So what I thought I’d do to help is list the most common reasons I’ve seen for players sucking at poker. Take a look to see if any of them apply to you. Then work on said leak until you’ve plugged it up.

20 Reasons You’ll Always Suck at Poker


1. Play poker for fun. When you play poker for fun you play hands because they’re suited, call to keep people honest and play every hand you’re dealt. You don’t take the game seriously, study it or try to improve. You don’t play to win.

2. Are results oriented. Just because you won a hand with 84s doesn’t mean that you played the hand correctly, let alone was right in playing it at all. The same holds true for losing with pocket aces – just because you lost doesn’t mean you played it poorly. It’s important that you’re able to separate the results of a hand from the hand itself, and focus more on how you played it and why.

3. Don’t take criticism well. The fastest way to improve is to talk about hands with your peers. However, in doing so, it’ll be counter productive if you cannot accept criticism well. If you have a fixed (always right / wrong) mindset, your growth will always be stunted.

4. Don’t seek criticism at all. You won’t get better (fast) if you’re stuck in your own little world. Growth comes for being open minded and seeking opinions about how to play hands outside your own experience. Especially from players with years and thousands of hands under their belt.

5. Don’t work on your game. If you don’t work on your skill set in a game that’s always evolving, you’re standing still. You know what they say about people that are standing still – they get passed.

6. Don’t stick to one variation (in the beginning). You know the saying, the jack of all trades is a master of none. While it’s a great idea to (eventually) learn multiple games and variations, you’ll see success much faster if you can choose one game and variation to start. Each one has their own nuances and strategies to winning. Sticking to one game is most efficient way to learning and applying them.

7. Complain about bad beats. If you complain about bad beats, you clearly have no understanding of the ‘long run,’ or choose to ignore it. Moreover, focusing on bad beats puts you in a bad mood, which in turn, affects your play.

8. Let bad beats and variance affect your game. Bad beats and variance are apart of poker. Good players have learned how to let the bad things roll off their shoulder so they can continue playing their A game. At the very least you need to learn stress reducing techniques.

9. Don’t play enough. Strategy, money, skills, etc. come with experience. The more games you play, the more experience you get. And the more you play, the faster you get through all the bad beats and variance.

10. Spend more time reading and studying than playing. While important, you can also learn and do so much with books, forums, chats and videos. You need to take what you learn and apply it to get the most out of it. Experience comes from action.

11. Try to play like the pros. Playing 83o because Phil Ivey did it is a recipe for disaster and financial ruin. I hate to burst your bubble, but you’re not Phil Ivey. Phil Ivey has put a lot of effort into his game. There’s a reason why he plays the hands he does. Do you know why you’re playing 83o (other than because Ivey did it)? No? Then maybe you shouldn’t be playing it.

12. Play too many hands. Although an argument can be made for playing a loose style, chances are that you can’t make it. Playing too many hands, especially with holes in your game, is the fastest way to spew your bankroll. You should focus on quality over quantity. As your game improves, you can increase the number of hands you play.

13. Play out of position. If you play out of position more than in position, you clearly suck at poker and have no idea how to play profitably. This would be the one time I’d tell you to play like your favorite pro – all of the good ones know that position is paramount to success, and do their best to always be in position when they play a hand.

14. Keep no stats or records. What gets measured gets done. Have you heard that phrase? It applies to poker in a lot of ways. When you keep track of your bankroll, wins/losses, time spent playing, traveling expenses, hand stats, etc, you put yourself in a position where you can quickly analyze what’s going well and what’s not. Then you can create a plan to fix your problem areas and do it. Then see the results down the road.

15. Don’t pay attention. Whether it’s live or online, you need to pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t watch TV, talk on Skype, chat with the guy next to you, chat up the cocktail waitress, play other games, talk on forums, etc, etc. You need to pay attention to the action at the table. You never know, you might pick up a tell that will make you money down the line.

16. Use starting hand charts. Starting hand charts suck because they’re static. They don’t take in account playing styles, history, your skill level and so on. They also stunt creativity. Instead, you need to play hands based on the action in front of you, your opponents style, your skill level and hand ranges.

17. Chase gut-shot straight draws. Or any draw with bad pot odds. I mention gut-shot draws only because hardly ever will you have 11:1 pot odds to chase them, yet you do anyway. So long as you continue to make unprofitable plays, you’ll continue to suck at poker.

18. Think poker is rigged. If you think poker is fixed, and yet, you continue to play it, your own thought process and sanity should come into question. Aside from that, though, saying online poker is rigged says more about your skill level and your ability to recognize your problem areas, own up to and work on them. The problem is you – not online poker.

19. Blow your money in the (virtual) pits. Bankroll management is crucial in not being a sucky poker player. You need to have the money to play your usual (or higher) stakes, travel, feed yourself, pay your bills and more. Blowing your money on craps is the fastest path to having to go back to work at McDonalds.

20. Play robotically. If you play like a robot you can never expect to get better. Players improve by experimenting, finding situations or players to exploit and by forcing yourself into situations that you’re otherwise uncomfortable in.

Want to know how to get better at poker? Doing the opposite of the above would be a good place to start.