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Poker Strategy With Alex Fitzgerald: The Most Common Leaks In Poker

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Do you know what the most common poker leaks are? Knowing the answer to this question will help you look for the most common leaks within your own game.

I have been doing private poker lessons for over ten years. In these lessons, the same leaks come up over and over again. See if any of these are problems you can fix in your own game.

1. Too Much Preflop Calling

People go to the cardroom precisely because they want to play poker. They want to hold the chips in their hands. They want to play pots and gamble. If they wanted to watch poker, they would have stayed at home and turned on a live stream.

Because everyone wants to play, they tend to see too many flops. Flops are fun to see. There’s infinite potential. You never know when you’re going to hit a monster hand. Resisting that siren song is what professional players do well. Recreational players call too much and bleed chips off.

What’s nefarious about this leak is it isn’t obvious. You lose a few big blinds here. You lose a few big blinds there. It doesn’t seem like anything too egregious. Then, one hour into your session, you look down at your chips and think to yourself, “where did 20% of my stack go?”

The problem with limping preflop is it alerts the opponents to your left that you probably don’t possess a hand good enough to raise. They can then use that information to raise and isolate your weak range.

If you cold call preflop you have also told opponents that you don’t have a hand good enough to three-bet. A player behind you could squeeze and get you off the pot.

Whenever you want to cold call or limp in preflop, ask yourself if a raise would work instead. If you are in position, don’t be afraid to three-bet more. If you think you likely have the best hand in position, then you want to get more money into the pot. Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. Passive players never make money at this game.

2. Too Much Hero Calling

This exchange happens often in my lessons.

“On this river, you called with one pair,” I say. “Did you think he was value betting worse?”
“No,” the student answers.
“Does he bet a missed draw like this?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Was he aggressive? Does he turn pairs into bluffs? Does he fire high cards like this?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, why would you call then? This was a huge bet.”

River bets are always the biggest bets in the game. You want to make sure you’re paying off river bets for a good reason, and ‘I don’t know’ is a terrible reason.

Most people don’t like folding on the river because it means consenting to a loss. If they get shown a bluff, they feel awful.

If they call on the river, they are freerolling to look like a genius. If the other player has a huge hand, they can just muck facedown. No harm, no foul. If they catch the other player bluffing, then they experience a huge dopamine reward. They get a big pot and the respect of everyone at the table.

Resist this siren song. Don’t pay off big bets without a good reason.

3. Too Much Preflop Raising

It happens to the best of us. We get bored at the table. We then decide to open a hand we know is weak. We face a three-bet, and we call because we’re getting a good price. We flop a mediocre pair out of position. We check, and then the horror show begins. We don’t know when to give up and when to keep calling down.

The way to make money in no-limit is to play big pots in position with superior hands. The fastest way to lose money is to play big pots out of position with weak hands. The easiest way to play big pots out of position with weak hands is to raise preflop with weak hands. That will trap you into a pot you don’t want to play.

If your poker results haven’t been motivating as of late, try playing a more focused preflop range for a few sessions. You’ll have to be more patient, but you’ll notice the pots you do play end up being much easier to handle.

4. Inability To Get Thin Value

Everyone knows that two pair and better hands are premiums, and they should be played for massive value. Everyone also knows that when you miss the flop you shouldn’t give away a ton of chips.

What separates poker pros from recreational players is how they handle one-pair type hands. The professional will know when their one pair isn’t good anymore and they will fold it. But the professional will also know when their second pair is the best hand. They will get thin value from it.

It takes considerable practice to learn how to hand read well, but you can’t give up the fight.

Many poker players give up the fight by not trying to value bet thinly when they flop a decent pair. They consent to pot controlling every single time. This causes them to lose valuable bets.

The next time someone calls you out of the big blind remember they’re doing that with a huge range. They’re going to flop many weak pairs. If you flop a decent second pair or a solid top pair, then try to go for three streets. Don’t be afraid to accidentally value bet the second-best hand on occasion.

5. Playing Too Tight

There are players who only want to play premiums. They might open some weaker hands, but they will only three-bet with A-K or jacks or better.

The problem they run into is eventually everyone at the table realizes they don’t want action unless they have the best of it. The other players start staying away. They don’t pay off the tighter player when he or she finally does get involved in a hand.

If this player learned to three-bet just once or twice with a suited-gapper in position it would really give them some deception.

6. Paying Off Huge Bets In Multiway Pots

Imagine a multiway pot where the initial raiser fires a huge bet into four other players. The recreational player will have second pair with no kicker or backdoor draw. They then proceed to call the flop bet with their weak hand, and then fold to every single turn bet.

If your hand isn’t strong to begin with, and has no drawing equity, then it isn’t much of a hand. If someone just fired a huge bet into multiple players, it’s likely they have the goods or are drawing to it. You can let go of a mediocre pair in this situation.

The problem is many recreational players don’t know they’re allowed to hit the board and fold to a single bet. They believe they’re being exploited if they do that. They feel they have to call one bet and at least see the turn card.

What they’re missing is that letting go of these hands is actually exploiting their opponent’s tight continuation betting range. By being more willing to fold they are saving precious chips. This is going to add up in the long run. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on ACR Poker. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at