Top-18 Poker Leaks Players Still Can’t Refuse in 2024

Dennis  «Dennis_Stets» 
11 Jun 2024
11 Jun 2024

Poker is a complex game with a mathematical structure that requires a strong theoretical background and hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work out of the tables. Probabilities, pot odds, equity, sizings, SPR and other things are separate concepts. 

Anyways, poker is above all a game. This is what attracts millions of people all across the world. In addition to the special atmosphere at the tables, it offers adrenaline while bluffing, excitement when betting, the thrill of bubbling in a tournament and other vivid impressions that, in fact, represent the real essence of the game. 

But on the edge between poker math and emotions are born the main mistakes in poker, which set the wrong vector in the development and interfere with moving up stakes. And in today's article we’ll figure out the most common mistakes that players still make in 2024.

We learn from failure — not from success

It’s hard to determine the degree of influence of each leak on the final result. A player should find his main poker mistakes on his own or with the help of a more experienced pro and, at the end, remove them.

In poker any mistakes that negatively affect the result are called leaks.

This word fits well with the title of today's topic, defining the process of losing money due to making mistakes. We can imagine that such failures seem to leak out between the fingers of the hand. And the poker player's task is to eliminate such negative moments. This term refers to both mathematical flaws in strategy and mistakes in thinking.

It’s impossible to determine influence of each mistake in one session / results during a concrete period of time. A player should find his main poker mistakes on his own or with the help of a more experienced poker pro — you can find a list of best ones in our poker coaches section. Anyways, if you do this now or a bit later, we would like to introduce you to an useful checklist of common poker leaks.

#1: Poor or too early blinds defence

Steal and re-steal are hardly the most important game situations in poker. Contrary to the opinion of players that the fight in each pot is for the opponent's stack, the real goal of the participants of the hand is blinds.

Each round, the player bets first the small blind (0.5 BB) and then the big blind (1 BB). If it weren't for them, the optimal strategy would be to constantly wait for pocket aces, so these bets can be considered the driving force behind poker strategy

The more often a poker player takes opponents' blinds, the higher will be his profit. But an even more important part of the strategy is the reverse situations, when the opponent tries to steal the player's blinds. Knowing how to defend blinds is important for positional winrate. A poker player must calculate his ranges in a way that combines two mathematical concepts:

  1. Minimum defence frequency. It is determined by the size of the opponent's open-raise and the pot odds on the player's position. For example, If the button opens with 3 BB, he needs both opponents on blinds to fold an average of 3/(3+1.5)=67% of the time to make an open-raise break even. If the small blind has folded, the player on the BB must build his range of defence from the pot odds and hand equity. With 1 BB already bet, he needs to put 2 BBs into a 4.5 BB pot. This means that all hands with equity to his opponent's range higher than 2/(2+4.5)= 30% must call or try in response to the attack of the button;
  2. Minimal loss rate on SB and BB. It must be accepted as a fact that only a few poker players can make a winrate on the big and small blinds, so a minus on these positions is quite normal. In theory, any win rate higher than -100 BB/100 on BB and higher than -50 BB/100 on SB is a plus defence. In practice -30 BB/100 on BB and -15 BB/100 on SB are considered normal values.

New players take things to extremes because they have neither theoretical knowledge nor enough experience to intuitively understand blinds defence. They either fold too much, giving their opponents an auto-profit, or defend too aggressively, playing wide ranges and just losing money.

#2: Not enough folds

Poker is a game of skill. This is axiomatic, as a theoretically experienced person will have a big advantage over an amateur who believes that only luck matters at the tables. But new players sometimes take this too literally and start fighting for every pot regardless of positions and spots.

The ability to fold is more important in poker than bluffing and value betting skills.

Clinging to every pot, the player falls outside the minimum ranges and can not get profit even mathematically.

This applies both pre-flop, where new players often overcall on blinds and against 3-bets, and post-op, where they are not able to part with a "nice hand" for big bets and raises. Such players are named calling stations. But it’s wrong to think that this leak is found only among beginners and amateurs. Many poker regulars don't always know how to deal with this problem either.

#3: Games on the verge of tilt

Psychology in poker is no less important than theoretical knowledge. At the early stages of a professional's career it’s even more important, because it is responsible not only for maintaining concentration, but also helps to organise all the processes related to the poker game correctly.

Poor psychological preparation also leads to tilt.

This is a state of losing control over emotions. The main cause of tilt in poker is usually a bad run with a large number of moves and coolers. The brain does not accept the possibility of such a streak and begins to resist, leading to disruptions in its functioning and irrational decisions at the tables.

The worst thing you can do in a tilt is to keep playing. In the process, it’s very difficult to identify the symptoms, and the poker player may convince himself that everything is under control. 

Mistakes made in an irritated state are often worth hours and sometimes days of work.

It is necessary to analyse the signs of tilt after sessions and make notes for the future. This will help to identify the signals early and get out of the game. Even a small pause can bring back calmness and concentration.

#4: Imaginary Play Syndrome (IPS)

Solvers have changed the way poker strategy is viewed, relegating the notions of "thinking levels" that were relevant back in the 2000s. They are still important, especially when playing against strong opponents. But in low-limit games, many people overestimate their competitors, wasting time to figure out non-existent problems.

This misconception is called "imaginary play syndrome". It’s when a player makes up his own ranges and lines of opponents and plays against a fictional image. For the most part, such an approach can lead to some serious problems. How to avoid it? There’s no middle ground, but proper use of poker HUD and work on psychology helps to minimise this issue.

#5: The overplaying of small pairs

Pocket pairs are usually divided into top pairs (AA-QQQ), medium pairs (JJ-77) and small pairs (66-22). Queens and above are purely valued hands whose main mission is to make profit through bets and raises. Medium pocket pairs require more cautious play and tend to play small pots. Low pairs have only one value in the game — the possibility of getting into three of a kind combination.

But this will happen on average only 1 time out of eight. Players make a few mistakes with them:

  • Frequent opening from early positions. These hands cannot withstand the high aggression of opponents and have close to zero fold equity, as they block almost nothing from the opponents' continuation ranges. Therefore, they can only be opened on UTG or even MP (middle position) against weak opponents on the blinds;
  • Calling on the small blind. Younger pairs seem to be too weak a hand for a 3-bet, but it can be a shame to throw it away. That's why new players often choose the next solution: a call in hope that the big blind won't squeeze. Playing without a position, even a three of a kind will rarely be realised. So purely mathematically such a game will not be profitable over the distance. That's why the general rule for pocket cards on SB is 3-bet or fold.
  • Overcalling on the postflop. Without getting into a three of a kind, players can pull small pairs one or two streets on medium and low boards. This is a bad idea, as most of the deck will make the situation worse — the player will fold those hands anyway, putting more money in the pot.

Although sometimes low pockets are good for bluff raises, you need to learn how to fold them easily.

#6: Unwillingness to develop

Procrastination in the comfort zone is another common mistake made by players who have achieved a relatively good level of income. The human brain perceives any activity that requires extra effort as unwanted. So mainly it’s difficult to force yourself to study, for e.g. poker theory, when it seems that everything is already working out.

Poker is a sport. Without progress and advanced training, a player will not stay at the same level.

But over time he is almost guaranteed to find himself behind more motivated and better prepared opponents.

Also poker is not a classic computer game that can be played to the logical end. There’s no marker to reach the top, which will give you eternal leadership. Even the best players do not allow themselves long pauses without developing and growing, because they realise that they can be overtaken by other sharks.

#7: Refusal to fold

In poker, there are mathematically based entry ranges for each position. Small deviations from them are not a mistake. They really can help players to adjust to the limits, the field, the style of opponents, etc.

The most important stats that help to identify the problem is VPIP. It’s a percentage of the frequency with which a poker player puts chips into the pot. Normal values are considered to be between 17 and 28% (good LAGs can play a little wider). 

The more combinations are added beyond these numbers, the more the poker player loses on the distance.

It’s necessary to make sure that even in tilt the ranges remain unchanged. It happens due to the fact that the most frequent reaction to the variance strikes is the addition of marginal hands, which should be folded even at preflop.

#8: Lack of mathematical training

Math and psychology are the two pillars on which poker rests. But not many people know how to separate these two entities of the game. As a result, the mathematical structure is constantly challenged.

The human mind is capable of understanding probability theory, but accepting it is a more difficult task. 

When the right action occurs, by all calculations theoretically profitable now or in the distance, and several times in a row suddenly it leads to loosings, the subconscious mind begins to resist such unfairness. In the future, the brain will save itself from negativity, abandoning the theoretically correct decision in favour of preserving emotional stability.

It’s important to carry out independent calculations to check any controversial situation. This will allow you to develop intuition, which is attributed to the top poker players. Although they simply know how to apply the information received and make fewer major leaks.

Any decision in poker can be expressed by mathematical calculations. 

The main parameter remains EV — the expected value from each action in any situation. It is important not to build in your head ready-made algorithms of behaviour, but to build logic on the comparison of this indicator when choosing different options during the game.

#9: Emotional play

Poker can greatly affect the mental state of a player. The task of a regular is to learn to cope with any manifestations of emotion. The main goals of experienced players are profit and constant growth. Everything that interferes with their achievement should fade into the background.

Although if a poker player came to the tables not for results, but for fun, no one has the right to forbid him to play the way he wants. But in this case we are talking about amateur poker, which does not require from the player intellectual abilities, strategy study, and, of course, investments.

#10: Incorrect bankroll management

Players who start earning money from poker often fall into the trap of one common consumption. Withdrawing money for a living, they repeatedly bleed the bankroll and risk being stuck for a long time on one limit (that could be higher).

From the very beginning it’s important to perceive your poker account as a tool for earning money — not as a reserve for outside spending.

The bankroll should remain untouched until withdrawing money from it is not a blow to a player's prospects. An even more common mistake is going too high. In poker skill counts, but only over the long distance. There is nothing to stop variance from taking away a dozen stacks in a single session. 

Although aggressive bankroll management is encouraged at microlimits (with a new one included) with 20-30 buy-ins in reserve, it’s recommended to use conservative bankroll management when reaching a relatively decent income. It will allow poker players to progress without emotional jumps. This table describes the structure of raising limits for this type of bankroll management:

Conservative Bankroll Management




Minimum Bankroll


























#11: A game without a strategy

Remember where it all began: for beginners, poker looked just like solitaire. Here you just need to collect combinations for minimal money. Small bets of opponents are perceived as acceptable — large ones as unpleasant. The hierarchy of combinations for you is a minor part of poker game.  The most important part of it, however, is poker strategy. Inexperienced poker players often misunderstand this term. 

Strategy is a huge complex of interconnected calculations and techniques that form a mathematical expectation. Ranges, sizings, distribution of value and bluffs, blockers and so on — each of its components affects the final result.

Many beginners try to play so-called ABC poker. This term is understood as a very straightforward strategy, oriented on collecting value from weak opponents. It can be used against amateurs because it is almost bluff-free and exploit-based tactics. 

More creative regulars will easily knock ABC players out of their comfort zone.

It will not be superfluous, for e.g., to learn the theory of equity and bluffs ratio and their distribution by ranges.

#12: Absence of leak analysis

There are no poker players who never make mistakes. But there are plenty of those who do not see their own leaks or do not believe in their existence. It’s way easier to attribute negative results to bad luck than to analyse the base and find the main poker mistakes that lead to leaks.

If there’s an opportunity to consult a more experienced colleague or poker coach, it is better to do so. Depending on the situation, an outside view is preferable to your analysis, as the brain often tries to find justification for wrong actions. An independent expert opinion will be more objective.

#13: Frequent bluffs

As a mathematical game, poker must have a justification for every decision made. This applies to the frequency of bluffing actions. Their optimal number depends on the sizings and current hand — they should be included in the ranges with proportion to the value bets.

Sometimes even experienced players get carried away by aggression and make more bluffs. This may not seem like such a big mistake in passive lineups, but a good regular who understands the mechanics of the game, will constantly make right bluffs, when it’s needed — without fanaticism.

#14: Passive game and sizings

The bigger problem than bluffs can be a lack of aggression (not an excess of it). Passive play does not bring money — obviously it’s one of the first rules to be learnt in poker training. 

New players, especially with a limited bankroll, are afraid of expensive decisions and try to avoid them. This is a huge mistake, as a lack of aggression will allow opponents to dominate every hand, knocking the player out of the game.

At the dawn of the online poker era, few people considered bet sizes as part of strategy. Minimum bets and overbets didn’t exist, and deviating from the standard 60-80% of the pot was considered a sign of a recreational player.

Nowadays you can see bets from 25% to 200% on any limit. Nobody disputes the influence of sizings on the EV of a strategy. By choosing the right size, a player can control the actual situation at the table. At the start it’s important to study the influence of sizings on pot odds and opponent's ranges, fold equity, SPR on the next streets, etc.

#15: Overestimating or underestimating opponents

Every opponent at the table can be categorised. The classification itself is a personal matter for the player. Someone divides opponents into amateurs and regulars, fishes and sharks. Someone else splits these concepts into dozens of styles and sub-styles, creating colour marks and notes.

The evaluation of opponents should be based on mathematics, not only on a minute impression after a particular hand / session. An incorrectly formed opinion can lead to underestimating or overestimating your opponent. Later it may affect your decisions against him. 

Therefore, you should force yourself to double-check the information about other participants you’re playing against. For this aim you can use ready-made hand charts and poker mining services.

#16: Playing without additional software

Most online rooms follow the principles of "poker ecology" and "green poker". This is a concept that allows players to use only their own intelligence, memory and attentiveness at the tables. Any third-party software in such rooms is prohibited.

But if a poker room does allow the use of trackers, programmes that collect and display statistics on you and other players, it’s a huge mistake to ignore this software.

If the poker player himself does not use poker HUD, opponents who use trackers will have a bigger advantage.

The best understanding of strategy in poker comes from studying solutions with the help of solvers. These programmes produce ready-made trees of calculations according to given settings.

New players are often far from understanding the importance of strategy. They only look at their own cards and the board, which makes them vulnerable to exploit by experienced poker players.

#17: Inability to stop in time

It’s better to determine the duration of the session in advance. But sometimes an unsuccessful streak leads a player into a tilt and causes a desire to win back what he has lost at any cost. In the poker community such a state is called "tilt".

Although in general a good poker player can win back even from a serious disadvantage, he will spend more time and effort on it, because the efficiency in such a situation will be lower than average. 

In tilt there is a higher probability to lose even more. We’re not even talking about winning back.

If a player realises that he is not making the right decisions, and sometimes he finds himself in an unclear spot and does not remember how he got there, it’s better to take a break or even refuse to play poker until the next day.

#18: Wrong table select

Table select is one of the most important concepts aiming to progress and move up in limits. While experience playing against strong opponents is useful in terms of learning, you should look for tables with weak players. 

Also table selecting is good for considering rake level. For example, at micro limits it’s pretty high. The selection of tables in the online room should be based on the player's rake and his VPIP.

Other common leaks

In addition to the above mentioned mistakes, the problems of players can manifest themselves in various aspects of poker mechanics. These include misunderstanding the role of position, distraction by watching poker videos during a session, overestimating nut hands (while they’re not), and many other factors, most of which we fully describe in today's topic.

As in any field, a poker player can pave the way by learning from his mistakes. But it may take too long. If the bankroll allows, it is better to turn to a school or individual coach on Getcoach. Here you can choose any suitable option. More experienced player will help to build basic logic and supervise the weaker player to learn how to eliminate leaks and improve his level. Such an approach will bring good results!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to learn?

A lot depends on the psychological characteristics of the player. Learning the theories should be reinforced by analysing the game in equity calculators. For example, working in a software like Flopzilla teaches you to think in terms of ranges, without which it’s impossible to achieve results.

Is it possible to work through all the leaks found at once?

You cannot solve all the problems instantly. To start it’s better to choose 1-2 main mistakes and work on them until they are completely fixed. After that you can move on to others.

How long does it take to fix leaks in the strategy?

Strategy correction can take months or years, but it’s a necessary stage in the development of a poker pro.

Which leaks should be eliminated first?

You need to identify the problems that affect your win rate the most. You need to fix them starting with ones that are more expensive for your bankroll.

What are the main poker mistakes at micro limits?

There is no direct answer to this question — it all depends on a player and a particular situation.

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