Have you noticed how players always seem to repeat their mistakes? I can think of a myriad of players who can be relied on to over-bet two high pairs at seven stud, or bluff-raise a four flush draw at Hold 'em, or pump a pair of aces at Omaha as if they were hooked to a life support machine.

A basic error which many novice players commit is to slow-play (under- bet) a strong hand. This simply gives their opponents the gift of "free" cards to draw out on them. Here is a recent case. Reg, who evidently fancied himself as a seven card stud player, found trip deuces on fourth street, and set out to tempt Igor, who everyone knew was a terrible player.

Reg: (&A-22) !2 42

Igor: (?-?) 210 &7

Reg checked and Igor bet the pot, pounds 7. Reg ever so reluctantly called. To me, his trip deuces were flashing like the lights in Piccadilly Circus, but no matter. On fifth street, no visible improvement to either hand. Igor chose to bet pounds 20, and Reg again made a slow call, luring his opponent on, whereas a re-raise at this point was mandatory. On sixth street, Reg checked yet again, but this time Igor checked along. It was obvious that Igor was pulling to a straight draw and Reg was hoping to turn his trips into a full house.

But now, before even looking at his last card, dealt face down, Reg waded in with a pot-sized bet of pounds 60. This was the worst possible way to bet. Igor (even he) will call only if he has made his hand. Which he duly did. If Reg had been trying to lose his money on purpose he could not have played it worse. Reg would almost certainly have won the pot, then and there, if he had bet his trips on fourth, or certainly fifth street. If Igor chose to call, as knowing him he might have done, he would have had to pay for the chance of drawing out.

Moral: better a small win than a big loss. Slow play your hand only if your opponent has virtually no chance of improving; or ideally, your hand is so strong you do not fear an outdraw.