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Aggressive play wins big pots

Article By: RuffPoker.com

In any form of Texas holdem poker the successful players are those who play with aggression. It is a common theme in poker and the reason why 90% of people fail to make a profit, that they play passively, limping along, hoping to hit cards, failing to realise the potential of their hands, failing to dictate terms through an aggressive table image. Aggressive play wins big pots, it is a very simple concept, but very difficult to act out. The more aggressive you can be, whilst remaining tight and disciplined with your calling/folding the better your chances of success.

It is the most important approach in the game of poker. It allows you to set the tone for the table, make people react to you as opposed to you being the defensive one reacting to them. It also makes it impossible for people to predict your hand based on your folding/calling/raising habits.

It is very important to appreciate that aggressive play is not the same as loose play. Playing loose means playing far too many hands, limping into flops and hoping to hit cards when the pot odds suggest you should walk away. Being loose also means not concentrating on table position and others table image. An aggressive style of poker means you do much more folding and raising. Instead of limping in with OK hands, you fold, instead of calling with decent hands you raise, instead of 1x raising with A/A, A/K – AJ you 3x or 4x raise. You make statements of intent, you dictate terms, and you get people on the back foot.

Of course, aggressive tight play means being much more selective with your hands. You have to fold much more than a loose player would and you pressure the table with big raises when you do get a decent opening hand/outs. Simply put it is more important to win big pots, than it is to be in on everything and win more small pots.

The best situations to play with an aggressive style are in late position, pre flop. Here you know you are always going to be last to act and if all the table has simply called there are good reasons to raise the bet. First and foremost it gets everybody’s attention that you are holding a good hand, and as you are last to act post flop you will be unlikely to see any betting from those before you even once the flop has been shown. That is because your opponents are cautious and defensive to what you may have. Playing aggressively pre flop also opens up more opportunities to bluff and steal. For example, you are in late position with a decent hand, J/10 suited. There are 3 or 4 callers in front of you. Here it is worth making a raise of about 3x the blind. Most people around the table will think you are holding a good picture pair or something along the lines of A/x, K/Q suited. Now say the flop comes K/4/5. It will take a brave player to make a bet before you knowing you raised pre flop. Even if they are holding A K. If they do, and it’s a big bet then you can safely lay down, but what is going to happen 99% of the time is that it will get checked to you. Here you can make a solid bet, 75% of the pot. Everyone will assume you hit ‘another’ K even though you have nothing. You will only see people call who are holding a K and even then they may lay down unless it is a K with a solid kicker. This is the advantage of aggressive betting, people react to you.

When you play an aggressive style of poker, particularly pre flop you will also see pots get bigger, quicker, hence more worthwhile. Leaving all the little pots with minimal to no value to the other players to squabble over. By upping the stakes in a selective manner you force your opponents to come in on the action with more than they planned to put in.

It is also beneficial to be aggressive when you think that the flop has helped nobody, or when the flop has scared everybody away from making a move. Again this is best acted out from late position. You can’t make a bet from early/middle position with Q/Q if the flop shows an A or a K, but if the flop comes A/A/7 and everybody checks it is worth making a bet of a considerable size. Of course everybody ‘should’ fold if they don’t hold an A, and if there is a subsequent caller you pretty much know unless you get a Q on the turn you are beat. But again, your aggressive style pre flop, and now post flop looks very good for your table image.

Particularly at lower stakes tables, you will see a lot of limping and calling. People aren’t brave enough to show aggression, or don’t know the benefits of position. Most will check in the hope of seeing a further card. This is dangerous if you allow it to happen. In poker you need to limit the number of players in on a hand because at some point somebody will hit on something. That is of course unless you have a monster, which is the dream scenario and a slow play can be acted out. At higher stakes tables the art of aggression is much more to the fore. Rarely does the hand go down to the showdown, players fold what many a player would consider to be great hands.

Aggression wins the day in poker. When you play with caution you allow other players to stay in hands and you allow other aggressive players to control the table. Show aggressive intent, only play for pots that are worthwhile, and up the stakes when it is your chance to bully.