Poker Aggression

It is becoming more and more clear that playing an aggressive style of poker is what is necessary to win at cash games and tournaments, whether it be offline or online. In this article we’ll discuss why aggression should be the focal point of your strategy, as well as specific examples of how you can learn to play more aggressive poker.

The mistake that many poker players make is they are either too aggressive and struggle with timing their aggressive plays, or they are far too passive. The reality is that you need to find a balance between the two extremes.

When you take a passive approach to the game of poker, it relies on making hands in order to take down pots, since you will need to have the best hand at showdown. At loose passive tables, many hands get to showdown.

On the flip side, aggressive tables rarely see a showdown, with lots of pots not going past the flop or turn, unless two or more players have strong hands, in which case the pot grows and will get to a showdown.

The main point worth mentioning about this is that an aggressive style of poker, whereby you are doing lots of betting and raising, will open the door to winning more pots, as it doesn’t require always making a hand.

Even beginning players can understand the importance of poker aggression, but where a lot of amateur players get it wrong is they turn up the aggression full throttle, trying to bully opponents out of the pot at every opportunity. Don’t make this mistake! You don’t want to get personal at the poker table. There needs to be a reason for the aggression.

Winning in poker isn’t about winning the most pots, it’s about winning the most amount of money. So you need to find the right balance of taking the betting lead in hands you decide to play, and knowing when to slow down and let go of hands when everything suggests your opponent has a hand that they aren’t folding.

For the most part, an aggressive poker strategy involves betting aggressively when you expect to have the best hand, but want to protect your hand from draws that can get there on the turn or river. You also want to get maximum value from worse made hands that can call.

An aggressive playing style and approach to the game is also useful in trying to get your opponents to fold better hands. This is most commonly done on the flop in the form of a continuation bet when you’ve missed the flop. This play works well because when you were the pre-flop raiser, you can credibly represent a hand on the flop.

When you think about poker aggression, the first thing that usually comes to mind is betting and raising. A big part of an aggressive poker strategy is raising pre-flop instead of limping in. In 6-max poker games online, which tend to play more aggressively than full ring, you will rarely see players limping into pots.

By raising before the flop, not only does it give the player the initiative in the hand after the flop, it helps to narrow down the field. The fewer the number of players that are involved in the pot, the less likely it will be that a player actually makes a hand on the flop. So when there is only one or two other pre-flop callers, it’s going to be much easier to continue on the flop to try and take it down right there and then even when you have nothing yourself.

Being aggressive in position is basically going to be printing money. Not only does it accomplish the things mentioned above, you’re also guaranteed position in the hand after the flop, and so will get to act last on future betting rounds. This is going to give you a lot of information about the strength of your opponent’s hands, and so can better figure out if it’s worthwhile considering a positional bluff.

More often that not, straightforward players will play far too passively, and will call when they make a hand and fold when they miss, so the majority of the time they will be check/folding flops, since it’s difficult to make hands in no limit hold’em. Hence, the reason that aggressive players can exploit this weak/tight play.

Constantly stealing pots with weak hands is vital in the game of poker, but also hugely important is the indirect effect of this aggressive play. Since you are always looking to put the pressure on your opponents, you will begin to get less credit for actually having a hand, so when you do finally wake up with a monster hand, there is a much greater likelihood of actually getting paid off.