Be aggressive, but play smart
October 17, 2018 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
As poker players, we all have traits that can significantly impact our results at the poker table. These range from playing tight to loose, and from passive (rarely raising) to various degrees of aggression.
There are also deceptive players and calling-stations. In addition to your opponents’ playing traits, it is important to consider your own, and be prepared to make appropriate adjustments to your advantage – depending on the situation.
Let’s focus on aggressiveness – a common trait among poker players. Some degree of aggression is quite appropriate. However, you can be more or less aggressive – depending on the situation. There are times when playing more aggressively would be to your benefit – and vice versa. Failing to recognize such situations can cost lots of chips. For instance, smart players will always consider the option of bluffing – a form of aggressive play – when it could very well be to their advantage.
For example, there will be many opportunities while playing Texas hold’em to decide when and how to adjust your level of aggressiveness – so you can win more and bigger pots.
Being dealt pocket Aces (A-A) is every player’s dream. It will happen to you, on average, only one out of 221 hands dealt; about once during a seven-hour session. The laws of probability pronounce that your A-A will become an underdog if four or more opponents stay to see the flop with you. (Underdogs are more likely to lose than win.)
Your goal is to thin the playing field so your A-A is more likely to hold up. It would be just fine if two or three opponents stayed in to help build the pot for which you are the favorite. Pre-flop, in a middle/late position, before acting, observe how many opponents have limped to see the flop. If two or more do so, your raise would be appropriate.
However, some caution: in an early position with pocket Aces, being aggressive and raising could force all of your opponents to fold their hands – especially in a tight game. You cannot win any money without any opponents. Consider the types of players yet to act. With several loose or aggressive opponents, your raise is not likely to force all of them out, thereby leaving you with a few opponents while thinning the field (to your benefit). That’s being properly aggressive.
A special case – Many casinos offer a bonus during certain hours when Pocket-Aces-Cracked can earn a bonus of $100. You must lose that hand to earn the bonus. The wise (winning) poker player will usually slow-play his hand; just check or call along. The more opponents remaining in the pot, the more likely one (or more) will beat your pocket Aces – so you gain the big bonus. Consider betting/raising if there is only one opponent remaining in the pot – just in case he does not catch a hand that will beat your A-A. (Also, in $4-$8 limit hold’em, for the Pocket-Aces-Cracked bonus, there must be at least $20 in the pot at the showdown.)
A smart (i.e winning) poker player knows his own playing traits – as well as those of each opponent. A loser neglects to recognize this – a costly mistake. For example, with A-A in the hole, there is a time to play more aggressively either to build the size of the pot or to thin the field. Going for the Pocket-Aces-Cracked bonus, a winning player will avoid being aggressive, hoping to lose the pot so as to gain the bonus instead.
However, if the chance of being beat seems unlikely, he or she reverts to a high level of aggressiveness to build the pot size he is most likely to win on the showdown. Failing to do so can be costly. There are many more situations when a player ought adjust his level of aggressiveness. Always be aware of who you’re playing against, as well as yourself.