Author: Nick Laurrell
If you’ve ever looked into prevailing poker expertise, one word seems to pop up over and over again – aggression. From Doyle Brunson to Barry Greenstein, from Wild Bill Hickok to Stu Ungar, an aggressive poker player is a good poker player. The rationale behind this is easy enough to follow – if you are going to make money playing poker than you have to win without the best poker hand. The only way to do that is to push people off better hands with strategically aggressive bets.
Of course, there is a problem when you bet with the worst hand – you can get called by the best one. The following are a few bits of advice to help you become a more aggressive player without falling into the trap of recklessness.
The Flop and Beyond: So you’re Heads up in a hand, the flop has hit and you’ve got nothing. How to take the pot? First of all, if you’ve followed any of the pre-flop advice you should be in a good position against a disadvantaged opponent. Following up correctly on the pre-flop bets you’ve made is the next step.
1. The Follow: Depending on who called your raise and what came on the flop, you’re either looking to bet out again or check raise. On the flop, tight players are very susceptible to large re-raises while loose players are usually still so enamored by the prospect of more action that they’ll bet with any two cards. So what is the right sized bet on the flop? Rather than using big blinds as the common measure, now you want to start using the size of the pot. If you have position on a tight player who has checked, a bet of 2/3 the size of the pot is just big enough to push him out of the pot and if he is trapping you then you can also get away from the hand without losing all of your chips. If the tight player bets out, look to triple his bet in a re-raise if you can afford it (affording it would mean that you would still have 70%-80% of your stack after the bet.) If the flop has come with an Ace and possible draws (straight and/or flush) and he bets out strong (more than the size of the pot) then you can be pretty sure that he has an Ace and is trying to push you off of a potential draw. Otherwise, attack. As for loose players, you usually want to let them bluff at the pot a couple of times before you come over the top. Generally speaking, look for a big re-raise after the turn, especially if you have them out-chipped.
2. Don’t be Afraid of the Flop: Fear can do funny things to a poker player. It can paralyze and halt all betting but it can also cause an opposite reaction, where a player feels they have to overcome their fear with all-in bets. Use your poker chips sparingly but aggressively – you seldom have to go all-in. It is important to both have courage on the flop and bet, but to have enough sense to not put your entire stack at stake. Look at how many chips your opponent has and figure out a way to put pressure on them to make a tough decision.
3. Keep Firing: If you have bluffed at a pot and your opponent has just called you, keep betting! Unless you are positive that you are being trapped, you need to bet at the turn and should it get there, the river. This is imperative for two major reasons: 1, you could still win the pot and 2, you don’t want the table to see you as a player who will only bet once at a pot. Once the players at the table think that you are the type of the player who will back down after being called, then you can be sure that you are going to be called a whole lot more.
The name of the game in poker is recognizing your opponent and taking advantage of circumstances. There is rarely anything that can be accomplished by an all-in bluff that a pot-sized one couldn’t have done. And on top of that, if you are a player who continually goes all-in, you can bet that another player at the table will pick up on that and set you up. Aggression is a necessary part of taking advantage of a circumstance – recklessness is not.
About the Author:
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