The Guide to Aggressive Poker Playing

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Every poker player has his unique style of playing — some players bluff, some are aggressive, some are loose, while some are passive and conservative. However, most poker players choose aggression over a passive style, because it is commonly believed that aggressive poker players win more than the passive ones.

On the other hand, although there are many advantages of playing an aggressive game, a large number of amateur aggressive players fall flat on their faces because they don’t know how to use this style to their advantage.

Before we understand what these players have been doing wrong, lets try to understand why an aggressive approach to poker has been a favorite amongst most poker players.

  • Aggressive playing can force your opponent to fold even if he has a good hand. It leads your opponent to believe that you have a great hand, because of which they end up making a wrong move.
  • Such aggressive playing helps you lose a lot of opponents on the way. You bully them by raising and re-raising, giving them no choice but to fold. This leaves such an impact that your opponents may remember you at the next game as well.
  • With an aggressive game you can increase the pot size. Those who quit will usually just do that, but those who want to continue playing with you have to bet more every time you raise. Therefore, if you have a good pair of cards, you can make a killing at the cost of those who wouldn’t fear you.
  • Just like the way you’re monitoring your opponents, they continue to observe you too; and a few games down, they will eventually learn that you are an aggressive player and that you can’t possibly have the best hand every time. So does it mean it’s the end of the drama you pulled off so well? Not really. You can use this perception to your advantage. Your opponents will start giving you less credit as the game progresses and might even start calling you with the hope of catching your bluff. That’s not going to happen, unless you aren’t playing a calculated game.

Aggression is more of a personal characteristic; if you are an extremely passive person by nature, turning aggressive for a poker game and holding it throughout the game is going to be extremely difficult. In such a case, you can play passive style poker. However, if you would still like to play aggressively, you need to practice a lot. That’s because even an aggressive person by nature can cause serious damage to his bankroll if he is inexperienced and doesn’t know how to use aggression to his advantage.

How your aggression can turn against you

Some amateurs believe that they can just drive all the other players off the table by playing hardball and take home the pot. This might work while playing with other amateur players, but it will definitely not work at a professional level. Aggression is a style of playing, not the key to success. You can use it to your advantage, but you can’t make it your sole strategy all the time.

Here are reasons why people fail while playing aggressively:

  • Playing with nothing – you have the worst cards possible and a dozen tells; and you continue to bet, raise, and re-raise.
  • You play without a good strategy in place.

Let’s look at the places where you can play aggressively and how:

  • Every player wants to increase the pot size. Therefore, you really don’t want to scare your opponents away when you can make more by keeping them in the pot — assuming you have a good hand. In other words, if you have a bad hand, you can either fold or try to get everyone else to fold. But if you have good cards, driving opponents away only reduces your winning amount. Therefore, you should wait until they are all in and then slowly raise the stakes. One more advantage of increasing the pot size is that your opponents will always be tempted to stick around longer, which means even more fun and money for you.
  • Every player wants to play aggressively, so if they have a good pair of cards, they will give you more than a hint by raising all the time. So unless you have really good cards, it may be time to play smart and fold – unless you have pegged someone’s bluff.
  • If you happen to be in blind and your opponent opens with a raise, it is important you study him. If you are playing online poker, it is not possible to read his face, but it is possible to calculate the time he takes between opening his card and raising, and that’s a lot more accurate than reading the face. If he takes too much time, you can be sure that he hands will fare poorly, and you can immediately re-raise him. However, if his playing history shows that he is known to use this sign as a reverse tell, act accordingly and change your strategy.
  • The time you take to bet or raise is important. If you can give your opponents one of the following impressions: slow moves = bad cards, fast moves = good cards, you can very easily reverse them to your advantage. One way to see if you’ve made this impression is to check this: you play slow, and your opponent re-raises really fast — it could be because he thinks that you have bad cards. (Note your opponent right from the start of the game, if he is all jumpy and has been raising without giving up throughout the round, it could possibly mean he has good cards.)
  • One other place you can play aggressively is when your opponent fails to raise on the turn. If the last card doesn’t have danger written all over it, you can go ahead and bet; you probably have the better hand.

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