Understanding The Mindset Required For Optimal Aggressive Poker Strategy
July 15, 2015 Leave a Comment
As poker players, we are constantly seeking profitable opportunities to exploit our opponents, with the goal of experiencing a profit.
In the long-run, these high percentage plays in the short-run, will ultimately manifest themselves as positive results, and overall profit margin.
As we become more comfortable and experienced at the tables. we should be seeking to employ a strategy that will generate the maximum expected profit in the long-run.
Having been a competitive poker player for over 7 years, I find that the most optimal approach and strategy encompasses as much aggression as possible.
If we want to maximize our win rate, we need to play aggressive, and constantly keep our opponents guessing. A hyper-aggressive approach to the game of poker creates a lot of confusion for our opponents, and in turn, this confusion creates more opportunities for these opponents to make fatal mistakes.
Fatal Mistakes in Poker
Our goal at the poker table is to bust our opponents. We want to accumulate our opponents chips, while subsequently protecting our chips from being taken from them.
There are various strategies we can employ in order to achieve this objective, but only one approach creates the opportunity to maximize our profit in the long-run. You can be a winning poker player by sticking with a tight-aggressive strategy, but if you are looking to take your game to the next level, you must become aggressive as possible.
The Flaws of a Tight-Aggressive Strategy
Playing tight-aggressive will net you a profit in poker. By simply waiting for good hands, and betting them for value, you will generate a profit from certain opponents, mainly at the lower stakes of the game.
The one major flaw with playing a tight-aggressive strategy is the fact that you will not get as much value for your strong hands from other solid opponents. Strong, skilled opponents will realize that when you bet, you have the goods, and will simply not pay you off.
You will be able to bluff successfully in certain situations, but these situations will not compensate for the amount of potential profit you are leaving on the table by playing tight, safe, and not willing to take risks.
Weak opponents are going to pay you off regardless if you are playing tight, or extremely aggressive. A majority of weak opponents are only concerned about the strength of their own hand, without considering the strength of their opponents potential holdings.
We can expect, with a large frequency, these opponents will pay us off when they have any type of hand. What most tight-aggressive poker players fail to consider is the reality of how rare these situations will arise during a specific session.
During a session of poker, we will be dealt weak starting cards a majority of the time. A tight-aggressive approach calls for a lot of folding pre-flop, and only getting involved in pots when we have a strong starting hand.
Tight-aggressive players fold close to 80-90% of their hands pre-flop, leaving only 20% of the hands they are dealt as potential for making profit.
On the contrary, super-aggressive poker players are willing to play almost every hand they are dealt, albeit aggressively, by betting, raising, and re-raising.
Note that aggressive players are usually dictating the action in the hand, by betting or raising. They are rarely checking, and calling, unless they are hoping to trap their opponent into making errors when they have a good hand.
The Benefits of a Hyper-Aggressive Strategy
I recently played a 2/5 cash game session at Parx Casino in Bethlehem, PA.
My goal for this session was to play as fast and aggressive as possible, regardless of the cards I was dealt. I wanted the entire table to notice how crazy and wild I was playing, in hopes that they would pay me off when I did indeed have a big hand.
I would say that I was the initial raiser in almost 75-80% of the hands I was dealt, throughout the session. I wanted to create the image of being a complete maniac, all while knowing I am very comfortable playing any type of hand, against any opponent, in any position, with any type of stack size.
When the action was folded around to me in middle or later positions, I would make a standard raise to $15 if I was going to play the pot. If someone had raised behind me, I would choose certain hands to call pre-flop that would have the opportunity to flop big, and give me the potential to stack my opponent.
The session started off very well, and I was able to pick up a lot of pots uncontested, without ever having to go to showdown and show the hands I was raising with.
About an hour into the session, I picked up 4-4 in the cutoff, and raised to $15.
My opponent to my direct left, who was chatting with me the whole game, decided to raise to $50.
I started the session with the standard buy-in of $500, and at this point, I was around $750-800 effectively. My opponent had over $1000 in front of him.
I elected to flat call his raise of $50, in hopes of flopping a set, and taking his entire stack if he too had a big hand. This strategy is known as “set mining”, and with deep stacks, we always want to try to flop a set, as we will win our opponents entire stack a good percentage of the time.
As “luck” would have it, the flop comes down 3-4-K rainbow, a dream flop for my 4-4 hand. I check, and allow my opponent to keep betting into the pot. I assume my opponent has a strong starting hand, such as a big pocket pair or A-K.
There are times that we want to lead out this flop by betting, but my read on my opponent was that he was going to eventually get his entire stack in the middle if he had A-K, or A-A. We also give him the opportunity to bluff at the pot by checking, and he will bet his hands that missed this flop almost 100% of the time.
We will always have to re-evaluate our plan depending on the texture of the turn card.
My opponent bets $85 into a pot of about $125, and I think for a few seconds, then call.
The turn comes a 9, and I think for a few more seconds before casually checking over to my opponent. He thinks for a while, then bets $175. I ponder for close to a minute, then decide to call. I want to give him the intention that I have a decent hand, but he has me beat.
I want him to put me on K-Q, K-J, K-10, hands that would raise, and then call a raise preflop without re-raising.
Because the stacks are so deep, I want my opponent to bet the river big, and have no choice but to put the rest in the middle when I raise as he is “pot committed” by having a majority of his stack already in the middle.
The river comes a meaningless 2, and I think for a few seconds, before checking again. My opponent thinks, then bets $250 into a pot of $655. He is making a small bet in hopes of being called by a weaker hand.
He is giving me a good price to call with K-Q, K-J, or any other 1 pair hand I may have that he has beat. Obviously, he could also have K-K-K, or 9-9-9, and have us beat, but this is only a small part of his “hand range.”
I have set my opponent up perfectly, as my check-raise on the river is for my entire remaining stack, which is only $500-ish. He will only have to call another $250 into a pot of close to $1250 currently. He is getting 5-1 on a call, and simply can’t fold.
He is almost positive I have him beat at this point, but he claims “I have aces, I have to call.”
I sit motionless with my head down as he decides to slide the rest of his chips in, and then I show him the bad news once he makes the final call.
He knocks the table and says nice hand, and proceeds to reload another $500.
The only reason I was able to extract as much value as I did from this opponent in this specific hand was the fact that I have been playing so aggressively the entire session, that everyone wants to get back and me, and bust me.
Myself and my opponent had a lot of history before this hand, with me showing him a huge bluff on a river where I knew he missed a draw. I could tell that he would want to get involved with me in every pot I was in from that point on, and I was fortunate to flop a great hand in a great spot, and take all of his chips.
These “cooler” situations don’t happen very often, but when they do, we have the capability of extracting maximum value, rather than winning a smaller pot. This is due to our opponents being not being able to read our hand strength because we have been betting and raising constantly.
If we have been playing tight, and all of a sudden we are putting a lot of chips into the pot, odds are we have a very strong hand. As a super-aggressive player, we keep our opponents guessing as to the strength of our hand, and we force them to make bad decisions when we have the best of it.
Ironically, in this specific hand, we did not play the aggressor, rather we let our opponent with the inferior hand play the aggressor.
When we have a tendency to push our opponents around by betting and raising, eventually they want to do the same to bust you. I was able to find a fortunate situation to exploit maximum value, all due to the fact that I had been playing a maniac style that frustrated a lot of opponents at the table.
When you give a lot of action, you tend to get a lot in return. The more action we get, the more chances we create for our opponents to make a fatal mistake.
More mistakes from opponents = more profit for us.
For more poker related articles, visit our extensive poker strategy section for more useful tips and advice.
Good luck at the tables! 🙂