Aggression in poker

As Stu Ungar once said, “aggression is the nuts”.

Indeed Stu was one of the first player to know how to use aggression in No-Limit Texas Hold’em Poker, and now his aggressive style of play has been copied by thousands of live and online players. There is no doubt that given the alternative of playing passively or aggressively, the aggressive style wins in a landslide.

This is not so clear with respect to playing tight or loose, as both styles have their merits, and ideally the best style is to mix these styles and to adapt. But with respect to aggression, it is almost always better than passivity.

Hot to deploy aggression in poker

Now that we know that aggression is a must in no-limit holdem, the skill is to know how to deploy it. A sure way to decrease your bankroll is to lose control of your aggression. You need to learn how to channel your aggression into a position of advantage, and not to go on tilt with misdirected aggression.

Aggression must use good timing and be targeted. It works best in heads-up or short-handed situations, in late stage of tournaments and against passive players. Good table selection can also help funneling your poker aggression to the right place.

First, aggression should target the weakest players. If you play a hand versus a maniac, aggression is useless and may in fact work against you, because if you bet he will fold or raise, putting you and not him in the tough spot. You should prefer to use aggression versus weak tight passive players. Because they will fold often and let you collect chips, and if they raise you can be assured that they have a strong hand.

The key point is that roughly speaking there are two types of players based on how they respond to aggression. The weak ones who will fold most of the times unless they have a strong hand. The strong ones who do not like to be bullied and who will play back at you.

The typical example is that if you try to steal too much, the strong players will 3-bet you from the button rather sooner than later, whereas a weak player may not 3-bet you once in an entire session.

Second, aggression works best against a smaller group of players. This is why it should be used in late position when first in the pot or in short-handed games such as at the final table of a tournament when a few players have already been eliminated. The reason is that you have less chance to face a player with a real hand in a heads-up case than in a multi-way pot.

Why to use aggression in poker

There are a number of scenarios when aggression is particularly efficient.

Aggression let you charge players for their draws. Bet or raise with your strong hands in order to make it costly for your opponents to attempt draws against you. By not betting your strong hands, you give them a “free card” which is bad play. Do not be afraid to lose more chips if they hit. This is the nature of poker, but not betting is wrong.

Ironically you can use aggression to get free cards yourself. Create an aggressive somewhat loose table image and your opponents will be more likely to check rather than initiating the betting. They will check by fear of a raise, and will also check sometimes in an attempt to trap you with their strong hands (this is how passive players respond to aggression). This works perfectly when you flop a draw, because you love to be checked in these spots, and to get a free card.

Another thing to consider is that your aggression will force your opponents to make more straightforward plays against you. This is because players tend to play more straightforward when they are against what appears to be a strong hand. They will bluff less, fold all of their weak hands and only continue playing their strongest hands. Hence they will get more transparent. Bingo.

Aggression is the style of the winners. Try it to gain a major advantage over your competition. Passivity is for losers.

If you want to make money from your aggression, try Everest Poker as there are still many passive players who constantly join that poker room.