If I were to suggest to all of you that we need a form of constant aggression in our poker game play, a perennial deployment of reckless abandon in our game play, or, if I were to tell you that aggression must be a part of every poker hand we play, every poker game we play, then I’d be a fool; and you’d be an even bigger fool if you opted to listen to me.
Alternately, if I were to convince you that aggression will never yield a positive return on investment (ROI), then, not only would we all be fools, but the likelihood is that we’d all end up in the manure-rich pastures; our game would be on par with the ‘Farm Animals’ that we’ve methodically shipped off to the stench, muck, mire, and desperation of ‘DonkeyTown’.
Might we need a balance? Good thought! But not correct. There can never be an equal balance between aggressive and passive poker play, between bold and conservative play, between loose and tight play.
The truth is that the ‘advantaged’ player uses passive, conservative, and tight play far more often than he or she would ever use any of the respective opposites.
Also, the task of numerically quantifying the relationship between any of the ‘style of play’ options and their counterparts can’t be done.
Therefore, we need to properly select the occasions for our use of aggression, our use of bold initiatives, and our use of tactical abandon….note that I’m using the word ‘tactical’, not ‘reckless’; don’t ever confuse the two descriptors. No similarity exists between them.
Yet, a very common mistake made by many poker players is participating in the game with an overly passive approach; their game completely lacks any form of aggression….except with very strong hands. And, this approach makes their play exploitable.
Just about all ‘solid’ players will ‘pick-up’ on the overt tell, and, the ‘Only Strong Hand’ (oSH) players will be stuck in the background winning hands where the pot holds nothing more than the blinds. Clearly, you’re not going to be ‘Expanding Your Bankroll’ if you were an ‘oSH’ player.
However, nothing in the preceding paragraph is suggesting that you become an ‘aggressive maniac’.
True, a strong aggressive game puts your opponents on edge, and will make them moderately afraid of playing against you.
But, any such fear on their part is founded in their view of your table image….if it’s too aggressive, prepare yourself for a quick ‘goose-neck’ trailer ride to the nearest pasture; you’ll be broke, and you’ll be relegated to a daily routine of hiding from the resident ‘alpha’ bull. Not the most pleasant of thoughts!
So, we’ll need to selectively include aggression in our game.
We’ll need to carefully identify the appropriate timing for it’s use. We’ll need to methodically pre-establish a ‘table image’.
And, we’ll need to ordain a somewhat rigid set of guidelines; plus, at all costs, we’ll be doing everything possible to never expose our posterior to the ‘single minded’ alpha bull.
Let’s begin with the guidelines. And, since all of you are advanced poker players, since all of you are ‘advantaged’ players, I don’t believe that I have to lay out the explicit details associated with each of the ‘bullet points’ that will be listed below (with one exception(**)).
Moreover, since all of you have gone through the process of ‘Building a Bankroll‘, none of this is going to be difficult to comprehend
- Your poker chip stack is equal to or greater than the competition’s current average stack size
- Your analysis of each competitor’s style of play has been self-validated more than once
- Your seat is in post-flop late position at the table, and no one has made a post-flop bet
- Your eyes witness a dry flop texture (**), and the Small Blind/Big Blind were not limpers
Why the need for an ‘equal to’ or ‘greater than’ stack size?
Consider this: if we were to aggressively push out a post-flop ‘pot-size’ bet, and subsequently fall prey to a ‘good’ player coming ‘over the top’ (raising our bet), we want out of the hand.
The end result, a small dent to our ‘equal to’ or ‘greater than’ stack size….we can handle the loss, not a problem.
Or, if the ‘over the top’ bettor is timid, is fearful of us, we have the ability to re-raise from what is a decent sized chip stack.
The end result, a likely ‘fold’ by the individual who raised, and an increase to our stack of chips.
Alternately, if he/she re-raises, it’s definitely time to fold, take the loss in stride, and move on with what is now a somewhat smaller stack; albeit still sizable enough to effectively compete in the upcoming hands.
We lost! So what! It’s poker! We’ll take an ‘A’ for effort, and an ‘F’ for results….but, dollars to donuts says that the latter won’t happen very often; at least it’s not been my experience.
Take note, however, that the play described above is directed at a ‘timid’ player, a player who we believe is afraid of our game….as such, most of the time, he/she is going to fold.
Why the need for our competitor’s style of play to have been self-validated more than once?
Simply stated, we should always know as much as possible about our opponents.
They might be TA (tight aggressive), LG (loose aggressive), PW (passive weak), PS (passive solid), or any of another dozen or so descriptors.
And, as referenced above, if we didn’t know that we were playing against a timid individual, our re-raise would have been totally ineffective.
Why the need for a seat in post-flop late position at the table, and the fact that no one has made a post-flop bet? Again, simply stated, late position is the best seat at the table; we’re last to act.
Plus, any bet that’s been made into us may well serve as a notice that the bettor has seen a flop that fills well with his pocket cards.
Thus, appropriately, we now get to discuss ‘Flop Texture’ (**)….especially, a ‘dry’ Flop Texture.
Why the need for a ‘dry’ Flop Texture, and the fact that both the Small Blind and Big Blind were both NOT limpers? Let’s deal with the latter first.
Either of these two players, when they have ‘limped’ into the pot, could be holding rag/rag.
And, as you’ll come to recognize, when the ‘Flop Texture’ parallels ‘dung frisbees’, one of them could be sitting with two pair.
Need I say more?
We don’t want to put aggression into play when there is a distinct possibility that someone has hitched a ride on the ‘Big Blind Special’….the two pairs have given that person a first-class seat; and we may well be in a ‘standing room only’ ticketed area deep within the confines of the trains cattle cars….where, the alpha bull could easily have opted to partake of a day trip riding the ‘high iron’.
To relate with the former, ‘Flop Texture’, the earlier mentioned exception that I wanted to detail, we need to develop an understanding of the term’s meaning.
And, of significance, “Flop Texture” is not familiar to many players.
It essentially means ‘how coordinated is the post-flop board’.For example:
- Are there straight draws, flush draws, or overcards?
- Does the flop fit well with your opponents’ playing style?
- And, most importantly, was it a ‘dry’ flop? Meaning, ‘near useless’ to your competitors; something like 27J rainbow.
Clearly, if you happen to be holding pocket jacks, or ace/jack, and the dry flop of 27J rainbow fortuitously hits the board….well, that’s a ‘very’ dry flop: there are no straight draws, there are no flush draws, there are no overcards, and you hold top pair/top kicker, or a set.
Consequently, it’s unlikely anyone will be holding a hand that would justify a call to a pot-size bet.
Or, anyone who does call a pot-size bet is doing so from a terribly disadvantaged position; frankly, the person who calls likely got a day-pass from the ‘Farm Animal’ confines, and is looking to validate his ‘permanent pasture residence’ status. And, we’re gonna’ be fairly happy to punch his pass, and send his ass hee-hawing back to ‘DonkeyTown’.
Yet, caution hangs in what we might believe to be the unpleasant odorous farm air currently drifting through the area….since the caller could hold a set of two’s, or a set of seven’s.
And, if we do, in fact, hold pocket ace/jack, and, if we do, in fact, know the playing style of our opponent (suggesting that he regularly limps with low pocket pairs), our top pair/top kicker has almost no chance of winning the hand (we’d need runner-runner JJ, or runner-runner AA; watch out for the bull….like the NoPayPoker Moderators, he’s always lurking!).
At this point, I want to add ‘Continuation Bets’ and ‘Suited Connectors’ to our understanding of aggression.
And, a ‘best bet’ for garnering an absolute comprehension of ‘Continuation Bets’ would come to you in Dan Harrington’s book “Harrington On Hold-Em’, plus Doyle Brunson’s book ‘Super System’ (either version 1 or version 2).
But, for now, I’ll say no more on CB’s, do a little reading….after all, you’re in the game to win money.
Plus, we ought to make a minor change to our Playable Pockets Matrix (PPM) regarding late-position ‘Suited Connectors’….like 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, 7/8. 8/9, and 9/T (I often refer to them as ‘Paint Killers’).
With only ‘limpers’ in the pot, they do possess a Positive Expected Value (+EV); when the cost to see the flop is only the value of the Big Blind.
Contingent on the composition of the flop, we’ll often find ourselves in situations where our ‘Paint Killers’ permit both Pot Odds and Implied Odds to become major considerations; necessitating some quick arithmetic on our part.
Remember, we have a never-ending quest for those rare opportunities where Pot Odds give us a 40% or greater advantage, and we’re almost always interested in Implied Odds of more than 35 to 1.
Best of Luck at the Tables,
by D. M. Vadnais
(c) copyright; March, 2010; no reproduction, all rights reserved by D. M. Vadnais
Part 3 of Advanced Poker Strategies will be released June 20th. Keep an eye on the NoPayPOKER Free Poker Blog or NoPayPOKER Facebook page for it. If this was a bit heavy going for you and you want to learn to play online poker go back to the Building a Poker Bankroll series. This combined with free play poker practice on NoPayPOKER is the perfect way to learn to play poker for free, no risk of losing money but you can still win it.