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November 17, 2009
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Poker Lesson: Using Aggression Wisely
Author: David Oppenheim
In the game of Hold ‘em, especially No Limit, aggression is usually rewarded. By being aggressive, you are putting your opponent in an uncomfortable situation and forcing him to either make a hand or make a bluff. You take over control of the pot and put yourself in the driver’s seat.
And yet, for as much good as aggression can do, I still see far too many players either being too aggressive or misusing aggression altogether. Aggression is one of the biggest tools a poker player has, but it needs to be used wisely at all times.
For instance, I see a lot of young players getting out of line and being overly aggressive with hands like A-Q and A-J. They put in huge raises with these hands thinking they’re making a smart move, but really they’re just scaring the dead money away. There are so many bad players in tournaments these days that there’s just no excuse for not being patient – eventually these players will make a mistake and ship you a lot of chips. There’s no need to risk such a large portion of your stack with a hand like that.
Many newer players are guilty of misusing aggression. They see their favorite player on TV pulling off a huge bluff or dominating their table with aggression, and they want to follow suit. The problem is that these newer players really have no idea how to be aggressive. You can’t just be randomly aggressive and hope to take control of the action; your aggression needs to be calculated.
Knowing when to be aggressive is something that comes with time and experience. If you lack that knowledge and have no feel for the game you’re playing, that aggression is going to come back to haunt you.
I would advise all newer players not to focus their game on aggression at first. You want to start out by playing solid, ABC poker. Focus on the basics and, when you have those down, you can start thinking about bringing aggression into your game.
Being aggressive in poker is a very fine art. Watching a player like Phil Ivey at the poker table can be every bit as awe inspiring as looking at a Picasso. But players like Ivey have honed their aggression over time, using their experience at the tables to shape the way they play. Put in your time at the tables, and you too may one day paint a masterpiece.
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