Aggressive Poker Play

If selective play is clearly correct, what about aggressive play? Consider the passive player. He seldom bets unless he has an unbeatable hand - and nobody holds the mortal nuts all that often. Most of the time you'll find yourself in pots where you believe, but aren't absolutely certain, that you have the best hand. Even when you are 100 percent certain that yours is the best hand at the moment, you must always consider the odds that it could be beaten by the cards to come.

For example, suppose you have Jc-Ts, and on the turn, the board shows 9h-8d-7h-Qc. While you have the best hand now, you could lose if a heart falls on the river and completes a flush for one of your opponents. If your opponents keep checking and calling, one of them might well be on a heart draw. The worst thing you can usually do is give your opponent a chance to draw out at no cost by letting him have a free card. After all, with a free card there is no risk, only the potential for a large reward if a miracle card falls, giving him the best hand.

Here's another example. You hold Ac-Ks, and for the sake of this scenario we'll imagine you knew with absolute certainty that your opponent held Ad-Th. At the turn, the board was As-Jd-Kd-8c. Your opponent is drawing at four cards that can beat you. If a queen comes on the river he will make a straight and beat your two pair. If you give him a free card he risks nothing, yet will win whenever one of those four queens falls on the river. With 44 unknown cards in the deck your opponent is bucking 10-to-1 odds. He is a real longshot. But if you don't make him pay for the chance to draw out on you he stands to lose nothing and gain all.

Now imagine you're playing that same hand, but this time it's no-limit. You bet $2,500 into a $500 pot. With the same odds against your opponent it certainly doesn't pay for him to risk $2,500 to win $3,000. It only pays for your opponent to chase that elusive queen if the pot offers a payout in excess of those 10-to-1 odds against hitting his hand.

In fact, one of the key strategic principles of no-limit play is using the size of your bet to manipulate the odds the pot offers your opponent. In this example, by making a big enough bet, you can effectively prevent your opponent from contesting the pot.

But in a fixed-limit poker game all you can do is bet - or try for a checkraise - in order to manipulate the odds your opponent will have to overcome in order to beat you. Since giving a free card is a terrible play, and manipulating the pot odds so that it clearly doesn't pay for your opponent to try to draw out on you is a good play, being as aggressive as you can with the best hand in a fixed-limit game is the proper strategy most of the time.

Further Reading: /

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