The True Nature and Importance of Aggression – Part 2

Guide To Winning Poker (16)

  • Opponents can take advantage of us by folding the correct amount
  • It isn’t so easy for them to know what this amount is
  • Given that we have a better idea of what it is, that is definitely to our benefit

The Principles Of Our Simple Examples Apply Equally To Real Play

Now thisexample with the 4 card deckmight seem to be way too contrived, and you may be thinking, how can you take something this simple and compare it to actual poker with its myriad of possible hands, but this really has no bearing on the basic principles that are being illustrated here. However, given that poker is indeed a very complex game, that lends itself to the side of the aggressor, and depending on the skills of the opponent, can lend itself a great deal in fact.

For instance, in our example of our betting every time and our opponent folding the weakest of his or her hands and gaining an advantage on us, he or she will first of all have to be able to determine properly what this low end of the range consists of. In this case it is the bottom quarter of his or her overall range. That seems pretty simple, but what hands really are in this range? To make matters a bit more complicated, we’re not talking about the bottom 25 percent of all possible hands, as we need to instead figure out which hands have this percentage or less of a chance to win against our overall range.

So This Isn’t Quite So Simple To Exploit

Even given that our range is every hand possible and thus the opponent is up against random hands, which is as simple of a situation as you can possibly get, it won’t be all that easy to do. To further complicate things, we aren’t going to be betting any hand or even close to that, at least long term, unless we are idiots or playing against one where we could get away with this over time without their adjusting. So there will be a given range that we’ll be betting instead, and their task will be to calculate this range first, and then decide what the ideal response will be in terms of what is needed as far a winning percentage, and then figure out what hands fall within that range as far as what needs to be played on and what needs to be folded.

This might seem to be extremely daunting, and way beyond what is even possible in the relatively short amount of time we’re given to make decisions at the poker table, but I will tell you that it’s not as bad or as difficult as it may seem initially, and given the right amount of skill, aggression can definitely be exploited this way. In fact, we’re just talking about calling here, and even leaving aside our returning the favor and reacting with an aggressive move of our own to put pressure on them. Calling can indeed be a weapon that we can use, and a pretty powerful one at that, and this doesn’t mean that it needs to be confined to very aggressive opponents, although it is true that the more aggressive an opponent is, the easier that will become.

This Makes It Difficult For Them Though

At this point in time though what I do want to get clear on is that there will be plenty of opportunities for our opponents to get this wrong. So in the example of betting every time, the mistake was in the opponent folding way too much. In that case, it took folding every time to produce the mistake, which no one of course would be foolish enough to do. On the other hand, we’re not stupid enough to bet every time either. However, we could, and there are in fact many opportunities where our opponents will simply fold too often to make betting at least most of the time a profitable move, and perhaps even the most profitable move.

This is especially true if our opponents are playing fit or fold, where they will more often than not miss their hand and thus may be prone to throwing too many of them away. So let’s get back to our simple deck, and see what happens if they only call with the top quarter of their range, which is the 4s.

When he has a 4, he’s calling, so he’ll win 3 chips 3 times and tie once, so that’s +9 for him. He’s folding every time with the other 3 hands, so that’s 4 times 3 or 12 chips for us. So that nets us a total of 3 chips overall, a profit. So even though we’re making it easy on him by betting every time, he isn’t responding to the bets properly, and in this case is of course doing too much folding and getting exploited. It would be truer to say he’s exploiting himself here, but we’ve recognized this trend and we’re letting him have it.

How Often They Fold Matters A Great Deal

So sometimes our betting every time isn’t as far out as we may have thought, although we must be aware that only the truly stupid won’t adjust here and start calling more. We may in fact encourage a player who is otherwise a fish to play more correctly and perhaps even allow them to get the best of us by calling more often, so we need to be careful with that. For instance, let’s take a look and see what happens if he starts to call with half his hands:

He has a 4, he calls, he wins against 1, 2, and 3, and ties 4s, so once again that’s +9 for him. He as a 3, he calls, he loses to our 4s, he ties our 3’s, and beats us with our 2s and 1’s, so that’s +3 more for him, for a total so far of +12. He folds the 1s and 2’s, so that’s 8 chips for us, but when you add it all up it’s +4 for him. So we went from having the advantage to overdoing it, and now from him loosening up, he’s now exploiting us.

So as you can see, whether or not we should be aggressive, at least from a fold equity perspective, is going to depend on how often an opponent folds. If he or she folds enough, we will be in a profitable situation. The other side of the coin though, the part where if we’re called the correct amount the opponent will gain the advantage, is the part that no one seems to consider. Once again, it will not be so easy for opponents to figure out which hands fall into these ranges, but the appropriate frequency should be pretty easy.

Even The Pros Don’t Think So Mathematically Though

Fortunately though very few players even think about this stuff, so they aren’t looking to strategize here, although the best players will sense this at least intuitively, and any player can stumble upon the correct range without even thinking of it. For instance, a lot of players intuitively continue with about half the frequency of the bettor, meaning that if a player is betting half the time they will play on with about half of that percentage, which in fact sets them up pretty well, at least in terms of the amount of hands they should be folding.

So our job here is to look to be thinking about this stuff even if they aren’t, and unless you play the higher stakes, they almost certainly won’t be. So we’re looking to attack when appropriate, but at the same time we need to be aware of when they are defending properly, whether they know they are or not. Even more importantly, we need to avoid abusing our edges where fold equity is concerned to the point where we’re going to the well too many times and getting them to adjust too easily, where as you can see we can go from a profitable situation to an unprofitable one.

Revisiting How Often We Need Them To Fold

Now you may remember back in an earlier lesson we talked about calculating the fold percentages that we’d need in order to make betting or raising profitable. We looked at our bet and the pot odds and calculated that we’d need a certain percentage of folds. We disregarded our investment in the pot in those calculations, and in fact didn’t even mention this, but now that we are looking to go deeper into the reality of the situation, we do need to. In fact in all of the examples we’ve discussed in the last 2 lessons, we’ve added this in.

It’s important though to be able to calculate things based upon what’s simply in the pot without having to add in our investment, which is why I started with that back then, but to have this realistic we really do need to consider our total investment, and not just treat the money in the pot as belonging to no one, for reasons I’m about to explain.

If you remember back, we said that we could bet the pot and if you folded half the time, we’d make an instant profit. Now, based upon our examples with our 4 card deck, we are seeing just the opposite, and it’s the opponent that has the advantage now. The latter is in fact true. Having said that though, those calculations we did back then are important and still serve a purpose, even if they aren’t actually telling the whole story.

What We Put In The Pot Does Matter Though

Now plenty of people will tell you that you can’t calculate what’s in the pot now since the money belongs to the pot and not you, and there’s some truth in this, but at the same time the money didn’t just come from thin air. A snapshot of the situation would suggest that they are correct, as after all, we’re faced with this decision right now, in terms of looking at things tactically. So if you just took over from someone else and this was the only hand that you were going to play, then yeah, you don’t have to count the money in the pot.

However, from a strategic perspective you do, as that we were the ones that put it there, and if we don’t account for it, we’re going to be distorting our thinking and end up making some poor decisions as a result. For instance, since we’re looking at moves on the flop, where you bet for instance and I either fold or not, if you think that just folding me out half the time is going to give you an instant profit, then you have to realize that in all cases, in order to get to where we are in the hand, you put money in the pot and so did I. So say the blinds are 1 and 2, and we’re playing heads up. I limp and you check, or I raise and you call, or whatever.

Now we’re on the flop and you bet the pot. Now I’ve put in half the pot prior to your bet, as have you. Again, it doesn’t even matter what happened prior to this, whether you checked or called a raise from me, or re-raised which I called, or whatever. You bet the pot and I fold. How many chips are you ahead now versus what you had before we played this hand? The answer isn’t a full pot, it’s half a pot.

So this might not seem to be all that significant but I can tell you that people use the original simpler way of counting, rather than this modified and more correct version that I’m giving to you now, and they are making a big mistake. We’re not about to make this mistake.

We’ll continue this discussion on aggression in thenext lesson.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series