The True Nature and Importance of Aggression – Part 3

Guide To Winning Poker (17)

  • There’s a lot to consider when determining how aggressive we should be
  • There still are some easy principles that we can follow though
  • Players of all skill levels need to be paying close attention to all this

Make Sure You Are Not Overdoing The Aggression

So wewere talking aboutwhat may seem to be something that accountants need to worry about more than poker players, which was considering our total investment in a pot in calculating which strategies will work best, and in particular, what sort of fold rate we will need to be profitable. The reason why this matters a lot to us though or at least should matter a lot is that if we don’t get this right, we will end up overestimating our fold equity here and thus becoming too aggressive. A lot of players in fact get this wrong.

The importance of this really stands out in comparing the examples of not counting our prior investment in the pot, where getting folded on half the time produced an instant profit, and we didn’t even have to count the times were we got called and won, to where we’re counting that as well and coming out at a loss. So it does make a big difference, although once again you need to start by being able to figure out what you need without your investment in the pot calculated in, and then add that in to the mix to see where you are truly at.

Making Sure Our Investment To Take Down Pots Is Appropriate

However, this isn’t just a matter of looking to figure out whether or not you can bet or not profitably to take advantage of fold equity. It’s more often a question of what bet size you can profitably make to do so. So what we start with here is the opponent’s general tendency to fold in a given spot expressed by his frequency stats. So for instance our player folds 60% of the time in a situation. So we need to look at what’s in the pot now less our investment. If it’s heads up for instance then we are shooting for half the pot, there’s other opponents that have put money in it, our investment will be less. So if there’s 10 chips in there and we’ve put in 4, then we stand to gain 6 chips. So if we bet 6 then it’s an even money proposition.

So now, we will win 6 chips 60% of the time and not take the pot down 40% of the time, so that’s a profit already without even looking into whatever equity we have when called. You do need to be careful though that you don’t play your hands in such a way that you have negative equity when the opponent doesn’t fold. In order to make sure this is the case, you’re going to have to make sure you have positive equity with any and all further contributions to the pot that you make.

Looking At The Full Picture

So for instance if your opponent calls your bet, if you bet again on the next street, you better make sure it makes sense given his calling range on the previous street, his tendencies on this street, and whatever else factors into things. Otherwise, you’re taking a profitable situation on the original street where you’re going for fold equity, and then turning it into an unprofitable one overall by making mistakes later. As you can see, each situation needs to be evaluated on its own merits, and you also need to look to plan ahead as well to make sure that you’re in the best position you can be later on.

This also includes further opportunities to exploit an opponent, and this is something you should get into the habit of focusing on in particular. So we’re at the point where we’re considering taking the pot down for instance, and ideally we need to look at not only how often he folds here, but what he tends to do both now and later if he doesn’t, for instance how often he raises now, what he tends to do if we bet or check the next street, and so on. As we’re doing all this, we also want to consider what our moves are doing to his perception of us and therefore be thinking in terms of meta game, which is always acting with a view toward how both our past and present actions will influence future ones.

This Doesn’t Have To Be Too Complicated Though

Once again though, I don’t want you to think that this is all way too complicated, and although it certainly can be, the idea here is to introduce whatever complexities you are able to handle given your present skills and understanding of the game, which are certainly going to be pretty modest starting out, but at the same time will increase as you develop and improve. It’s certainly much better though to have at least an idea of what needs to be done here to get better, rather than just firing off chips without much of an understanding at all about what’s going on, like almost all players do.

So let’s move the discussion away from our looking at firing off every time, and get into more realistic scenarios, where we’re varying our aggression by being more selective in its use. So let’s say we’re betting out half the time instead of every time. So now, in addition to our opponents being subject to making the mistake of folding too much, they also now can call us too often, in addition to playing their hands too aggressively. So let’s say that we are betting 3’s and 4’s, and our opponent calls every time. We don’t even need to work this one out, as our average hand strength here will be 3.5, and his or hers will be 2.5.

The Looser They Are, The Less Aggressive We Should Be

So that’s called calling too loosely, and if an opponent is prone to this, then this will be another benefit that will flow from our being aggressive. Keep in mind though that our advantage here comes from being selective with the aggression, as if we bet out every time instead we wouldn’t have any advantage. So it’s by withholding our aggression that we manage to exploit this tendency to call too much. The idea here is to take their calling frequencies and then formulate the proper betting frequency to maximize the advantage we can gain.

In addition, the opponent may play back too aggressively, for instance if they raise every one of our bets instead of just calling, that’s even better, as we’re getting even more money into the pot with the same edge. So what we want to do is to look for these tendencies, which are too loose or too aggressive in the face of our aggression, and look to formulate our bets around these traits.

So if an opponent calls half the time in a given situation, we can work out his or her average hand strength in doing this, which in our example will be 3.5. What we’re looking for here, at least in terms of our equity in this move, is to have our aggressive actions be less frequent than their calls. So if we bet half the time and they call half the time, and they fold half the time, all other things being equal, we will break even when we bet and are called, and make a profit when they fold.

Go For What Makes The Most Money Over Time

So in the end we will have a profit from this move, although once again, just because a move is profitable doesn’t mean it’s the most profitable action we can take. By betting less, we may often end up with a larger profit, and a good rule of thumb here is to use the two thirds rule, where we’re betting two thirds of the frequency of the non folds. If the opponent is fairly aggressive though, we can back off on this further, however we definitely don’t want to go below half of his range, as this is the point where our weakest hands that we’re betting is equal to his average hand that he’s playing, and it doesn’t make sense to ever go below that, even if he never calls and just raises or folds. We could call every raise profitably if that were the case.

Now I don’t want you to think that we’re only ever looking to bet two thirds of a player’s non folding range, as this only applies to loose opponents. If an opponent is tight, we’re going to want to be more aggressive with them, as we will have significant fold equity with these players. What we do want to do is look to exploit what a player does too much, and if it’s folding too much, we will bet and raise more. If they tend to not fold often enough, then we’ll be picking our spots more and going for value more. In order to bet or raise profitably, we’ll need to have real hands more often in that case, since they are folding less and thus we’re not going to be able to bluff as much, so it only makes sense that we need to be less aggressive with these looser players.

Being More Selective Means Being More Balanced

Another advantage of being selectively aggressive, and this applies to any situation where we’re not just firing out every time, which we never really want to ever do anyway, is that it will be more difficult for our opponents to determine what appropriate ranges to play on with, and whether or not a particular hand of theirs fits in with this desirable range or not. So there’s two parts here, and the first is to figure out how often we’re being aggressive.

Very few players are in fact doing what we’re looking to do here, which is looking at stats and seeing the percentages. Almost always, they will instead be using a much more vague means to determine this, maybe they are looking at our stats for instance and looking to put us in a broad category, as an aggressive player or a very aggressive one or whatever. These categorizations are going to be pretty general, way too general in fact, so their picture of us is going to be off by a fair bit.

I’ll pick this up in thenext session.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series