Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Concrete Ways to Fix an Aggression Leak

It's easy to say, "I need to be more aggressive." But in the heat of the game, that doesn't always really work. So I'm going to come up with some rules... Not hard and fast rules of course, because that's just bad in any poker game.

I guess, maybe I should call these reflexes -- I want to fundamentally change how I react to certain situations, so I want to tune my aggression reflexes.

  • Bet/raise the flop when I hit a pair and a good draw (like flush or OE straight). I don't have much trouble with this one. But it can knock out better hands, protect my hand if it is best, and build the pot when I have great equity. The turn should be bet again, unless I'm positive I'm beat (i.e. someone else bets or raises me).
  • Free showdown play. I've always considered betting the turn in position if I'm willing to show down for one more bet the free showdown play. I think that's more of a no-limit play though, since in limit, betting on the river is usually more of a value bet vs an opponent's range, and in those cases, I'll usually consider betting the river too. So, according to Ed Miller, the free showdown play is raising the turn in position. For example, with TT on a Q94 board with two spades, it might be a good idea to raise a single player intending to fold to a 3-bet and check the river. I'm drawing thin way, I could have the best hand, and I'd call the river. This way, if they're drawing I'll get them to pay more and it is conceivable something like JJs or a really weak queen would give it up. It only works with passive players, but luckily GC abounds with them.
  • In unraised pots, lead out with top pair or second pair. Possibly even third pair if I have other draws and/or position. I've been chickening out when I'm out of position and flop top pair (AJ hand) or second pair, and I have no need to. If they raise, I have a ton more information than if I check and then call, yet it only cost me a small bet. If everyone just calls, lead again on the turn unless a really horrible card comes off.
  • Bet a big ace, third pair, or better in late position on the flop if it is checked to me and I have a decent chance of the best hand (i.e. a relatively safe board). Yes, I can be beat many times, but it sets me up for a better read on the turn and if I show a hand like that down, they'll have to give me more action. Plus, if they all check to me, I could easily have the best hand.
  • Semi-bluff in position if checked to me and I'd call a bet anyway. Great for flush and OE straight draws. Occasionally semi-bluff in earlier position too.
  • Bet even after I bet the flop (with the best hand, AFAIK) and a scary card comes on the turn. Obviously, unless I pick up a very reliable tell on someone else in the hand (like they load up for a bet). In other words, just cause a draw hits, don't assume the other guy has it, unless I'm up against a ton of players or I catch a tell. Save pots, not bets.
  • Don't make any heroic folds. Yes, I can fold if a tight player raises me and I'm positive they have me beat (i.e. a semi-bluff doesn't make sense). I can fold if two people are jamming it up making me positive I have the worst hand. I can fold if my CB on the flop with ace-high is called and they lead into me on the turn. But don't check-fold top pair or even middle pair without a strong read. That's just silly.
  • Take a card off more often on the turn with second or third pair. I only need about 9:1 to hit a five outer, and often I'd fold in that spot without truly counting the pot. I think I had the odds a few times. If there is a good chance the bettor is weak (i.e. I've seen them fire two barrels with overs) and I act right after them, check raise into the field to free up some of my outs.
  • Raise in position pre-flop and post flop with a larger range. Small bets are cheap yet three-betting happens so rarely in the game that it has a lot of power. Also, raising the flop can get me free card on the turn or a free showdown. If I'm going to call anyway, I should consider raising if it can narrow down the field. Obviously, only in the right context though, and not on a pure bluff.

1 comment:

Thuan said...

Those are all good guidelines that I generally follow. Just to clarify somethings...

1) When you flop a pair + strong draw... you're looking at 13-15 outs to improve. You bet/raise here for value w/a large field. Your pot equity on the flop is around 50%, but you're only putting in a fraction of the bets. If you happen to have an overcard, you may raise also to buy outs.

2) Also w/2-3 players on the river, value bet 2nd pair out of position (on relatively safe board) more. Your opponents will usually check behind you w/weak hands and bet strong ones... but they'll call your bet with those weak hands. You lose the same if you're behind, but gain when you're ahead. In position, it's ok to take the free showdown.

3) I think you hit the nail on the head about scare cards. If an opp. hits a big draw... you'll know it. Unlike no-limit, calls mean nothing.

4) One other thing about raising on the flop. Let's say you're in position w/5 to the flop in a raised pot. And you hit top pair or two pair on a somewhat coordinated board (containing gut shots, etc..) If it's bet into you, you should consider just calling because no w/a flush or OE will go away and it's actually pretty close for gut-shot to call. You don't have much of an edge. Wait till the turn when cold-calling your two-bets is a worse proposition.

Anyhow, I think that's lots to think about... your list of guidelines is more than enough.