There are many different styles of play associated with playing poker. However, to become a successful player, it’s imperative that you learn to use an aggressive poker strategy in order to not let your opponents run you over or get the best of you. The way to be aggressive in poker is to raise, and to do it often. If your hole cards are good enough to play, then likewise, they should be good enough to raise. I’m not advocating playing with a reckless disregard of the cards and situation at hand. Aggression does need to be tempered and calculated, but an aggressive playing style is a winning style when done correctly. It is one of the most crucial tools a player has in his arsenal.
Reasons for employing an aggressive poker strategy
There are several reasons why a raising, aggressive poker player is often a successful player. First of all, by raising, you are controlling the hand and dictating the action. A raise tells your opponents that you have good cards (whether you do or not) and are a force to be reckoned with. The amount or size of your bet or raise is another indication of the strength of your hand, or at least the strength that you hope to represent to other players. Typically, you should be betting three or four times the big blind pre-flop, and raising 3/4 of the pot size after the flop. The amounts will sometimes vary according to game situations and your knowledge of the other players at the table. A raise less than roughly 3/4 of the pot size will show weakness and is not aggressive enough to give those players who might have a decent drawing hand to rethink their decision on calling your raise or folding.
Players who merely call hands without raising are showing weakness. Those who simply call will usually get in trouble by the more aggressive raisers. A general rule of thumb is that if your hand is not good enough to raise, then it’s probably not even good enough to be playing the hand at all. This is not always the case 100% of the time, as in poker there are no hard and fast rules and each situation that arises is often different. But by limping in, you are telling your opponents that you want to see the flop and are hoping to catch your cards. Therefore, when you raise pre-flop, you’re representing your hand to be strong and that is the message you want to convey to your rivals on the felt.
A player who is holding a good drawing hand, but is playing passively by calling and not raising, will be easy to read if he happens to hit his draw. And a calling player will often be bet right out of pots that could have been won by raising instead of calling prior to the flop. Raising pre-flop shows strength that will cause many players to fold after the flop if they happen to miss hitting on the flop.
Another positive related to an aggressive playing style is summed up in one word–initiative. By taking the initiative, you are forcing your opponents to make tough and crucial decisions. Their choices are basically to call, fold or re-raise. Let’s pretend the shoe is on the other foot and a player acting in front of you is the one doing the raising. That would put you in the position of having to make a reactive decision. When comparing the two positions, it is plain to see that the more favorable one is the first position, taking the initiative and being the aggressor.
An additional reason to play aggressive poker is to set the tone for later in the session. When playing poker, the players who stand out at the table are the ones raising and taking the initiative. Passive players generally stand out in only one way – the more aggressive poker players will assume, usually rightfully so, that they can dominate and bluff their way into winning some pots against the passive player by raising. So by playing poker aggressively, especially upon first sitting down and joining the table, you develop a reputation that will allow you to change gears later on in the session and play conservatively, and perhaps get serious action on some big hands that your rivals would not put you on due to mixing up your play at the opportune time.
The best players in the world are known to be aggressive poker players. Names like Phil Ivey and Gus Hansen immediately come to mind. Even players known to have a more conservative approach, such as Dan Harrington, nicknamed “Action Dan” in an ironic twist of his basically tight playing style, are able to play aggressively at key times in the game and in the proper situations. To elevate your game to the next level, it’s important to be an aggressive player at the table. To be a raiser and not just a caller. More times than not, an aggressive poker playing style is rewarded by placing your opponents in uncomfortable situations and putting you in command at the table.