One of the things that a lot of players struggle with is dealing with a lot of aggression from opponents.
They find it more difficult to play against these players. Now it is true that aggression can be a real weapon at the poker table if you know how to use it properly, and there are a lot of players who at least know enough about what they are doing to possibly give us trouble if we don’t know how to handle it properly.As we know, aggression derives its power from giving the aggressor an additional way to win a hand, which is seeing our opponents fold.
An even bigger benefit though is how it puts our opponents to the test and allows them to make more mistakes, whether that be folding too often or not folding enough. So if I bet or raise you every time in fact, you now are forced to come up with the appropriate level of response, a lot of which boils down to how many times you will fold and how many times you will play on. If we play correctly, we can turn the tables on the aggressor, and even calling can be used as a weapon if we get the frequency of it right. What we do need to do when playing against aggressive players is to make sure that we have a workable plan, instead of just reacting to this aggression, and not only getting frustrated but losing money as well.
So this week’s hand comes from a student of mine who has really gotten frustrated with certain types of aggressive players in small buy in tournaments. It’s always great to see people roll over to you in tournaments, and if such a player has a bigger stack, that will add even more to the intimidating tactics that they often use. So our friend is telling me that this villain is like a lot of players he runs into at this buy in level, who have a bigger stack and use it to push people around by floating the flop and check raising the turn. So even though we have position on these people, they use their aggression to look to counter it. So instead of using a check raise bluff on the flop, they encourage us to put in quite a bit more money before they see us wimp out on the hand by floating the flop and check raising on the turn. So he provided me an example hand along with the question of how to handle these players better. Our hero has around 40K in chips, villain has around 48K. So the villain doesn’t need a lot more chips than we do, and if they can take us out that is often enough. Some players will use these tactics against us with smaller stacks as well. It’s not the stack size that matters as much as it is the strategy.
Hero is dealt J (h) T (h), he raises to 820, everyone folds but the big blind who calls. Pot is now 2290. The flop comes down 3 (s) A (d) Q (d) . Villain checks, Hero bets 1374, villain calls. Hero is running a bluff here of course, but he said this player likes to float, meaning calling the flop without needing a real hand, with the idea of looking to take it down later. So given that, betting the flop here is a bad idea.
We know this player isn’t one to be bluffed very often, and in fact, will often be looking to bluff us later. Against a lot of players, those who like to check fold flops, this bet is fine. When we bet though, we need to have a plan, and it needs to be a good plan, not a bad one. So the turn came Q (s) With a pot size of 5038, Villain checks, Hero bets 2622, Villain raises to 5845, Hero folds. This is terrible on the part of our friend. His opponent probably has nothing either, but has played our friend like a fiddle. My student had even told me this guy likes to float the flop and check raise the turn, and he is having trouble handling these players, and from this hand it’s no wonder.
So the bet on the flop was a mistake, and the bet on the turn was an even bigger mistake. What did this student tell us this player liked to do? If you bet and are planning on folding to a raise, and you expect this player to raise a lot, and you are bluffing, why bet? The better play here would have been to check back, and then see if you can hit something on the river. With an ace and two queens on the board, you’re really limited to hitting the straight to be comfortable, and not the K (d) either. So you are drawing to three outs essentially, and other than that would just beat air at this point, which he may indeed have. If so, he may just check it down and even if you miss, your J high may be good some of the time.
So it makes a lot more sense to check here and take a free card then it does to play along with the trap that your opponent has laid for you. What we really want to do though is look to play this line with real hands and punish him for his aggressiveness, rather than rewarding him for it like this hand did.
Mark's Note: An interesting hand which covers that vital point in the learning process when you start adjusting to the different players, rather than just the cards! For more top strategy insights for beginner to intermediate tournament players check out my main multi-table tournaments page now!
Submitted by Planet Mark on Thu, 08/02/2012 - 10:01