We’ve all been there.
You sit down to start playing poker and the guy seated on your left happens to be one of those highly aggressive types. It seems like every time you enter the pot he is re-raising you or trying to bluff you.
What can you do in this situation?
Well, there are several things. From trapping him, to fighting fire with fire, to bluff re-raising, I am going to cover it all in this article. Here are my top five ways for dealing with an aggressive poker player on your left.
1. Tighten Up
The first thing that you are going to need to do is tighten up. This means that you need to play fewer hands than you normally do. Unfortunately, there just really isn’t much you can do about it.
The reason why is that when somebody has direct position on you in poker, they have a huge natural advantage over you. They get to act last every single hand (except for one), and they will almost always get to watch what you do first after the flop as well.
This is just an absolutely huge and quite frankly insurmountable obstacle to overcome unless there is a massive discrepancy in skill level between you and your opponent. The bottom line is that you are fighting a big uphill battle here.
So, the only logical solution is to simply tighten up your range and play fewer hands. Mr./Ms. aggressive can’t bluff you or re-raise you if you aren’t even in the pot.
The other advantage of playing tighter is that when you do decide to enter the pot you’ll have a stronger range. This means that you will have a better chance of making a good hand like top pair, two pair, trips, and so on. This gives you more options when fighting back against an aggressive player.
Depends on the player type. If they fold to my CBets or barrels a lot then nope. If they give me a lot of trouble though, then yes maybe.
— Nathan Williams (@BlackRainPoker) July 21, 2017
2. Bluff Re-Raise
While it is important that you tighten up a bit when an aggressive player is on your left, this is also a great spot to throw in a few more bluff re-raises. What do I mean by this?
I mean that when you enter the pot with a raise with some sort of good but not amazing hand (i.e., AT, KJ, 44) and the aggro player raises you, then you should put in a bluff re-raise from time to time.
I recommend some Fonejacker-style trolling in these situations. Bluff re-raise the bluffers.
— Ben McPhillips (@ben_mcphillips) March 16, 2017
By opening up your 4-betting range like this you immediately let him know that you won’t be pushed around. This also forces him to back down unless he happens to have a very strong hand.
It is important that you use this strategy sparingly though. When you put in the re-raise here your range should be for value most of the time (i.e., big premium hands like AA, KK, QQ, and AK).
This lets your opponent know that most of the time you will have the goods when you make this play. Therefore, they will have no option but to back down with their mediocre hand.
3. Get Trappy
Another way to deal with an aggressive opponent on your left is to trap them a little bit more often. This means that when you pick up a really big hand, don’t always re-raise them. Just call with a premium hand every once in a while.
This gives them a green light to continue bluffing after the flop when you very likely have the best hand. You can then choose to either continue trapping them with a check/call line or you can choose to spring the trap with a check/raise.
You raise from the small blind with QQ and an aggressive player 3-bets you from the big blind. Instead of always going for the 4-bet here and blowing him/her off of their hand, you should mix in a few flat calls as well.
This way you can let the 3-better bluff off some more money after the flop as well. Plus, you can either choose to check/call or check/raise depending on the board texture.
By mixing up your play like this you further confuse an aggressive player and let them know that not only are you unpredictable, but you are not the kind of player who is easily pushed around either.
It is important not to do this too often though or you run the risk of becoming too predictable. Always make sure that you are mixing up your play in all situations versus a player like this.
4. Semi-Bluff the Flop or Turn
Another great way to counter an aggressive player who is out of line is to semi-bluff them more after the flop. What do I mean by this?
I mean that you take hands that are good but not great (hands like flush draws, straight draws, and combo draws are great for this) and choose to play them fast instead.
So, for instance, if I just call with a hand like AJ of clubs pre-flop and I flop four to my nut flush, then from time to time I will check/raise an aggressive player either on the flop or on the turn.
What this semi-bluffing strategy does is give me more ways to win the pot. I can win the pot by either:
- Forcing them to fold right now
- Making the best hand later on
— IFMatchPoker (@IFPoker) August 15, 2016
Conversely, when you just check/call in a situation like this, you only give yourself one way to win the pot, namely making your flush or top pair.
So, semi-bluffing the flop or turn is a great way to start fighting fire with fire versus an aggressive opponent a little bit more often. This is because they just can’t possibly have a strong enough hand to call you down all the time. Even if they do, you have plenty of equity.
Once again though, you need to make sure that you use this play sparingly. If you check/raise your draws every single time, then you will become too predictable and any decent player will just start calling you down with a wider range.
5. Choose Another Battle
The final way to deal with a highly active player on your left (assuming you’re not in a tournament, of course) is to just leave the table. Now I know this might sound a little bit weak, but you need to remember that when somebody has direct position on you, they have a massive advantage.
— ? EyeOfTheTiger ? (@MusikJunkieRon) February 22, 2017
Sometimes if the player on your left is just too skilled for you to handle, it just isn’t worth the headache and you should try to find another table where hopefully the player to your immediate left isn’t too tough. This is especially the case if you are playing online at the lower stakes. Most of the time there will be countless other tables for you to choose from.
Going to war with a decent player who has direct position on you also takes away your focus from the real aim while you are at the tables: making money from your weaker opponents.
Too many people these days make the mistake of getting into long, drawn out battles with other solid players and forget about where their profits are actually coming from in the game. Many such players end up having budgets, rather than bankrolls.
The money in poker comes from the unskilled players who make massive fundamental mistakes in every hand, not the aggressive regulars on your left re-raising you every hand.
Don’t allow your ego to override your better judgement when an aggressive player gets on your left. It isn’t weak to just get up and leave, especially if you are playing online. It’s what smart poker players do.
Having a highly aggressive player on your left is never a fun situation to be in. They have a natural built-in advantage over you that is very difficult to overcome.
Even if you play at low limits, there is no micro stakes poker strategy that can ever give you a big advantage in this situation. However there are several ways to at least stop the bleeding and even fight back a little bit.
Firstly, you are simply going to have to tighten up. This allows you to have a much stronger hand on average when you do choose to get involved with them. It also keeps you out of too many difficult and potentially tilt-inducing marginal situations.
At the same time though, you should also open up your bluffing range a little bit versus an aggressive player both before and after the flop. Always remember that they can’t have it every time. Pick a few spots, especially where you have some sort of reasonable equity in the hand, and raise them right back.
Also, be sure to mix up your play from time to time as well by throwing in a few trappy lines with your big hands. This will keep them confused and make it difficult for them to get a read on you.
And lastly, if all else fails, just leave the poker table. It really isn’t necessary to battle a tough aggressive player on your left when there are often so many other soft spots and easier tables to choose from.