As recreational limit hold’em poker players, we all want to leave the casino as winners whenever we play. While lady luck will always be a factor, we do what we can to exercise as much control as possible to give ourselves the best chance of a favorable outcome at the felt.

very aggressive
We carefully select the table at which we choose to play. Game texture and your opponents’ traits are so important. We are not hesitant to seek a table change when it is the wise decision. We struggle hard to learn all the poker skills for the stakes of our choice. We use the Hold’em Algorithm when we pay to see the flop, calling or raising only with decent starting hands – with some exceptions, and we are ready to fold if we do not improve on the flop. We have become expert at quickly counting and using our card outs so as to have a positive expectation. If playing online, we try to get an edge using things like a Hard Rock Casino promo code.

We carefully seek out our opponents’ tells, avoiding giving any of our own. We have learned how and when it is wise to bluff; and we often use the Esther Bluff with reverse tells to reinforce our bluffs. We have learned how to be deceptive and when best to check-raise and use baits and traps to build the pots when we get lucky and catch a monster. We have even become adept at “reading” our opponents to identify the hands they most likely hold.

Nevertheless, it is hard to do much better than breaking even… Limit hold’em can often be a tough nut to crack.

My Solution

If you want to be profitable in more of your poker sessions, consider playing a bit more aggressively than you usually do. I am not suggesting that you become a Maniac — open-betting, raising and re-raising with near abandon. Be discreet. Play aggressively when you deem it appropriate under the circumstances. What does that mean?

Let’s look at a few good opportunities to do so before the flop:

I have always recommended tight-selectively aggressive play as the standard before the flop except in special situations. Less tight, more aggressive play – raising and possibly re-raising – is prudent when you are dealt pocket Aces, Kings, or Queens. You would like to thin the field so your big pocket pair has a better chance to survive. Much more frequent pre-flop raising is what “maniacs” do. As a result, they experience more variability during a session; and are more likely to go home losers.

The Squeeze Play is a good example of more aggressive play pre-flop. As described in my previous column, you might use it when a very aggressive opponent opens the betting pre-flop by raising and is called by another player. Everyone else folds to you. You may not have a strong hand but an aggressive re-raise on your part can often “steal” the pot for you. If it is a no-limit game, a raise of five or more times the original raise should do the trick: force both of your opponents to muck their cards, leaving the pot for you.

If it is a limit game, then you cannot expect a single re-raise to force both opponents to fold. Instead, use the Esther Bluff tactic: Make your re-raise with apparent confidence and use a reverse tell like leaning forward in your seat as you make your re-raise.

After the flop, aggressive play becomes more important. Indeed, after years of playing Texas Hold’em, I have come to the conclusion that somewhat more aggressive play is the way to go. Play with a punch! But do it with calm; do it with self-assuredness (as with the Esther Bluff to reinforce your bluffs).

In my next column, we will consider playing a bit more aggressively after the flop.

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