Poker Tips by George: Aggression Gives You Two Ways to Win – Too Simple?

By George Epstein
September 02, 2022

Lou Krieger’s Tip 42 in his classic book, 52 Great Poker Tips, encourages us to play more aggressively. However, I wonder if his example limits the potential value of the concept. Perhaps it would be wise to expand on Lou’s example to make it all the more valuable to players. Much depends on the situation.

I agree with Lou that “aggressively playing and raising is usually superior to passively checking and calling.” Aggression can give you two ways to win the pot. You win if you hold the best hand AND you win if you get the other player to back down. Whereas passive playing gets you the pot only one way – when you hold the best hand.

An Example

But there is a caveat that should be considered – a proviso. Let’s examine the example that Lou uses to illustrate his message:

You have 8-8 in the hole and, following his suggestion, you aggressively raise before the flop. One player calls your raise and both blinds fold. So, you are down to just two players.

The flop is J-7-5 and misses you completely.

In this case, Krieger recommends, “if your opponent checks, you should bet. Here is why: If the flop also missed him, as seems to be the case, he most likely is holding two lonely honor cards –  so your pocket 8s are well ahead.” And so, following Krieger’s advice, you play aggressively and make the bet that forces your opponent to fold – leaving the pot for you.

Some Thoughts

I had to wonder about all the other opponents in that hand. Why did a single bet scare them off? The Big Blind who acted last after you raised could have seen the flop for a single bet – cheap enough. Assuming it was a full table and a limit game, how about the others in the hand? Lou doesn’t mention anything about their playing traits. Should we assume that none of them was a calling station, anxious to see the next card for a few more chips? Were they all tight players? Nor did he discount the possibility that there was a maniac among the enemy.

Pocket Eights

And how about tells? Lou never mentioned looking for them. His writings focused on live poker, so he wasn’t likely focused on sites when you could play poker like online casino Hyperino when dispensing advice. I am certain Lou was fully aware that players are wont to have involuntary body motions and facial expressions that can provide valuable information to other players. In fact, that’s what Lou’s final Poker Tips 51 and 52 are all about. “When used in conjunction with an awareness of player betting patterns,” Lou writes, “they offer a powerful tool that provides information about an opponent’s hand.”

While I fully agree with Lou Krieger that playing somewhat aggressively is in our best interests, wouldn’t it be wise to use your skills to get into your opponents’ heads to convince them to fold their hands – such as when you are playing a weak hand and want them to fold? That’s why the Esther Bluff was developed: Make your bet with utmost confidence, and sit up straight in your chair as a reverse tell.

READ ALSO: Poker Tips By George: The Squeeze Play and the Esther Bluff

Favorite Tells

As long as we are at it, here are some of my favorite tells that I always look for – tells that indicate that the player has a strong hand –can be used as reverse tells:
Grab a bunch of chips;

  • Look around the table
  • Put down your drink
  • Take a deep swallow
  • Hold your breath
  • Rub your neck
  • Place a chip atop your hole cards
  • Stop chatting with your neighbor

Any one of these might help you get your aggressive bet through a skeptical table.

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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