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Poker Fundamentals: Aggression

Welcome back to our series on poker fundamentals. There’s really nothing better that you can do to improve your win-rate than becoming rock-solid in the foundations of the game. So far in this series, we’ve gone over pot-odds and ranges.

Today, we’re going to cover aggression. Aggressive play is a playstyle that winning poker players use to pressure their opponents, put them into tough situations, and extract the most chips out of the fish at the table.

What is Aggression in Poker?

Just like with sports and other aspects of life, an aggressive person is a go-getter who takes the initiative. Aggression is about pushing forward, forcing the action, and striking decisively when the time is right.

In poker, aggressive play all comes down to betting. You need to make sure that your bet-sizing is large enough to make a statement or, preferably, hit your opponent’s pain threshold. When you bet, don’t go half way. Don’t be afraid to fire big, whether it’s for value or as a bluff.

Aggressive betting is about better larger not betting more often. A person who bets often is referred to as loose, not aggressive. An aggressive player can actually play quite tight—a tight aggressive player will wait until the right moment to hit the gas.

What makes them aggressive is the fact that they don’t play around when they do decide to fire. They bet with confidence.

Initiative and Fold Equity

There are two main reasons that you want to play an aggressive style. The first of these is that aggression gives you the initiative. In poker, we can leverage initiative to control the size of the pot, set the pace of the game, and get more chips when we do hit a hand.

Mathematically speaking, being aggressive also gives you more EV because it gives you another way of winning the pot. It gives you fold equity.

Fold equity is determined by how often your opponent folds to your bet. Unless you’re playing against the stickiest of calling stations, then, chances are, your opponents will fold some percentage of the time.

When you call a bet, the only way that you can win the pot is by having a better hand at showdown. Of course, there are times when calling is profitable, but, by betting, we give ourselves another way of winning the pot. We don’t even need to have a better hand if our opponent folds, after all.

Aggressive play gives you both initiative and fold equity. By leveraging this to your advantage, you’ll start stacking up the chips in no time at all.

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