Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”
–William Shakespeare
After my “rebirth” last week, I had another great week despite limited hours at the tables. A side project has limited my poker play for now, but I did spend some time at the higher limit tables online this week, continuing to learn how to deal with the increased aggression at these limits. I also managed to finish 2nd in a 43 player multi, after coming to the final table last in chips. In heads up play, I managed to get my opponent all in when he was dominated two times, only to lose both hands as a 75% favorite. That’s tournament poker.
The higher limit tables are chock full of Loose-Aggressive players who are happy to frequently reraise with nothing, making their living off of weak-tight players who won’t go to the showdown with top pair or less. Prodigy and protege Monk pointed out that there seem to be a big difference between good loose aggressive players and bad ones. The good ones steal a lot of small pots from the weak-tights, and of course they get paid off in spades when one of their big hands actually hits. The bad ones steal at the wrong time, and continue to raise and reraise when the board makes it clear they are beaten.
These good loose-aggressive types remind me of one of the first bits of advice I ever received from a football coach in my early Pop Warner days: “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it at full speed.” It takes a lot of heart and an even bigger bankroll to play the part of the maniac, but if done right (and with a little luck), it can be much more profitable than the typical tight-aggressive style so widely recommended.
Evidence? I was surprised to see that of the 26 of the 39 extremely loose aggressive players in my PokerTracker database were big winners. These borderline maniacs all had over 100 hands played and voluntarily put money in the pot more than 33% of the time with an aggression factor of over 1.5. Either these guys got very lucky, or a lot of them knew what they were doing. Methinks there is method to their madness.
The general strategy I’ve adopted against these loose aggressive players is to punish their thin preflop raises by 3-betting and narrowing the field in the process. Hands like AJo become 3-bet hands against very loose aggressive players, but after the flop, it becomes a guessing game. Sometimes your ace-high is good heads up against the loose player, but he’s going to punish you every time he has a real hand. Usually I’ll continue to push back until the turn, when the loose-aggressive player will often reveal the true strength of his hand. Your profit in these games comes from guessing correctly– your ability to make the correct read against the loose aggressive player.
As Gary Carson says,
“Aggressive opponents are putting a lot of money in the pot by frequent raises and reraises– but that means you’ll also be putting in a lot. The more money you have to put in the pot, the greater the risk. With a lot of raises, you’ll be faced with frequent decisions, increasing the risk that you might make a mistake.”

The biggest help in making the correct guess is position and the presence of other players. If a non-tricky tight player is in the hand along for the ride, you can often dump your hand if the tight player raises ahead of you. Reading players and hands is the most important skill in aggressive games– calculating pot odds and tight play becomes far less important, since it’s extremely difficult to put a loose-aggressive player on a hand (because he plays such a wide range of hands preflop).
In a discussion with an excellent player with far more experience than me, we wondered if loose-aggressive games were more profitable than loose-passive games. Iggy was always of the opinion that the loose-aggressive games were more profitable, since reading players is so highly rewarded. I argued that loose-passive games require much easier decisions, with the added benefit of allowing a good post-flop player to play many more hands (since the implied odds are much higher when pots are multiway). I think both games can be profitable, it’s simply a matter of risk preference. If you make the right reads on the big hands against loose aggressive players, you make a big score– much like robbing a major bank. The risk is extremely high, but if you crack the vault, you walk away with a huge score. Loose passive games are like embezzlement– the small holes in your opponents’ security is repeatedly exploited, with a relatively small amount of risk.
But the best of both worlds is a combination of a couple loose-aggressive players and several loose-passive players. I had the pleasure of playing at such a table a few times this week, and I was able to blow a hole in the bank vault. Here you had the best of both worlds– several loose-passives would limp pre-flop, the loose-aggressive player would raise, and I would 3-bet. Many times, the loose-passive players would call two more bets cold, and then frequently fold to a flop or turn bet. At this point the pot was huge, and I was lucky enough to avoid running into a monster hand from the loose-aggressive players.
Enough babbling. Thanks for reading and I hope I haven’t bored you to sleep. Good cards.

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