Fine Tune Your Game In 4 WEEKS PART 3Article By: Michael Monroe
So you know the numbers, you’ve learned how to spot how other players play, and now you’re ready for the next step: choosing a better playing style.
One of the most common questions a new poker player asks is “What is the best playing style?” No matter if you’ve been playing a long time or are a beginner, most poker players can at least spot different play patterns in other players. Sometimes the reckless, super aggressive player may win a hand, sometimes the extremely tight player will win a hand, but if you want to learn to play consistently strong while giving yourself the best chances to win over time, you want to learn how to play both tight and aggressive at the same time.
Thought it’s much more difficult to observe your own style of play, you can teach yourself how to alter your playing style by focusing on one area of your play at a time. While everything we say here will have to be taken into consideration of each hand and game, these general pointers should get you in the right state of mind.
If you want to play tight-aggressive, you’ll first have to learn how to choose starting hands. Online players have a good advantage over live players in this regard as most online poker rooms keep track of your statistics. A tight pre-flop player will generally play the top 15% of hands, meaning over time you will see 15% of the flops. If you don’t know what the top starting hands are, you should do some basic research. But in general, you will want to maintain this 15% pre-flop percentage over time. You’ll have times when you dump certain pre-flop hands you would normally play depending on the circumstances, but this percentage should be what you want to aim for.
The simplest way to understand the tight-aggressive style is to know this: either bet at a hand or fold it. Like we said earlier, there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, if you are considering getting into a hand you will bet at it.
The reason for this bet/fold strategy is 2-fold. First, by betting at a hand you will increase your chances of winning merely because you will be playing against fewer players. When you bet, you force the other players to make a decision: put more of my money in or fold. For example, if you are in the small blind and 2 players limp-in before you, by betting at the pot you will force all those limpers to decide if their (probably) weak hands are worth defending by calling your raise. Chances are at least one or two of those players will fold, meaning you have to beat fewer players to win.
The second reason you either bet or fold is because it prevents you from getting involved in hands with mediocre cards. Take the example above. If you at a full table and are dealt Q-J off-suit, and 2 people before you have limped, you may be tempted to limp in as well. Your thinking will be “Well, others have limped in, my hand is not so bad, and if I call I may get lucky on the flop.” All of this may be true, but over time, the more you play these kinds of hands, the more money you will lose. Why? Because the other players probably have mediocre hands as well, and the likelihood that at least one of them already has you beaten or will beat you on the flop is greater than your chances of beating them.
Knowing what makes a good starting hand is only part of the strategy. A tight-aggressive player understands that their position determines what hands are playable. Someone in early position (first three places in a full table) will generally play tighter than normal. The middle positions play average, while the last three positions play will have looser starting hand requirements.
Position also comes into play when deciding when to try to muscle players out of a hand. If you are in late position, you can try to steal more pots by being aggressive with your betting. In early position, you’ll have to have a very good hand to try to muscle a pot away from the table because you are acting on less information.