Aggressive Poker Is Winning Poker

If you’ve spent any time in the orbit of Red Chip Poker, you know our coaches talk about playing aggressively all the time.

The simple fact is, with just two hole cards to go on, both you and your opponents will usually have a difficult time making hands. Playing passively is a great way to leave that money on the table. Playing aggressively is the only way to scoop pots when folks don’t connect, or make weak connections to the board.

Featuring: Sweeney, Hull, Soto, Gano, Little, Haynie, Cardner, and James

Soto: Start Looking One Street Ahead

Christian Soto encourages you to think about poker more like chess, in the sense that you should always be thinking at least one step ahead of the action. Before the flop, know whether or not you will C-bet by default, and how that decision might change given the flop texture. When you make the C-bet, plan how you’re going to react given certain types of turn cards, and so on.

It takes a lot of off-table work to develop the intuition necessary to plan your actions during a live hand. Off-table study is the key to making sense of the complex data swarming around each hand to make clear plans of action for the most likely scenarios you’ll be facing. This allows you to be proactive rather than reactive to the cards as they fall, which equals a lot more chips in the long run.

“To be a more aggressive player, understand that you have to become a better player.”

Related Article: What Happens if I Get Raised?

Haynie: The Goal is Not to Be More Aggressive

Haynie balances Soto’s advice with the idea that more aggression is often not the answer when it comes to extracting value in certain situations. The goal should not be to become a more aggressive player, it should be to broaden your capacity to be more aggressive and more passive as the situation dictates.

The key is not more aggression but more thoughtful aggression, and as you apply more thought, you’ll find plenty of situations where aggression is less profitable than passivity. Blind aggression can be very spewy.

“Look at every situation you’re dealt into and try to objectively figure out the best play for situation, figure out what the best players are doing in similar situations via instructional videos.”

Related Article: How to Play More Hands Preflop

Cardner: Less Aggressive Strategies are Outmoded

Dr. Cardner grew up as a player, like many players did, on the Harrington on Hold ‘Em series. While it’s responsible for giving a generation of poker players great fundamental poker advice, it tended toward a more conservative form of play that has long been outmoded by the aggressive strategies developed during the online poker boom.

Cardner’s a-ha moment — and perhaps yours too — was seeing the real profit that resulted from a careful, calculated ramping up of aggression far and above Harrington’s nit-leaning strategies.

“The easiest way to be more aggressive is to be more aggressive in position.”

Related Podcast: How and Why You Should Play a Looser Style

Hull: Stop Limping

Doug Hull’s advice is simple and actionable: Stop with all the limping. All of it. By simply never limping, you’re going to be one of the more aggressive players at a typical 1/2 NL table. There are many, many lucrative side effects: A tight table image that can pull off well-timed bluffs, fewer tough spots from playing too many hands… the list goes on.

Just make sure you’re not making anemic raises to $7. Pop it up to four red chips like you mean it, or it’s just a more expensive limp.

“My blanket statement here is: Don’t limp preflop. Always come in for a raise if you’re going to play.”

Related Forum Thread: Pain Thresholds

James: Put Yourself in Trickier Spots

Gareth James cautions against too much caution, and reminds players that aggression is, among other things, a tool to extricate you from tricky spots. If you don’t get yourself into tricky spots, you’ll never learn how to wield the weapon of aggression with accuracy.

A great way to get tricky is to 3-bet more, and call more 3-bets. Not only is this the foundation for modern, aggressive play, but you’ll have tons of study material when you make mistakes. Don’t be scared. Making mistakes and getting out of your comfort zone is how you grow as a player.

“If you avoid the tricky spots all the time, you’re going to hinder your own development… embrace that uncomfortable feeling.”

Related Article: 3-Betting From the Blinds Shouldn’t Be Scary

Little: Start Re-Raising More

Little has some simple but powerful advice for honing aggression: Re-raise more in position, and C-bet the flop.

Little tells us about how he gave this advice to a less experienced poker player and she parlayed it into 14th out of 600 in a big tournament the next day.

Re-raising is one of the best way to get out of your comfort zone and prove to yourself your opponents aren’t quite as scary as your imagination makes them out to be. This will help you be the type of player that plays their spots, not their cards.

“Whenever there’s a raise in late position, and you’re in late position, feel free to re-raise.”

Gano: Don’t Be a Fence-Sitter

When there’s a passive angel on one shoulder and an aggressive devil on the other, and they’re both telling you to play a hand differently, listen to the devil. Erring on the side of aggression when you’re on the fence is a great way to ratchet up the power of your game.

His other tip involves noticing when other players are giving you a hard time with aggression. Are they playing their cards? Or do they know how to play their spots, and are making life difficult for you on purpose? Figuring out why they’re doing this and how it makes you feel can be turned around and worked into your own game.

“Start paying closer attention when other players give you a headache.”

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Showing 4 comments
  • Dan Nolan

    This was, by far, the best learning experience of all the things I’m doing to be a better player at the tables.

    James even emailed me and also gave further encouragement to get more wider and feel the game and not just be at it. Can’t wait for tonight to practice spotting the 3 bet positions. Might even create a few 🙂

  • Jim Ciotti

    As always the content of your posts are outstanding and to the point. Most importantly, they work to vastly improve your winning ratios. I have used your training and advice to advance to a final table at this years WSOP Super Seniors Tourney in Vegas. I got a 20X return on my investment. Thank you Red Chip Team…..

    • Zac Shaw


      That’s an incredible result, congratulations! That must have been quite the exciting experience.

      We love to hear stories like yours, it really motivates us to keep providing value to our members.

      I hope you don’t mind if I reach out to hear a little more about your story and how you ran so deep in such a big field. We love to share these stories with other Red Chippers to show how studying and hard work can literally pay off.

      Again, great job and thanks for bringing it to our attention.