Aggressive Starting Hands

What Are Some Aggressive Poker Starting Hands?

Usually when we talk about aggressiveness in poker, we are talking about how many hands a player plays and how they play them. You can have aggressive players, which doesn't mean they are good or bad, and you can have aggressive plays. An aggressive player will play aggressively (duh).

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A big buzz word in cards is "tight aggressive". That can be broken down into two parts: tight and aggressive. The tight part refers to how many hands the guy plays, in this case few. The aggressive part refers to how he plays them, in this case it means he plays them usually coming in for a raise. Aggressiveness is usually considered a good thing because players who take control of the pot are usually the winners. If you play few cards and play them strongly, it creates difficulties for the opponents.

For example, say you fold for a number of rounds, establishing you only play premium hands (why else would you be folding if you were playing everything). Then you come in for a raise with any hand. Regardless of your cards, the more intelligent players at your table will first assume you have a good hand. Why? Because you haven't been playing many starting hands. Now, you wouldn't be an aggressive player if you limped in with these hands instead (limped in means calling). The reason aggressiveness has value in poker is because it forces the opponents to make hands. We call this initiative.

Now, who wins this hand? The player who bets does. Generally the player who raises preflop will get checked to on the flop betting round. Even though both players have the same hand, the player who raised preflop will likely win by betting on the flop after being checked to. If he played passively instead of aggressively, it would be harder to win this hand. The player who played aggressively postflop would win then with the bet.

With all this said, most experienced players don't consider raising with solid hands preflop to be aggressive play. That's just standard play. Everyone will raise with their big hands. I think of an aggressive player as someone we call loose aggressive, someone who raises more hands than a normal good player would. Generally that is an error, but they can turn it into winning play at some tables who don't know how to deal with their aggression. I'd consider someone to be aggressive if they are always attacking in late position when folded to and also raising more hands preflop, betting them postflop.

Aggressiveness also has a lot to do with the number of players at a table. It is correct to play more hands and worse hands the fewer players there are at a table. At a heads up game you'll play almost every hand, while at the full table you'll play only a small portion.

Few tips here:

  1. Don't get caught up in labels. Questions like, "Am I a tight aggressive player?" are useless. Focus on improving your game and understanding moves a deeper level versus rules.
  2. To get good at poker you have to see more. Recognizing a player is aggressive is just the start. A higher level player will notice how the opponents are playing preflop and postflop, including different situations. Just because someone plays too many hands preflop doesn't necessarily mean they play that loose postflop. The opposite is also true, especially for intermediate level players: They'll play fewer hands preflop (tight play), but get married to the hand postflop.
  3. When you think about how to play a hand it isn't always best to play it aggressively. Sometimes you'll make more money by slow playing, playing passively. This is especially true if you against an aggro player. If he likes to bet and you have the winner, let him bluff off some money before you stick it to him. The perfect counter for an overly aggressive opponent is someone who calls.
  4. Don't be aggressive into weak players when you don't want them to call. This is a big mistake novice players make. You raise with your AK and miss the flop. Continuing to bet with just he AK will work a lot of times against good players since they are capable of folding, but it won't work against a calling station. He'll just pick you off. You bet your hands into bad players when you want them to call, not vice versa. Trying to represent a hand by playing by betting into a calling stations is a huge error many players make.