In no-limit Texas hold’em, some players cringe at the prospect of playing against a very aggressive player, also known as a “maniac” for the way he seems to throw chips in the pot with reckless abandon. You probably recognize him, the type of player who has seen poker professionals on TV and want to copy their game, or has been playing blackjack, lost money, and comes steaming to the table.
However, playing against such a player can be quite profitable if you know how to handle him.
If possible, try to get the aggressive player in a no-limit hold’em game on your right (in a casino online where players come and go it’s easy to get a good seat). This will mean that they will act before you on most hands. This will be to your advantage, since you will get to see if they are going to attack the pot before deciding to proceed with a less than premium hand. It will also give you the best chance to take advantage of them when you hit a strong hand.
Pre-flop you can then choose to reraise with a hand you would just call with or fold against normally aggressive players. If the bully on your right raises 50% of the hands, AJ becomes a monster. If you reraise, and have a tight image, the other players will probably fold hands like AQ and smaller pairs. Consequently, you’ll end up head-to-head against a player with a weaker hand than average.
A good weapon against the aggressive player is the slow play. Since this player will almost always bet when checked to, you should resist the urge to bet your strong hands when this player is in the pot – at least when you’re heads up. Let them bet for you. If they bet the flop, resist the temptation to slam the trap shut too early. Just tentatively call and let him think he is bullying you. When he puts in his bet on the river, that’s the time to come back over the top and grab the big pot he has built for you.
Be sure to know the difference between selective aggression and reckless aggression. There are some players who are aggressive, but only when they have strong hands or sense weakness. You should be targeting the ones who think they can buy every pot. Also, have an idea how far they are willing to go with their marginal hands. If your opponent tends to take a shot at the flop and turn then give up on the river, you should raise on the turn or bet out on the river if you are first to act. If they are the type willing to go all the way, then give them as much rope as they need, giving them a chance to bluff the river as well.
Try to put yourself in their mindset. Try to imagine the kinds of cards that they will be playing aggressively with and use this to your advantage. Simply by playing the ‘opposite’ of how they play you can actually beat aggressive players who usually bully the table and dominate the game. There’s no better feeling when your patience pays off, you flop a nuts flush and some aggressive player keeps feeding you chips until the river
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