Think selective aggression with poker betting

We all know “aggression” is a hostile attitude or behavior shown toward another person. The aggressor is attacking the other person by his actions or words. It’s much the same in poker with some subtle differences.
According to Wiesenberg’s Official Dictionary of Poker, aggression “pertains to a style of play characterized by much betting, raising and re-raising.” Don’t confuse it with loose play, where the player sees the flop with many hands, including some (many?) that are not worthy of his investment; e.g., hands that do not meet the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm (see GT ad).
An aggressive player may be quite selective as to his starting hands – not loose; but once he is in the pot, he is likely to do a lot of betting and raising. He might even be a tight player – one who is very selective as to his starting hands. Indeed, tight-selectively aggressive players are likely to be winners.
What is selective aggression? In a few words, it’s nothing more than betting, raising or re-raising when it’s to your advantage to do so. You play aggressively when it would benefit you. Let’s consider a few examples:
• You were dealt a middle pair in the hole. Selectively aggressive play would be to raise from an early or middle position to thin the field; i.e., reduce the number of opponents staying in the hand. Otherwise, with four or more opponents staying to see the flop, you will be an underdog – and lose most of the time.
• Your raise may force out opponents holding an overcard to your pair. For example, let’s say you started with pocket 10’s. Forcing out opponents with an overcard to your 10-10 would substantially increase your chances of winning the pot even if you don’t improve.
• You flop two-pair. Again, raising (selective aggression) could discourage opponents holding an overcard from chasing you, thereby protecting your two-pair.
• Starting with A-10 suited, you flop four-to-the-nut-flush. An early position bets out and is called by three others. Now, from a late position, it’s your turn to declare. Instead of just calling, hoping to make the nut flush, you raise (selective aggression).
The four opponents who have already bet most likely will call your raise. (They have already invested, so one more bet is OK – as they reason.) You are getting 4-to-1 money odds on that bet.
On the other hand, your card odds are about 2-to-1 against making the nut flush on the turn or on the river. So it’s a Positive Expectation raise for you. In the long run, you will gain two chips for every one you put into the pot. Again, you have displayed selective aggression.
Let’s take this hand one step further. Suppose you miss the flush on the turn. Because you just raised, everyone checks to you. Now your best move is to again be selectively aggressive.
If you are the first to bet, make the bet with confidence. Now you are semi-bluffing by being selectively aggressive. If they all fold, you win the pot by forfeit. That’s fine. But what if one opponent calls your bet on the turn and you miss again on the river?
Assuming you have evaluated your remaining opponent and believe he might be calling with a small pair or drawing to a straight or flush – and he is not a calling-station who won’t muck no matter what he holds, selectively aggressive play would have you bet again on the river. Now it’s a bluff; but you know he probably has the better hand and will take the pot unless you can force him to fold.
It’s probably the only way you can win this pot. (Note: If you use the Esther Bluff there is a very good chance he will indeed fold a better hand.)
Yes, selective aggression is a great way to help you go home a winner.

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