How To Play Texas Holdem Poker Against Different Players
Learning how to play Texas Holdem against different types of players may take some time, but it is totally worth it cause can easily double or even triple your win rate.
Today, I will show you how to adjust your poker strategy versus recreational players who are very likely to be in one of three categories:
- maniacs (overly loose aggressive players);
- nits (very tight players who only plays premium holdings);
- calling stations (passive opponents who are not willing to fold).
If you learn how to play Texas Holdem against each of these player types, you will only need to group your opponents in one these categories and you will know what to do.
Obviously, there will always be solid players against which you should be looking to balance your range and play GTO approach, but against everyone else, you will make more money by adjusting your poker strategy and punishing them for mistakes.
How To Play Poker Game Against LAG (Loose Aggressive Opponents)
You've probably heard it repeated time and time: aggression is the key to success in Texas Hold'em. While the aggressive approach to the game has its positives and negatives, much like every other poker approach, there is no denying that players adhering to a more aggressive style have, in general, better results.
Knowing how to play against aggressive players when you encounter them at a cash table or in a tournament is one of the most important things you need to learn to advance your poker career. Although these players are usually harder to outplay than their more passive counterparts, there are still various tweaks and adjustments that will go a long way against them.
If you want to learn how to crush aggressive players and adjust your poker strategy against them – keep on reading.
I will list a number of suggestions and ideas that you should introduce into your game-plan when faced with an aggro opponent. While this text may not answer every question you might have about dealing with loose aggressive players, it will shed some light on several important concepts that come into play in these situations.
Identifying Aggressive Players
If you’re an online poker player, you’ll probably have no problems recognizing aggressive players, or LAGs as they are often referred to. Their poker statistics for things such as PFR and 3-bet will usually be on the higher side. This also applies to other aggressive stats, such as continuation betting, raise c-bet, etc. Conversely, these players are less likely to put chips in the pot by just calling.
In the live environment, it is hard to miss aggressive players, because they will usually be the ones driving the action and involved in all big pots. Recognizing these players is the first step as you need to make sure your strategy adjustments are appropriate, i.e., they work best against players who are genuinely aggressive and don’t give up easily.
Preflop Texas Holdem Strategy Against LAG's
Aggressive players will usually drive action before the flop, meaning they’ll come in with frequent raises and 3-bets, especially in position. This approach tends to do very well against many opponents because it allows them to take control of the hand and win pots by purely staying aggressive on various boards.
To effectively counter this approach, you’ll need to adjust to these players’ tendencies and incorporate specific changes such as:
- Expanding your 3 & 4-bet range against them
- Trapping them with big hands before the flop
- Playing fewer speculative hands yourself.
These adjustments should help you improve your win-rate against agro players quite significantly. We’ll now take a look at some PokerSnowie examples and discuss these points in light of particular hands illustrating actual situations that are likely to occur at the table.
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With a hand like AhKh, PokerSnowie suggests 4-betting about 14% of the time. Given the fact we’ve raised from UTG+1, the big blind player should know we are representing a pretty strong range, which should weigh their 3-betting range more towards value hands.
However, against aggressive players, you should increase the 4-betting frequency in these spots. You’ll often be able to win the pot right then and there as they’ll have more bluffs than an average TAG. If you’re up against a competent LAG, you don’t even have to make your 4-bet too big. These players like being in control and aren’t the ones who’ll call you lightly to try and hit the flop.
This also means that you can introduce some 4-bet bluffs in your range, especially hands with blockers such as small suited Aces. Given the fact these players are light 3-bettors and that your hand blocks a fair number of their value combos, you should definitely have more 4-bet bluffs in your range.
With all of this in mind, you should also be less inclined to get involved against aggressive players with speculative hands. For example, suited connectors can be very powerful against a passive opponent, but the loose aggressive player will not let you see free cards, and you will almost always face a continuation bet on the flop so will not be able to realize your equity as easily.
Simply put, if they 3-bet wide, their plan is to continuation bet on the flop and continue barreling on good run outs. Every time you miss, you’ll likely have to give up, and you will rarely have good odds to draw if you have such holding.
Those times you do make your hand, you might get one or two bets out of them, but since their hand range is pretty wide, they aren’t as likely to get stacked in these spots.
If we take the same situation, but we have a hand like pocket Aces, we see that PokerSnowie suggests 4-betting a really high percentage. However, against an aggressive player, your 4-bets lose value for the very reasons described in the previous paragraphs. Namely, they’ll often get out of dodge, and you won’t get any more money out of them.
So, you should be more inclined to only call with hands like Aces and let them see the flop. Since they have the initiative, you can expect they’ll continue on many boards, trying to represent a really strong range of hands. Because your hand is really well disguised, you’ll sometimes be able to get them to commit a lot of chips trying to represent the kind of hand you’re holding.
Handling Aggressive Players After the Flop
Your approach to dealing with aggressive players after the flop will depend significantly on their particular poker strategy. You’ll need figure out if they know how to play poker in a balanced way, are they are likely to give up after the flop if they miss, or if they’re someone willing to fire all three streets on a pure bluff.
In general, you should be more inclined to bluff-raise the flops against aggressive players. If you have a hand with over-cards and some backdoor equity against an aggressive opponent who’s likely to fire on the flop, raising gives you a chance to win the pot immediately or at least give you a better idea of where you’re at, i.e., are they on a pure bluff or their hand has some equity.
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In a spot such as this, where we called a 3-bet in position with a decent hand, we’re faced with a decision on the flop. Against tighter players, merely calling and seeing what develops on the turn is the safer and better approach. Against an aggressive player whose 3-bet range is rather broad, you should be willing to raise more often.
With a board such as this, they aren’t likely to have connected, while your range still contains enough hands that could have hit this board. Furthermore, even if they’ve paired up, your raise on the flop will slow them down. Of course, we’re talking about thinking LAG players here, not someone who’ll just mindlessly put their chips in the middle with the third pair.
So, if you raise and get called, you’ll be able to re-evaluate on the turn and decide whether to continue betting if you pick up additional equity or check back and take the free river. Additionally, some agro players will try to retake the betting lead when a scare card hits, and many of those actually help improve your hand.
If you have the read that someone is often just firing one bullet and giving up, you can take a similar spot and just call in position. Once they check to you on the turn, though, you’ll need to seize control of the hand immediately on almost all turns. Otherwise, they might sense weakness and fire away on many rivers, where you’ll only be able to call if you improve.
We have a similar situation but decide to call with our open-ended draw on the flop. The player checks to us. We must take this opportunity to bet out and take control of the hand. Sometimes, checking back here is better, but against an aggressive opponent who seems to have given up, you must take an opportunity to bet and maximize your EV.
Otherwise, if we miss, we might face a big river bet and won't have many options. They might be on a pure bluff, but the only way to win would be to shove over their bet, which is a high-variance approach and can make your life much more complicated than it needs to be.
Summing Up Poker Strategy Against Loose Aggressive Players
No matter how experienced you might be, no one likes dealing with aggression at the tables. It can be fun for a while but, at the end of the day, we’d all prefer having passive calling stations all over the place, allowing us to win pots without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality of the game. You’re usually faced with a mix of players, and some of them tend to be aggressive. This isn’t something to be afraid of; like everything else, you need to adjust your Texas Holdem strategy to their playing style, and you’ll be just fine.
That being said, learning how to play poker efficiently against these players is a must. To put it in short:
Trap these players more often and let them bluff.
Be ready to bluff catch on scary runouts.
Try to put the pressure on them when they show weakness.