Developing an Aggressive Poker Strategy

Learning how to play Texas Holdem with an aggressive poker strategy is what all great poker players do, in their own way, to make themselves winners. If you fail to recognize the importance of aggression in poker, you can just resign yourself right now to, at best, mediocrity, hoping to break even or take home small winnings...if you don't become just a loser.

Aggression in poker is often thought of by newer players as recklessness. But it's a far cry from that. An aggressive poker strategy requires advanced knowledge of Holdem, because part of the aggressive player's strategy is folding early and folding often. As a matter of fact, aggressive players fold considerably more than everyone else. The typical decent poker player who wins more than loses only plays an average of 35% of his hands after seeing the flop. For aggressive players who can win big time, that average percentage is just 20 to 25.

By being so selective, aggressive poker players don't fall into the trap of "erring on the side of caution". They know the games' hands, they know how to make critical calculations, they know how to exploit and hone their poker image, and they know how to read other players at the table (especially after they've played a few hands with them). When an aggressive player commits to playing a hand after he sees the flop, that commitment is strong and it's an informed decision--it's not a careless whim.

If you don't fold 'em and you choose to hold 'em, it's time to throw caution to the wind.


Being aggressive doesn't mean that you are a bluffer, although great aggressive players do bluff and a few make it a high (and lucrative) art form. It means that set things up such that when you do decide to go for a bluff, you are extremely hard to read. You have established a poker image of being tight and folding a lot, of only playing good hands. You don't limp in much, if at all, and you don't do much calling or checking. You bet, you raise, you re-raise. But if you start the game with that 7-2 nightmare and you see a halfway decent chance on the flop and you start raising several times BB, and raise again if you get re-raised, who is going to doubt you? They think you just got a set or something. This enables you to winnow the playing table, and for those who stay in who think they have something strong, they have to sweeten your pot.

But, these subtle and important strategic tricks aside, aggressive poker playing is really about playing your best hands folding the rest, and then using those quality hands to get the money. Remember: first you get the money, and then you get the power, and then you get the hottie.

This aggressive poker strategy allows you to minimize your losses while winning as big as possible.

What you are achieving with aggression is:

  • Getting money into the pot with your strong hands while increasing the odds of your winning the big pot
  • Forcing the others at the table to be more transparent to you and fearful of bluffing you
  • Forcing your opponents to pay for drawing against you


Different players each have their own style, of course; every player with a WSOP bracelet has their own special way of playing, and they all know how to turn garbage into gold. But if you are now discovering the importance of aggression in poker, here are strategies to consider:

  • Fold every hand that has any cards--any cards at all--less than a 9. You can modify this somewhat in cases where you are dealt middle or low pocket pairs; here, if you don't trip-up on the flop, fold immediately without hesitation. But if you get dealt A-8, fold it. Don't even bet.
  • Learn the Top 20 starting hands. If you get anything outside of these, fold immediately. Don't see the flop.
  • Make a personal list of your own 10 best starting poker hands. You can study those of other great poker players and keep track of your own experiences to guide you here. Whenever you are dealt one of these Top 10 hands, decide then and there that you are in it to win it and, pre-flop, while playing it strategically, bet, raise, and re-raise like a maniac--even if you are in an early position and have a short stack! You might even find yourself going all-in if you get a good flop or get that lucky Turn. Do all you can to win the pot without the River being dealt with these hands.

But remember, once again: know when to fold 'em, have a well-defined fold strategy, and always be prepared to fold early and fold often. And for every hand that you hold, have well-studied strategies and situational understanding that you apply to playing it.

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