Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Aggression Progression

I was reading some blogs today, few were updated over the weekend. Holidays do that. But one piqued my interest in that he seemed to think he was repeating the word "tight" very often. His game was getting "tighter" every time he played.

I'm not sure if he meant "tight" as in good, or as in more rock-like. I hope he meant he was becoming more and more of a rock. Not that I think rocks are particularly good players. They're very predictable, easy to bluff and never get a very big stack unless they catch a good rush of cards. Even then they have no idea how to act with that big stack.

But being a rock is good, because I believe it is necessary to become a rock in order to make the next step. Once you have learned what good starting hands are and you limit yourself to playing them, it becomes necessary to start playing those hands very aggresively. You have to maximize your winning percentage with those hands, because that is all you are playing. If you slow play and get beat with your KK, you quickly grow frustrated. "If I lose with these hands, how can I win?" you ask yourself. So you learn to be aggressive. You raise pre-flop. If anyone challenges, you put the pressure back on them. You always force THEM to make the hard decision. It's easy to do with KK or AA. You raise pre-flop, they raise you back. You go all in. It's an easy play.

Soon you will realize that people aren't taking you to the river with these hands. They have bought your reputation as a rock and they are folding when they don't hit the flop or make the nuts by the turn. You never get to show your KK. Then you start thinking, I never needed to have that KK, did I? If I act like I have KK, in the right circumstances, against the right player, I can take that EXACT same hand with 24o instead of KK.

Now someone could easily misunderstand and think that you can skip the rock stage and go straight to the aggressive stage. But you can't skip the rock stage. Becoming a rock takes a lot of work, but it is worthwhile because the experience of becoming a rock is the experience to know when the situation is right to play that 24o like KK. If you skip that step, you'll never know, and your 24o will get called. You won't know when to lay down your 24o bluff, and you will get busted too often with really weak hands. Not just the situation and the cards on the table, but the makeup of the players at the table and your position among them.

I am watching RZ progress from rock to fox. It's very interesting to watch, because every game is like a revalation to him. Of course he is taking some beatings along the way, but the education is worth the cost, and it has started paying off for him big time.

Aggression is usually rewarded at Hold 'Em. You hear it over and over again if you watch the WPT broadcasts on the Travel Channel. It may be an over simplification, but if you get there the right way, with no shortcuts, that quote is right on the money.

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