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Tight Aggressive Texas Holdem Poker Strategy
by Randy Ray
This article is mostly written from the perspective of someone who wants to become a tight aggressive Texas holdem poker player. But the ideas of hand selection and aggression apply to all forms of poker.
I explain in detail on my main poker strategy page the differences between tight play and loose play, and the differences between aggressive and passive play. I won't repeat that explanation here. Instead, I want to give some specific actions you can take to become tighter and/or more aggressive.
Track Your Play
You can't manage what you don't measure. If you don't know what percentage of hands you play preflop, then how are you supposed to be able to tighten up and play fewer hands? Same thing about your flop play. If you don't know what percentage of flops you play, how are you supposed to tighten up on the flop?
I've seen recommendations that you play fewer than 15% of your hands preflop, and that you will fold probably 50% of your hands on the flop. That's tight poker. You can use PokerTracker to see what your percentages are if you play online.
Starting Hand Requirements
One way to force yourself to tighten up is to set strict starting hand requirements for yourself. Phil Hellmuth suggests that beginners should play no more than the top 10 starting hands. (Since there are 169 possible starting hands, if you restrict yourself to 10 of them, you'll be playing 6% of the hands you're dealt. That's supertight.)
If your goal is to play 15% of your hands preflop, then you simply find the top 25 hands or so and only play those. (That's 15% of 169 possible starting hands.)
John Vorhaus suggests in his book Killer Poker that if you think your play is too loose that you restrict yourself to only playing "blackjack" hands. He defines this as hands where the totals add up to 20 or 21 in blackjack. So you'd fold anything preflop that had anything lower than a 10 in the hand.
These kinds of exercises will help you develop discipline while you figure out your own style. They're not the ideal way of deciding on your starting hand requirements long term though.
Raise or Fold
To improve your aggression levels, you can just set yourself a goal of never just calling a bet. If you're going to play in a hand, you'll always be making a bet or a raise. You'll never check or call.
This isn't appropriate strategy for every hand, but it does develop a type of discipline regarding your aggression level. Think of it as training wheels for aggressive betting habits.
The biggest enemy of aggressive poker play is the cold call. Cold calling is when you just call a bet that's been raised. If someone has raised a bet in front of you, then your hand either needs to be strong enough to raise with or you should fold it. Cold calling is almost never the appropriate play to make.
One of the advantages of being an aggressive poker player is that weaker players will tend to get out of your way, and you'll steal lots of pots.
How Does Bluffing Fit In?
Bluffing doesn't really have a lot to do with tightness or aggression. How often you bluff is more a measure of how deceptive your playing habits are. My advice to new poker players is to just not bluff at all. In lower limit online poker games, you don't have to bluff to make a profit. Ever.
And a lot of times when you bluff, especially at lower limits, you're going to get called down. And you'll hate it.
Although sometimes bluffing early in a game to advertise that you sometimes DO bluff is smart, because then you'll get action on your premium hands.
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