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As mentioned in an earlier lesson, we can deal with both passive and aggressive opponents profitably.  Passive players are easier to deal with of course, as long as they are loose.  We can take the initiative with these players, and they will follow us with their good hands.  When they do end up getting aggressive with us, we can put them on a better hand and decide accordingly. 

More aggressive players, the ones that tend to play their hands strongly, are going to involve more risk.  If we are wrong in our decisions against them, it will cost us more money.  So we have to know what we're doing, and approach them with a little more caution than the average player.

Naturally, we want them to be loose as well as aggressive.  We prefer not to play against tight players and at tight tables, since this will limit our profitability. 

The first thing that is going to confront us is that against a player who raises a lot, we're going to have less information about the quality of his holdings.  More passive players will raise with strong hands typically, where the aggressive player will raise a lot more.  So the task becomes to try to determine what kind of hands generally that are being raised here.  Sometimes they will raise with anything.  Perhaps they are mixing it up with bluffs.  And so on.  However, by combining the knowledge we have about the frequency of the raises with the hands that are shown, this will give us a pretty good idea about the range we're up against typically.

We also want to know how the player responds to re-raises.  Some may re-raise again typically, some may just call typically, and some may be scared out of the hand.  Figuring this out will be helpful when we are probably ahead and seeking the best way to approach a hand to make the most money out of it.  We also have to keep other players in mind who we may want to remain in the hand when we determine these best courses of action.

So what are the main differences between an aggressive player and a passive one in terms of the approach we'll be using?  Well for one, there's going to usually be more money in the pot, based upon the extra raising that's going on.  If the aggressive player plays a similar frequency of hands to the opponents we normally encounter, and generally raises with them (maniac), then it becomes easy.  We simply play the same way, and regard his raises as bets, and our normal raises as re-raises, with perhaps only a bit of extra caution thrown in.  Remember, this is all based upon the kind of hand we're up against, and if we're up against typical ones we will play typically as well.  This will be a very profitable situation for us.

Usually though, what we encounter is a player who raises more than normal, but isn't a maniac, we're going to have to determine the frequency and probable hands we're up against.  For instance, if he plays 50% of hands, and raises 50% of the time, then we know he often doesn't have too much, and can play back aggressively when we have a good hand.  We won't be folding our top pairs to this person unless there's an apparent reason to do so, as his raising and playing frequency indicates that more often than not he doesn't have us best with these raised hands.  And we want to punish him for it. 

So, depending on the extent of this frequency, we'll determine whether it's more likely than not that he has us beat, and proceed accordingly.  This all boils down to putting our opponents on a range of strength of hands, and acting with regard to that.  Their raising doesn't change this, other than it can cost us more money when we're wrong, so we always want to be a little more careful.

As stated though, as a rule of thumb, we want to have the advantage in equity against the raiser, whether that's the likely better hand or a draw to it which would be profitable.  When we go to war, it's often going to be the two of us, or perhaps another player, and while we don't mind losing some of these wars, we want to win more than we lose.
Remember though, when considering playing back, we want to take into account how the player will respond.  If he's the type who will go running if re-raised, we want to delay our aggression to the end when we have a clear advantage, in order to get the most out of the pot.  We'll also apply our general raising strategy to these cases, where if we have a good enough hand but not one that's normally raisable, we'll just call his raises rather than re-raise.

When we run into tight aggressive players, which won't be very often if we stick to the loose games, these players need to be treated with care.  They are playing pretty much the same way we seek to play, and only get involved when they perceive they have the advantage, and seek to maximize their profits when doing so.  We'll need stronger holdings than normal to play with these people, and since they tend to be better players, we'll have to delay our aggression more with them, not to tip them off too much and have them fold when we would have liked them to stick around.

So, while we prefer passive players since they are more predictable and easier to play against, once we get the hang of playing against more aggressive players, they can be nicely profitable as well, provided we take a little extra care in both playing our cards and reading our opponents.
Poker Tips 6
Poker Instruction 6
Dealing With Aggressive Players
Action Poker
Poker Lesson 21