"Aggression unopposed becomes a contagious disease."
-- Jimmy Carter
Due to the worldwide epidemic of the
Maverick Syndrome, the basic nature of
correct poker play has evolved since the beginning of the poker boom. This is because players as a whole, after seeing and being
influenced by both reckless and skilled risky play at the end of multi-day poker tournaments, have become more aggressive when playing
in everyday ring games.
While aggressive play is generally much better than passive play, thoughtless aggression is far worse -- when playing against truly
skilled opponents. Mediocre, weak-tight players
have since the dawn of online poker complained about how "tough" online games are. This was never the case, but rather more of
a reflection of how weak-tight play was not profitable against either tight-aggressive skilled players or even loose/maniac ones. This
is even more true today, and especially true in online 6-handed Texas Holdem games.
Windows - Mac
The consequences of all this though is a that a huge number of players base their play around nothing else but trying to be more
aggressive than their opponents. But blundering aggression is easily exploitable. For example, in a battle it is more often than not
advantageous to be on the attack, but if your army attacks the most fortified, least vulnerable part of your enemy's line while NOT
taking the time to reconnoiter and find a much more vulnerable place to attack 300 years up the road, you will have made a potentially
catastrophic blunder. You may in fact still win the battle, but you are far less likely to do so in comparison to if you attacked the
weak part of the enemy lines, and then outflanked the strong part of the line by attacking it from behind.
Maverick Syndrome sufferers think they play better than they do, to a very unreasonable degree. They think they have all sorts of
really cool moves that will stupefy their opponents, and so they seek out types of games where they can more often "make moves"
-- head-up and short-handed games, especially limit games where a failed move won't cause you to lose all your money, and so you can make
move after move after move. Despite the high rake cost in playing
shorthanded, these games present some of the best opportunity for profit online, NOT because anyone reading this is a super-duper player,
but because opponents make themselves play worse, make themselves more vulnerable for more bets, than they commonly do in full games.
poker is about edge: getting yourself in
mathematically favorable situations time and again. We can create edges by our own actions (like hand or game selection), but we can
also gain edges by simply allowing our opponents to do things that are mathematically unsound. The most obvious example of this is we
want to play against an opponent who is
out of control, on tilt. What 6-handed games commonly
offer though (besides players more likely to be on tilt because they lose more hands because they play more hands) are overly
aggressive players who simply try to hard to win every hand they play. They do this largely because they have an over-inflated sense
of their ability and their "moves". I can't tell you how many times I have seen players trying to bluff Q6 on the river
after a JJ8 flop. They desperately try move after move to try and win pots they should have surrendered long before. Fragile
ego is part of it, but more than that it comes back
to thinking aggressive play MUST be the winning play. They think of some bold move they saw on TV, or some bold move that worked six weeks
ago for them, and they try it on the flop... then they try something else on the turn... then they desperately try something else on the
river. They might luck into winning the hand, but more likely they just threw off their chips foolishly.
So what do we do about it? We LET foolishly aggressive players throw off their chips. We ENCOURAGE them to. We give them opportunities
to make moves. When we have something, we desperately try to show weakness -- which is like waving a red flag in front of a bull to
these thoughtlessly aggressive folks. Showing weakness, feinting weakness, is not weakness. In fact, it is showing great confidence
in your strength, but the hyper-aggressive guys won't get that (at least at first, meaning limiting yourself to shorter
sessions with hyper aggressive players will often
be a good idea). They are too wound up in their "moves" to notice they are blundering into a trap.
Jujutsu is the martial art of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it. The best way to fight fire is
with water, not fire. The best way to deal with overly aggressive opponents is not to try and be more aggressive than they are, but
rather to allow them to be overly aggressive in pots where you have the best hand, and they even know it!
Then, combine that with showing aggressiveness when you are weak and look weak -- for instance, on that JJ8 flop, if you called a
raise with Q6 in the big blind, don't checkraise the flop, check call instead. THAT will scare an overly aggressive player more than a
checkraise. If you checkraise, they likely will just reraise you. After the turn card, if you bet regardless of the next card, you are
much more likely to win, AND get the bonus of having the over-aggressive player think you played the hand poorly and they made a good
"move" by folding the turn. I'm not saying that move is always the right move. I'm saying an extremely aggressive opponent
will often not understand what APPEARS to be non-aggressive play, and will react in exactly the wrong way -- just like they will react
in the wrong way when you show weakness when they are betting.
Use Jujutsu. Use your opponent's reckless aggression against them. Don't try to out-do them at their game. Make them play your game.
Happily allow them to be suicidally aggressive when you have the best of it. If they want to put in the last bet on the river when you
have the nut hand, let them, and be glad as your stack their chips.
See also Texas Hold'em Basics and
Schooling in Texas Hold'em