One of the most common sayings in the poker world is ‘aggressive poker is winning poker’. This is such a common saying in poker circles it is almost a poker mantra, an underlying theme to every poker strategy no matter what variant of the game you are playing.
A lot of good things can happen if you are playing aggressively. When you make a significant raise you are forcing your opponent to make a serious decision about his or her cards. Your opponents must decide that they like their cards enough to call. If they don’t have a decent hand they will probably fold, even if they have a good hand they may still think they are beat and fold. Even if they do call, you can often get a pretty good idea of what kind of hand they might have. If they called quickly, without thinking, you can put them on a very strong hand. If it took them a long time to call, they probably have only a moderately strong hand, or are on a draw. If you are playing live, you can often get some information from their expressions, unless they have a solid poker face.
Aggressive poker is in fact winning poker, most of the time. However, you have to have something to be aggressive with. Going all in with a terrible hand is certainly aggressive, but probably not a wise decision unless you are somehow certain you have your opponents beat. It is usually only recommended to be aggressive when you have a decent chance of winning.
Perhaps just as important as aggressiveness is your table image. Winning poker is as much perception as it is actual odds. If you have been very aggressive but have been consistently called, you may want to consider easing off a little. Once you’ve been forced to show a bluff, it is a good idea to play tightly for a while. The next big pot you go in on you should make sure you actually have a strong hand. Once people are on to the fact that you will play strong even without a strong hand, they will be much more likely to call you. So be sure you are ready to be called.
One of the more common mistakes made by people new to poker is being overly aggressive. Because they may have had a run of luck, they think their aggressiveness paid off, and they continue to make strong plays even without good cards. This tactic may pay off big here and there, but it’s only a matter of time before they stumble into a trap and loose huge.
In the end, winning poker is always aggressive because you have to make big bets to win big, but even more important than aggressiveness is adaptability. Change your game around, know when to back off, and know when to be aggressive.