We all know the aggressive player, i.e., the maniac. They seem like they’re bullying everyone on the table, betting each street and taking no prisoners. It can be daunting when this type of player shows up in your online session, where you’re being put in uncomfortable spots, and it feels like you’re always having to back down.
The natural reaction is to play back at them, fighting fire with fire. But there’s a problem with that. One of you will get burned out, and it’ll often be you. In this blog article, we’re going to touch on some important concepts that can help improve the way you play against aggressive opponents.
Importance of Being Patient
It’s important when playing against these types of opponents that you be patient, trying not to get frustrated, and letting the game come to you. You don’t want to be in too many hands with marginal holdings where you’re facing multiple barrels post-flop because it can quickly become a recipe for disaster.
Because aggressive players will often either call or 3-bet us pre-flop and rarely fold, we need to tighten up our pre-flop range when playing out of position. We don’t want to open-raise and fold too frequently when facing a maniac’s 3-bets. Similarly, we don’t want to cold-call too wide out of position, putting ourselves in tough positions post-flop, facing three streets of big continuation bets, unsure if we can profitably call down with second pair or worse types of hands.
For example, this is how I would typically adjust my CO open-raising range if the player on the BTN is aggressive. The yellow hands signify hands that I would normally open but now instead fold.
When playing in position, the inverse is true. We can be a little bit looser with our calling range because we now have more control over the size of the pot and will also find it a lot easier to get to showdown.
Regarding 3-betting, if we find that the maniac is calling our 3-bets with a wide range of hands, we’ll want to remove bluffs from our 3-betting range and widen our 3-bet value range instead. Conversely, if the maniac has demonstrated that he’s capable of folding to our 3-bets, then we can keep some bluffs in our range.
The ranges above show our calls (blue) and our 3-bets (yellow) from the CO versus a HJ open. As you can see, when we’re facing an aggressive player, we should avoid 3-bet bluffing them and instead be calling with a strong but slightly looser range.
Now that you know some preemptive adjustments let’s now turn our attention to our post-flop game. Against aggressive opponents, we must be prepared to call down lighter, even if we get raised. Mathematically speaking, the more likely our opponent is to be bluffing, the more we should be calling, and these aggressive players love to bluff.
Checking to Induce a Bluff
One powerful tool in our arsenal against these types of players is checking to induce a bluff. Often, aggressive players will see checking as a green light to try and win the pot by bluffing. They see checking as a sign of weakness, which often induces them to be even more aggressive than usual. To exploit this, we can check some of our strong hands, which then gives us the ability to call down when facing such aggression.
Additionally, pay attention to the board runouts. If there are multiple missed draws, this increases the likelihood that an aggressive player is bluffing, so we should be more inclined to call. It’s important to also pay attention to hands that go to showdown. Did the maniac pull the trigger three times with no pair and no draw? If so, we should now call them down even more frequently, so we’re not being exploited by over-folding.
It can be tempting to play back at our opponents if we miss a draw or don’t have a strong hand by the river. As mentioned before, we shouldn’t always fight fire with fire, but instead, we should tighten up our pre-flop game and wait until we have the goods to use their own aggression against them by raising.
- Let the Game Come to You
- Open Raise Tighter Out of Position
- Call and 3-bet Looser When in Position
- Allow Your Opponent to Bluff Into You and Keep Their Bluffs Alive
- Don’t Play Back at Them by Raising As a Bluff
- Be Prepared to Make Some Light Call Downs on the River, Especially When Draws Miss