The Benefits of an Aggressive Versus a Defensive Poker Strategy

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BetMGM May 15, 2020, 12:13 PM
Poker royal flush next to community cards and chips on poker table.

There are different types of loose-aggressive players (LAGs), both good and bad. Most of your profits when playing online poker for money will not come from them, as they are usually the winners on the poker table. In fact, they are a constant thorn that will take advantage of any sign of weakness. It is usually good when you are one of them and not the defensive player.

What is the aggressive poker strategy?

LAGs often aggressively play several hands, usually 30% or more of what is dealt to them by the dealer. A good LAG will raise and three-bet on before the flop. At most, they will loosen up their starting hand requirements. For instance, playing any of their two cards while heavily relying on their aggression or skill post-flop to beat other players when the community cards come into play. If you are not a LAG yet but wish to use their strategy, it is recommended that you have some structure to your starting poker hands list, as this is very important.

Furthermore, you will find bad LAGs as mentioned earlier. These are players that are usually reckless when they play poker online for money and will not find a fold. Such players are frustrating to play against and might just destroy your bankroll, as they do not know where they stand in a hand and will not fold to resist.

The strategy for a good LAG is to play a lot of hands and bet aggressively, while understanding equity. Loose-aggressive players are always aware of the importance of their initiative. Once the round begins, they will find a lot of spots to bet then take down the pot just like that with any weak holding. This is their biggest strength. Unlike tight players, they are more likely to get action as they are already aware of their image.

How to become an aggressive player or spot one

There are a number of ways players can tell if they are aggressive or not, preflop, especially in no-limit hold’em poker. The aggressive player is often one that open-raises and places a three-bet. It is easy for novice punters to tell that only a fairly small percentage of starting hands are strong enough to raise or re-raise. So, usually, if a player does raise more often preflop, it shows aggression.

Again, aggression can be demonstrated by a player who frequently attacks by re-raising over a raise or call, preflop. When the game reaches the flop betting round, aggressive players will pull other tricks. One of them is placing a continuation bet that keeps the initiative with the raiser before the flop or by simply check-raising. A check-raise can also happen on the turn and can be viewed as part of aggression, depending on the situation, like when the dealt card could draw. The scare can pretty much occur on the river causing any bet or raise to appear aggressive.

Hand holding two ace cards on poker table with poker chips

The aggressive vs defensive strategy

Aggression is a more advantageous strategy that new players should learn as part of the poker basics. That is why beginner poker guides will often tell you to “bet if they check” on the flop, just to get you ready. At most, preflop, players are not dealt paired cards.  Usually, pocket pairs will appear after many hands meaning that making a pair even on the flop is worse. So, being aggressive works better than being passive, given that your opponent has checked on the flop because they are yet to make a pair or better, meaning if you bet, you win.

On the other hand, the defensive strategy involves taking passive action over aggressive action. Usually, how this works would be to check instead of bet and to call instead of raise. This strategy protects your money, rather than boosting the overall size of the pot. Defensive strategies are mainly popular in online poker tournaments and are referred to as ‘pot control’ as it was important to protect stacks.

Can the loose aggressive strategy be beaten?

Everything has a weakness, and so does the LAG strategy. Below are the different ways you can use to attempt to beat aggressive players in poker online.

  • Slowplay against aggressive players – between loose and aggressive players, slowplaying is a good thing. As aggressive players play too many hands and will bet too much, you want them to think that you have a strong hand. However, it is also important to remember that aggressive players are also good hand readers. For instance, if a LAG sees you call two times on a straight or flush, it tells them that you do not have a strong hand such as a perfect pair, since you would have raised earlier.
  • Slowplay and four-bet before the flop – as you already know now, LAGs will bet with a wide range. To beat this, you will need to slowplay preflop as well as introduce the preflop four-bet bluffing. Slowplay a hand such as KK or AA before the flop, and the opponent will be less likely to have a strong hand given the wide range. It becomes very profitable to slowplay your strong hand and works to your advantage to have opponents folding whatever hand they three-bet with if you four-bet as a bluff.
  • Bluff raise – to defeat a LAG, you can look for spots where your range can be seen as strong, although weak—thereafter add some bluffs. For instance, you can bluff by raising with much weaker hands on spots where there are only strong hands or draws. This will allow you to combat your opponents’ aggression in spots where your range is relatively strong. More so, bluff raising also gives you some equity and could make your play much more profitable. However, it is advisable to sometimes follow up with multiple barrels if your raise gets called on the flop.

Factors to consider

Before you can sit down at the online poker table, there are things that you need to consider—especially as a defensive player, and they are as follows:

  • Bet size – one of the most important factors to consider is the bet size, as it impacts the odds of the pot as well as the range that your opponent represents. You will need to adjust accordingly.
  • Opponents’ behavior – reading the behavior of your opponents is crucial, especially if they have extreme tendencies. That way, you will be able to act better than them.
  • Range advantage – considering that the board is good for your opponent’s range, it is advisable to raise often. You can do the opposite if the board is good for your own range.
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.