When To Play Aggressive Poker With a Big Hand

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BetMGM Apr 18, 2024, 3:13 AM

Big hands don’t come often in either live or online poker. The odds of being dealt a mere pair are -300, the odds of flopping a set are -800 and the odds of making a stronger hand are even slimmer. As a result, when you find yourself holding a big hand, it’s your duty to make the most of it. 

A strong hand puts you in position to dominate the table with bold, assertive play. Play your cards right and you could claim the most profitable pots. Take a closer look at how to play aggressive poker.

Defining Aggression

What is the difference between a passive and an aggressive poker player? Quite simply, passive players fail to assert themselves at the table. As a result, they allow other players to dominate play. In Texas Hold’em poker (the most popular poker variation,) actions such as preflop limping, checking after the flop, making small leading bets and check-calling are typical of passive players. That’s not to say that you should never make these moves. In fact, they can be correct under certain circumstances, such as having a weak hand. But passive players are unbalanced in favor of these plays. This tends to lose them money on average.

By contrast, aggressive players make assertive moves that elicit information and put their opponents under pressure. Open-raising and three-betting before the flop are plays that demonstrate aggression, often directed at preflop limpers.

A common way to show aggression on the flop is for a preflop raiser to hold on to the initiative by making a continuation bet. Check-raising on the flop is a particularly aggressive play that can often be enough to close down a weak-handed opponent. Another possibility is to “float the flop” (call a flop bet with a weak or marginal hand to set up a bluff on the turn or river.)

On later streets, betting, raising and check-raising are also solid aggressive plays, especially when scare cards turn up on the river.

Defining a Big Hand

The term “big hand” can mean different things to different players. For some, it merely refers to strong hole cards such as pocket aces or kings. For others, it means connecting with a board in a way that produces or has the potential to produce a monster hand. For the purposes of this article, a big hand is considered to be the kind of holdings that can win you a big pot. These include flushes, straights, sets, full houses and quads — the kind of hands that are worth risking your whole stack with. 

Of course, the “bigness” of a hand very much depends on the texture of the board. Say you’re playing Texas Hold’em poker with pocket 5s and the flop comes 2-5-queen. With a set of 5s, you now have a big hand, whereas pocket aces would give you nothing. A set of queens will beat you, but the odds are in your favor. Now is the time to demonstrate aggression.

Aggressive Big Hand Moments

So you’ve flopped a big hand in an online poker tournament and want to take full advantage. How do you go about it? The general principle is simple to grasp: Build the pot to get as much value as you can while protecting your hand against possible draws. At this point, some players might object that it’s better to slow-play with a big hand. After all, aggressive play can scare opponents into folding before the pot has had a chance to grow. This viewpoint isn’t wrong. In fact, if you’re totally sure that you have the strongest hand, slow-playing can induce other players to commit their poker chips before you disclose your strength. But given the nature of poker, that kind of confidence is rare. In most cases, it’s vital to consider the flop texture.

Say, for example, you flop a set. The first question you need to ask is what are the possible draws on the flop. If there’s a flush draw (two or more cards of the same suit) or a straight draw (two or more cards in close range,) then you need to make sure that any player who might want to chase the draw has to pay the price. This has the dual benefit of building the poke and forcing information out of your opponents. Straight-out betting is a good way to do this.

Similar thinking applies to small and medium flushes. Say you’re holding 5 of hearts and 6 of hearts and the flop comes with 3 of hearts. Your hand is big but vulnerable to anyone with a bigger flush, not to mention a full house. The way to go is to be aggressive. Bet out or raise to make them pay and find out whether or not there’s a chance they already have you beat. If your raise is re-raised, there’s a fair chance that someone’s hand is stronger. If that’s the case, it’s time to turn off the aggression. Check and call to keep the pot cheap or — if you have good reason to believe that you’re beaten — consider laying your big hand down. It takes courage to do so, but it’s often correct, which is why it’s known as a “hero fold.”

Make the Most of Poker Games Online at BetMGM

Big hands will come to players who put in the time and effort. At BetMGM, you have every opportunity to get into as many poker games online as your lifestyle allows. BetMGM’s mobile app enables you to explore Seven-Card Stud, Omaha and Texas Hold’em poker on any device, while cash games and online poker tournaments have stakes and buy-ins to suit every budget. In addition to the poker site, BetMGM offers a broad range of online casino games, including slots and live dealer table games such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat and craps. Register at the online casino and let the good times roll.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.