When to be Aggressive with a Big Hand

Aggressive Poker

If you’ve been playing poker for a long time, then this advice may not come to you as a shocking revelation, although your never too experienced to learn. If you are new to the game however, this could be of great help.

In this Bitesize Strategy article I will discuss how to play when you make a big hand and more importantly when to play that big hand aggressively and when to slow play.

The Automatic Slow Play: Think about It

One of the biggest weaknesses in a lot of players games is that they hit a big hand and automatically slow play the hand without thought. This can lead to many problems ranging from not protecting your hand adequately and giving your opponent the chance to catch up and overtake or to the more basic problem of not getting enough value out of the hand that you are going to win.

So lets look at some examples of where you should be thinking more carefully about how you play your big hands.

Flopping a Set

So your pocket pair has come up trumps in its 8.5 to 1 shot at making a set (3 of a kind) on the flop. This is a great situation to be in and is a very disguised hand. The problem here is that because it is already a very disguised hand most players don’t want to risk giving away any strength by betting straight out on the river, instead most player automatically choose to slow play sets on the flop.

This can sometimes be a viable option and can induce the other players to commit chips in the pot before you disclose your strength and raise or you can just continue to slow play and just call any bets on the flop.

But before you slow play a set then you really need to consider the flop “texture” so you can see what possible draws are on the flop and if you slow play is there a significant chance that you are going to let your opponent catch up for cheap.

  1. Is their two or more cards of the same suit on the board? (Flush draw)
  2. Is their two or more cards in close range to each other on the board (Straight draw)

You basically need to analyse the flop, if there is a flush or straight draw on the board then it really is not an option to slow play, and you should ensure that anyone who wants to try and chase that flush or straight draw pays the required price to do so.

Personally I like to bet straight out when I hit a set. It’s a very disguised hand and it is very unlikely that an opponent will put me on a set if I bet straight out, they are more likely to put me on a more mediocre hand such as top pair.

In fact this is where the argument about slow playing sometimes falls down, because by slow playing and then suddenly calling and raising bets this gives your opponent the information he needs to actually think “Has he hit a set?”

So I like to bet straight out when I hit a set and start building the pot immediately, and try and get as much value into the pot as I can whilst protecting my hand against the possible draws.

Flopping a Small or Medium Flush

Now here is a prime example where you are asking for trouble if you decide to slow play. So you are holding 5clubs-6clubs and the flop comes down with 3 clubs. Now you have a strong hand but a very very vulnerable hand.

Your hand might already be beaten by someone holding a bigger flush already, or one or more of your opponents may hold a single club in their hand and now has a draw to a much bigger flush than yours.

There is only one move you have to do here, and that is to bet out or raise on the flop to try and find out where you are in the hand.

This serves two purposes:

  1. The first of which is to make anyone who is on a flush draw pay to see the next card.
  2. The other purpose is to find out some information to suggest whether one of your opponents already has you beat.

If you face a lot of resistance and get re-raised then you might want to consider the possibility that someone already has a higher flush, and either get out the pot if you really suspect this, or to keep the pot as cheap as possible by just checking and calling.

Connecting on the Flop with A-K

The final hand I want to look at in this article is when you hold A-K and then connect on the flop. So the flop has come down something like A-7-4 and you have top pair.

Amazingly this is another situation where a lot of players will slow play the hand, why I don’t know, this one has always baffled me.

This is actually a very vulnerable situation and not only have you got all the dangers of the drawing hands like straights and flushes that we’ve talked about above, but you also have the distinct possibility that you are already beat by your opponent having hit two pair with A-7 or similar or a set with a pocket pair.

The only way to play this sort of hand is to play it straight up and bet out, or even put a little raise in there if someone bets into you. You need to take an action that is going to provide you with more information.

A bet or raise here, will not only make your opponent pay to see another card if they are on a draw, but also it will provide you with some information on the strength of your opponents hand and whether you need to slow your betting down, or even get out of the way if your opponent starts to look like he’s got you beat.

Information, Information, Information

In conclusion, hitting a big hand is a great thing, but you have to make sure that you play the hand correctly to make sure you get the best value out of the hand and that you adequately protect your hand and your stack against drawing opponents.

Every action you are taking in poker should be designed at enhancing the information you already have and working out where you are in relation to your opponents strength.

If you try to play the hand tricky then sometimes the only person you are tricking is yourself and you can find yourself in some really tough spots. Evaluate your situation carefully and make the right decision.