Dogs just don’t bark at the parked cars

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You recognize yourself playing solid-aggressive poker, you haven’t picked up a hand in what seems like an hour, but actually it has only been two or three full revolutions around the table. You finally get a hand, K-K. First, you think about catching up to the bigger stacks and how to maximize profits with this “killer” hand. Then you realize your image (super tight) may interfere. You face the dilemma of balance! What amount do you bet that will entice some action and not scare everyone … or bring in too many opponents?

Loose-aggressive and aggressive players in general are aware of their opponents’ style and take advantage of the common traits displayed by tight-aggressive players. They know when solid-aggressive players enter a hand with a raise they routinely have the “goods,” as advertised. They know when solid-aggressive players call a raise, or reraise, they have monster hands, or they don’t bother to get involved. Those at the table “paying attention” realize there’s money to be made or saved and know when to battle and when to step out of the way of what could be a huge hand.

Solid-aggressive players also pay attention and realize opponents will eventually notice their style of play and some may even utilize software programs like Poker Tracker, designed specifically to track play, identify trends and view the results of players seated at the table. So what can you, the solid-aggressive player do if you have been marked this way? Do you begin to play their game and loosen starting-hand requirements or play more hands out of position and “gamble it up” against weaker opponents who play any two cards? Or do you “change speeds” just enough to throw them off, put them back on their heels and use your established image as a potent weapon and not just an exploitable flaw in your game?

How you might incorporate these tactics is up to you. You might raise in early position with a hand you’d normally discard in hopes opponents will interpret it as a strong holding. You might be providing them an illusion of a solid hand and want to manipulate them into making an unnecessary fold. In some cases you may get a caller or a reraise, and you can make a continuation bet (out of position); because that is what solid players do with big hands in EP. Even when the board contains an ace or a king, your bet signals you hit your hand, or are not put off by the cards on the flop. If opponents haven’t connected solidly they’ll pitch their hand faster than a Nolan Ryan heater.

On other occasions, you might have position and just call a raise with the expectation of playing the hand aggressively after the flop, with a bluff in mind. Or quite possibly you might have in mind stealing the pot on a later betting round. Nothing is more unnerving to a loose-aggressive player than to be out of position and have a solid player just sticking around and then pouncing on the turn, or when the board appears to have helped their opponent tremendously and not them. “Image” again can win hands that normally would be conceded, and it happens when players who are thinking in terms of “out-thinking” their opponents and incorporate Level 2, 3 and 4 thinking.

If you’re strictly staying in the moment, playing solid-aggressive poker and not out-thinking your opponents, you will not be as successful and will not get them to bark at you. When I play poker, I don’t try to play poker better than my opponents, I only try to play better than myself.

— Al Spath is the former Dean of PokerSchoolOnline, author the “Poker Journal,” and a private online and live poker coach (at Delaware Park Casino, Atlantic City and Las Vegas). He can be reached for private poker mentoring through his website: pokerinstructors.com or alspath@alspath.com.