The next wave in poker is weakness; weakness as strength, not real weakness; just the perception of weakness. The next change follows what Mohammad Ali said, “Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee.”
A tight-aggressive style, which was once popular, was replaced with looser aggressive play. Once this new style took hold it was time to start thinking about the next change. Once change is solidified, new change occurs.
I would predict the response to this new form of aggression will be a newer tight-aggressive style that’s a more sophisticated version of what many of us learned. It is TAG with refinements. I call it STAG: Sophisticated Tight Aggressive Game.
Aggression is the current trend in poker; three bets, four bets, five bets. Betting with a wide range of hands.
We all know trends are followed by another trend, and in this case it’s one that compensates for aggression.
Kano, a marital arts master, said, “In short, resisting a more powerful opponent will result in your defeat, whilst adjusting to and evading your opponent’s attack will cause him to lose his balance, his power will be reduced, and you will defeat him. This can apply whatever the relative values of power, thus making it possible for weaker opponents to beat significantly stronger ones. This is the theory of ju yoku go o seisu.”
Using the power of the other person to beat them, much like in older forms of marital arts, is certainly applicable to the next change in poker.
The aggressive player looks and feels powerful; use that perception of power against opponents.
Some folks don’t feel comfortable playing four- or five-bet aggressive poker. It’s stupid to compete with a seemingly stronger opponent on his terms. Change the rules; use them to your advantage.
A simple hand shows how this works: The aggressive player in the cutoff seat has ; button has . The flop is three hearts. The cutoff proceeds to bet every street. The button calls until the river, then makes a valuable raise.
This requires great patience and vigilant eye to determine when you can turn the tables.
If aggression doesn’t come naturally to you, find your comfort zone and expand it by the judicial use of STAG. Timing and position are essential to this new style of poker.
Sun Tzu said, “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” Why butt heads when you can turn the enemy’s aggression against him?
Remember, however, if you become too predictable you’ll get trapped or earn small payoffs. Be prepared to change gears; change your style occasionally and play a more sophisticated type of tight aggressive play. And above all keep your head in the game.
— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. His column will give insight on how to achieve peak performance using poker psychology. Email questions for him at firstname.lastname@example.org.