Get net-sum game on your side

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If aggressive play isn’t part of your arsenal, the math won’t let you be a winner. Opponents will fold to your bets and you won’t drag the big pots. My job as a coach is to force you to embrace this and enable you to adjust your game in an appropriate fashion.

Great players dominate opponents and force them to make adjustments. Let’s review tips on aggressive play:

• Aggressive play keeps opponents off-balance. In poker, if your opponent’s thinking is muddled, you have a much better shot at getting his chips.
• Aggressive players gain more fold equity. Quite often in no-limit hold’em, both players are equal in knowledge. However, over time the aggressive player picks up more uncontested pots.
• Aggression will make players pay off your big hands.
• Conversely, a passive player wins small pots, which leaves this category of player often nursing a small stack. Opponents can sense when a passive player has the goods.

This may sound a tad redundant. Focus on the most successful player you know. What might strike you is he reaps all of the big pots. As he cashes out, players are heard commenting on him to be a luck box, failing to grasp the loose-aggressive player has created his own luck. He understands manufacturing chips is his job. Fold equity is the big secret. Poker is a net-sum game. The exact hand will not ever repeat itself but many of the same situations recur over time. Do your homework and use equity charts. You will gain insight into what positive expected value really means. Bluffing is part of the aggressive pie. Great players know how to sell their bluffs.

There are many compelling reasons to play poker with aggression. Fold equity might be the least understood. We must think in terms of net-sum gain.Get away from thinking about a hand that you played and lost. Think of it as a situation. Again, stay away from the result.

For example, if a hand where you have three callers in front of you for $50 each and you push all-in a stack of $300 with a nut-flush draw results in a loss, do not think in terms of negative $300. Understand the past three times the players all folded, netting you $150. Or ($150 X 3 = $450) $450-$300 = $150 net-sum gain.

This example is oversimplified, however it demonstrates how we, as players, get tied up in the immediate result. Net-sum gain is a powerful ally to have on your side and is sure to build your bankroll.

— Mark Brement has spent 15 years teaching and coaching all facets of poker, including at Pima CC. Email him at brementmark@gmail.com.