Many people talk about poker aggression, but don’t fully explain what it means. First you have the “misguided” aggression, which basically means playing like a maniac. An example of this can be seen with poker players, both online/live, that open-raise with Ace Rag from early position. It’s most likely that this hand is beat and in the long run you will get knocked out of tournaments quickly or make you go broke in ring games. Second, you have what I call television aggression. This aggression can be seen regularly on your favorite poker TV shows by aggressive pros like Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey. Viewers watch these moves and think that this is the way these players have played the entire tournament. This is not true.
The aggression I am mean must take into consideration several important factors. First is strength and/or weakness of the other players at your table, second is position, and third is the blind levels (when you are playing a tournament). It is extremely important that you consider position (where you are sitting at the table in regards to the button). To put it simply, in early position you should be playing stronger hands, and in late position, closer to the button, you can play more creatively.
Let’s say you are playing heads-up with another player and you are dealt A-9, just think about the hands that are better pre-flop against A-9. First you have AT-AK and 99-AA. All of these starting hands dominate your A-9. You also have 22-88, which are favorites against you. So, you have 17 hands that you are a dog against, in a “heads-up” situation. This is with only 4 cards being dealt. What if 6 cards are dealt with 3 players, or 8 cards with 4 players and so on. Your A-9 doesn’t look as good as it did, does it? More players, more potential hands.
As I always believe it is important to become aggressive and take advantage of weaker players, it becomes more important as the blinds and antes go up. If you are in mid to late position with an average hand and make a pot-sized raise, it could be likely that your opponents will fold, or call you and fold with a bet on the flop. In the early stages of a tournament, you can accumulate chips using your aggression, but the latter parts of the tournament you take pots which can decide the outcome of the tournament, depending on what stage you are in.
All in all, the way to be competitive in tournaments and ring games is to be aggressive.