If you have played online poker for any length of time, then you will have no doubt come across your fair share of hyper-aggressive/maniac type players. Ever wondered what goes through the heads of some of these chip spewing LAGtards? Thinking about how they think about poker and what they are trying to achieve with every action they take will help you to better understand how to effectively play hands against more aggressive players. Sometimes when you are playing poker online it can feel like an aggressive player is always getting hands and generally just running over the table, but for the vast majority of the time, the reality is they won’t have a hand, and will be looking to bully weaker opponents out of a pot (since they haven’t got much choice when their hand will not win at showdown.)
When thinking about how to play against these loose aggressive players, first of all, it’s incredibly important that you know exactly how an opponent will play post flop and to make sure that you don’t assume too much about how they may play based on a limited amount of data. Don’t wrongly assume that there is a direct correlation between pre-flop statistics and post flop play. Some good players will correctly be taking advantage of blind steals in late position to steal the blinds and create a more aggressive image for themselves, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have aggressive tendencies after the flop.
The aggressive poker players you want to be targeting are the ones who are always involved in hands and looking to steal pots whenever possible. Generally speaking, they will be playing too many hands and will be looking to steal every pot that they think is up for grabs. The moment they sense an opponent is weak they will pounce and look to punish them by making large sized bets, and quite often will continue betting to continue to tell the story that they have a big hand. Their uncontrolled aggression will inevitably lead to these players donating their stacks to the other players. It’s just a question of which players have the best strategies for playing against them.
It’s important to know that most loose aggressive players in online 6-max games are not very good. If they were good poker players and good hand readers they would be crushing the game and would have already moved up in stakes where there is more money to make in the bigger games. So, very aggressive players should not intimidate you, and when you do encounter them at your poker table, if they are fairly short stacked and have a loose aggressive style of player, more often then not, they are going to be bad poker players, and you should view them as a soft target at the table.
The best way to deal with these types of players is to slow play hands by just checking to give the impression you probably don’t have a very strong hand. Slowplaying can be a good strategy against loose aggressive opponents when there are no potential draws and no possibility of being outdrawn on later streets. In these instances, checking and showing weakness will allow an opponent to bet as a bluff when they have complete air, which is going to be a lot of the time, and they will often continue to bluff after the flop, because you have shown weakness by checking in the hand, as they will feel they can push you off a weaker made hand.
Whilst slowplaying in the form of just calling to induce bluffs from an aggressive opponent is an effective strategy, there is a time and place for it, you don’t want to make the mistake of slowplaying on boards where there are lots of drawing possibilities, since the trap could backfire and end up costing you a lot of money. In these situations, if you feel the board still very likely missed your opponent and know they will bet if you check to them, then it would be profitable to slow play in the form of check raising on the flop. Taking this line still allows you to extract additional bets out of him post flop, but the optimal line is to raise it up and get stacks in to get draws and worse hands to stack off incorrectly, instead of allowing them to see the next card cheaply. Sometimes you will have what you think to be is the best hand, but it’s not a huge hand and it would be difficult to get a lot of worse hands to commit their entire stack. In these situations, even if the board is draw heavy, with either a flush draw or straight draw, you really have no option but to basically check call down the entire way and give your opponent the chance to bluff.
All in all, to be able to effectively trap aggressive players requires knowing your opponent’s tendencies based on betting patterns and position at the table. As with all poker games, the aim is to take the course of action that will yield the largest profits.