Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aggression, Motivation, and a Bluff…

Aggression, Motivation, and a Bluff all walk into a bar together.  Aggression orders a Chocolate Martini, Motivation asks for a Coors Light, and…wait a minute.  That’s the one about the Priest, the Rabbi, and the Gorilla.

Let’s try this again.  You all know that Aggression is what wins poker tournaments.  The meeky players might make cash, but it’s hard to win it all if you’re just calling bets and not making them.  Ditto for bluffing, making plays, 4-betting, and all that.  You also know that Motivation is a big factor in tournament Hold ‘em - the players who “get hot” and seemingly rake in pot after pot are feared.  No one wants to tangle with them, and so they keep on betting, and winning, and betting, and winning.  And so on.

Naturally, you want to be this player.  But what if you’re not?  What if you’ve been getting the dregs for hands, and someone else is the Table Captain?

At some point, it pays to throw out the poker equivalent of a spike strip to stop or slow down Mr. Aggression.  Today’s question is - when to do it?

My answer, somewhat ambiguous, is - sooner rather than later.

I was in two different 1 table sit-n-goes today where this very situation occurred.  In the first SNG I was one of five left (remember, three get paid) and I was nursing a mid-range stack when the cards went ice cold and the chip leader/guy on my right started raising and winning almost everything in sight.  I went almost two rounds without playing (his raises and my cards made this mandatory), and while he took out two players and allowed me to cash, I eventually got to the danger zone (less than 10 big blinds), and knew that action was needed.  On the button, I went all-in with a pair of deuces - hardly a great hand, but I was counting on fold equity.  I got it (everyone folded) and this bought me some time to the next time on the button (two hands later) where I went all in again with…3-8.  Mr. Aggression called me with QJ suited but I lucked out by catching a 3 on the turn and doubled up.  One hand later Mr. A knocked out the other player putting me in second place, where I wound up three hands later when my pocket 8’s lost to Mr. A’s KQ on a river King.  Oh well.

The second tournament was almost like the first.  We got down to three players with me in second position this time.  My stack was healthy, but then both opponents went at it with 3-betting and 4-betting galore, and with hands like 2-9 and 4-8 I sat and watched for a while, then, with a dwindling stack of slightly less than 9 BB I pushed all-in on the Big Blind when both players limped into a pot. They both folded, and I went all-in again the very next hand on the button, only to find the small blind with pocket Aces that held up.  Still, I felt I had to keep what little momentum I had kin order to get back into a winning position (it was easier to do this time because I already had cashed).

The key here is two-fold.  First, don’t wait too long so as to lose fold equity (if your push is too small you’re gonna get called, period).  Second, even though your cards continue to be trash, you’ve got to make a stand at some point, or else you’ll wind up in the short-stacked position I warned you about in #1 above.

Cards come and cards go, but you have to show aggressive players you’re not just waiting for cards, and you’re not afraid to push back.  If you want to put yourself in a position to win it all, act like a winner and be aggressive even when it’s not in the cards to do so.

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