How to Be Aggressive When Playing NLHE
If you play No-Limit Texas Hold'em Poker on a regular basis, you often hear that calling is the worse decision.
Aggression is the favored approach in holdem poker, and aggressive players bet, raise or reraise. They almost never call. Now, if you are such a player you do not need to read this article as you know how to use aggression. But for most players at the low or mid stakes, it is not obvious to be that aggressive.
One technique to improve your aggression is the no-call exercise.
Not Calling At All?
The no-call exercise is an exercise where you play without calling at all. It can be applied to NLHE or PLO.
This is clearly extreme and it is not meant to be a strategy for playing NLHE. Just an exercise. Under regular conditions, even though calling is not the preferred action, it can sometimes be the best action.
For example, if calling is cheap when you have a hand that can hit something big. Or if you think that you have the best hand but you do not want to play for stacks.
It can be correct to call in such situations, but the common problem for many online poker players is that they call way too often, and not just in these cases. Calling a lot is the attribute of the passive players and it is a big leak to fix as soon as possible if you want to make money at online poker.
So the no-call exercise is a technique that can help you calling less often.
The no-call exercise
As this is an exercise, you should practice it either at a cheap ring table like NL25 or a low buy-in tournament around $5. This way you will not risk any money that can affect your bankroll.
As its name indicates, in this exercise you should never call. Only check, fold or raise. You should never call unless this is for your entire stack.
This way you will realize which cards are really strong enough to allow you to stay in a hand, and which should be tossed. Your entire hand requirement range both pre and post flop will have to adjust, otherwise you may lose chips very quickly.
An example to illustrate this exercise is if you have been card dead for a while and get AT in the button. One player has raised in front of you. Should you fold or raise? Is this hand good enough for a reraise?
Say you reraise. If he 4-bets you, you know you would have to fold as his range clearly dominates yours, unless he bluffs with air, but here we assume your rival to be quite straightforward. If he just calls and any Broadway card appears at the flop, you could be in serious trouble. So this is probably a hand to fold then.
Say this time you raise with AT, an earlier position limper calls and the flop is K-T-3 rainbow. If the other player who is first to act bets, should you fold or raise. Raising here provides information about the strength of his hand and uses the advantage of position.
If he 3-bets, you should fold. If he calls, he may check at the turn, offering you either a free card or the opportunity for a second-barrel bluff. By reraising, you have forced him to define his hand before the pot has reached too large a size.
Practice the no-call exercise once in a while. Your aggression, confidence and bankroll will all increase steadily.