I am fortunate that a few close friends of mine also happen to be beasts on the poker table. Being able to discuss the game with players who are much better than me is a tremendous boost to my game and I am grateful for my situation.
In learning to play full ring no-limit and pot-limit (PLO) cash games, I began playing a conservative, tight aggressive (TAG) style. So long as I actually have a skill edge, playing TAG should be a profitable venture and thus far it has been.
Recently my poker savant friends have pointed out that I should consider opening up my game to play a looser style, specifically LAG (loose aggressive) as they unanimously agree it should be even more profitable. Not being one to shun advice from better players, I’ve made it a point to open up my game. I’m opening more pots with a wider range (usually in position), and focusing on range narrowing and hand reading my opponents in an effort to maximize value. The idea is to build a loose image in an effort to get paid off on my value hands.
Below is a fun example from one of my last sessions of 2014 where I quickly built up an aggressive image and didn’t hesitate to put it to use.
12/30/14 $1/2 NL $400 Effective Stacks.
I buy-in for the $400 max and immediately open the KT from UTG+1 at a seven handed table. Two players call, including the Villain in the SB who seemed to be paying close attention to the action. We all have $400 stacks.
Flop QT8 [Pot $33 Stacks $390]
SB checks, I bet $15 and only the SB calls. In hindsight I want to bet more in spots like this.
Turn QT85 [Pot $63 Stacks $375]
SB check calls our $35 bet. Again, I should be betting heavier here.
River QT85T [Pot $133 Stacks $340]
SB checks. I use one red and one black chip to bet $105. SB complains and folds but I take note that he’s annoyed and very aware of the action. This hand sets up the hand below which takes place just a few orbits later. I believe that by being just one level ahead of the SB I was able to get him to over play the hand below for stacks.
12/30/14 $1/2 NL $335 Effective Stacks.
One hand prior Villain (SB from hand above) had opened the SB to $11 after a few limpers and ends up showing down K5 suited. On the next hand from the button, Villain again opens to $11. I call from the SB with the AJ. BB also calls. The Villain is playing $335 and I cover. While some may like a raise with what figures to be the best hand here, punishing the Villain’s obvious wide range, I decided to call to avoid bloating the pot while out of position. Villain didn’t seem to be the type to fold and why would we want him to fold a second best hand anyway?!
Flop J95 [Pot $33 Stacks $324]
Bingo. This is exactly the flop we can crush Villain on if he’s got any piece. In our short time playing against him, we’ve noted that he is observant and also wide. We can try to use our “aggressive” image to lure the Villain into making a big mistake. In other words, we are not slow playing top pair w top kicker. I check, BB checks, Villain bets $25. I check-raise to $105…the same exact bet size I made on the river in the hand above, again using one red and one black chip. The BB quickly folds and just as quickly, the Villain announces that he’s all-in.
Mentally, I’ve snap called his jam, (that’s why we check-raised!) but I ask the dealer for a count anyway. I already knew his stack size (Sidenote: we should have a rough estimate of all of the stacks at our table, always!) but I felt that asking for the count would not let the Villain or the rest of the table in on the fact that I had set up this exact result. After the dealer announced the total, I calmly slid out the chips and made the call.
Turn J95A [Pot $681 Stacks $0]
River J95A8 [Pot $681 Stacks $0]
Villain turns over the QJ and we win the $681 pot. As Villain complains, we offer a friendly “unlucky” as if to console villain for losing with top pair. (Sidenote: keep the game friendly! This player was happy to agree that he was “unlucky” that I also had top pair.)
While we were fortunate to get a great flop for Villain to go nuts, there’s no guarantee he would have been so eager to get his stack in with top pair, third kicker had we not made the same $105 bet a few orbits prior. Having a plan and executing the plan worked out in our favor. We quickly built an image with one player, found a spot to capitalize on that image, and then pulled the trigger. The poker gods took care of the rest.