Welcome to the ChipTalk Community

Want to join the rest of the ChipTalk members? It is free to sign up today and unlock new features, discussions, and reduce the advertising.

Sign Up

Pre-flop play: A Tight-Aggressive Point of View

Discussion in 'Poker Strategy Articles' started by jojobinks, Dec 26, 2006.

  1. jojobinks

    jojobinks Poker Nerd (and Admin)
    Lifetime Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2005
    Messages:
    13,322
    Likes Received:
    310
    Location:
    bottom pair and a flush draw
    Pre-flop play: A Tight-Aggressive Point of View
    by Jojobinks

    Megabit’s article was published recently, and it got me thinking. Mega and I have both had some success, but we look to be very different players. The difference is most obvious in pre-flop play. Is one of us wrong and incredibly lucky? Or, more likely, are we both right?

    I’m going to go with option two. We each have our own style. Each is well thought out and geared towards winning tournaments, and each can work.

    Mega used the following points as the main considerations in pre-flop play
    • Position and who is in the pot already.
    • Stack size, yours and your opponents.
    • The current stage the tournament is in.
    • Your hole cards.
    I agree whole-heartedly. The difference is in how we weigh the factors. Whereas Megabit states that hole cards are the least significant factor, I disagree entirely, especially in the early stages of the tourney, because of the fact that with many loose players or players I don’t know, I never assume I can make them lay down a hand.

    In my earlier, wilder days, I would play a junk hand on impulse once in a while, and make a move on it with bottom pair on the flop, only to get “trapped” by a guy with middle pair. In no limit tournaments, you have to be able to get a guy to lay down, and if you can’t, you have to have something to show down. I'm not interested much in wrecking my tourny because this fool is going to call a big bet on the flop with AK and no pair. If I’m not sure whether I can push him off, and I have nothing worth a showdown, then why am I in the hand?

    My conclusion is that when M's are around 50 (the first levels of the tourny), or when out of position, I’m just not going to get involved. So when it folds to me on the button, with blinds 10/20 and I’m holding JTo with 1500 chips, I’m not going to take a stab at the pot. Guess why? Because there’s 30 chips in there! Guess another reason why? Because I plan to win this tournament, and I’m not really interested in putting my stack at risk with a bad hand.

    Similar situations include:
    • stacks are deep, there’s a raise and a call, and I have KQs in any position.
    • Stacks are deep, and I’m in first position with AJ or 22 or KJ or KQ or any other marginal hand.
    • M’s are 10-15, there’s a raise ahead of me and I’m holding 55.
    • M’s are 10-15, there’s a raise ahead of me by a tight player and I’m holding AT
    • 4-handed, shortish stacks, and a tight player pushes. I’m holding A8.
    • 4-handed, healthy stacks, and a maniac pushes. I’m holding 66
    And so on, and so on…

    First in vigorish and position is way more important than any other consideration, and so I’m liable to not call a pre-flop raise more than once or twice in the first hour of a ChipTalk.net Thursday night tourney. With so many, ahem, let’s say “creative” players in the field, why would I get involved? I know I’m going to get paid when I flop a set, or when I have AA and the flop come 27K. I know it, so why gamble with an easily dominated hand? Answer: I would not.

    The bad news: playing this style will fairly often get you to the 50/100 level with about a starting stack. Then what? Well, if you get unlucky enough to not get any hands for a half hour, then it’s time to take your stack size into consideration. At some point in this level or the next, your M will get towards 5, which is means you need to get doubled up. A rule of thumb for me is that I need to have 3k in chips at the first break, or I don’t have much chance of a final table. At this point, first in vigorish and position become of utmost importance.

    With an M of less than 10, if it folds to you in the cutoff, button or small blind, you should push with a wide range of hands, all things being equal. If you have a calling station on your left, that sucks, but you still need to pick up some chips. The tighter the guys on your left are, the more you should come in raising. The looser they are, the more careful you should be. This seems counterintuitive to some, I think. But you have to know that a guy with a healthy stack is going to lay down hands better than yours. If you have 1000 chips at 50/100 and I have 3000, do you think I’m going to call you down with A8? Well…I’m just not. So if you push against me with 78s in this situation, you should know that I’m most likely giving you my blinds. Any of the other tight aggressive players in the field will often do the same.

    It’s not so bad getting into this push/fold mode. If you can be patient and not give up, you have a good chance, if you don’t let yourself get blinded down too far. In order to do that, you have to take your opportunities where you can get them. That means taking serious advantage of the guys on your left. If they turn out to have AA or KK, that’s just how it goes.

    By the way, what if, many ask, the calling station on your left calls with any ace? That would suck for you, but not really as bad as you think. If you’re not dominated, and he calls with a weak ace, you’ll win at showdown with rags about 35-40% of the time. If a short stack situation isn’t the time to get yourself a little lucky (and winning with 78 v A4 isn’t much more than a LITTLE lucky), then when is?

    I think perhaps the key concept in this entire article is what Sklansky termed “the gap concept” in his book Tournament Poker for Advanced Players. He writes, "You need a better hand to play against someone who has already opened the betting than you would need to open yourself." (27) Not very pithy, I know. But if there’s any concept a poker player should know, it should be this one. A player who has yet to act has a random hand. Random hands, we know, suck in hold ‘em. A player who raises or bets is MUCH more likely to have a strong hand. Strong hands are likely to dominate the hand we thought was pretty good a second ago. Our pocket tens, for instance, are dominated by JJ, QQ, KK, and AA and only a coin flip against JQ, KJ, AJ, QK, AQ, and AK. If you aren’t in imminent danger of blinding off, do you like the sound of that? Do you want to put your stack in on a coin flip? Also, you can win in two ways by being aggressive, they can call and you make the best hand, or you can get them to fold. When you play passively, you have to have the best hand to win.

    A note on gambling: it’s good to get in as a dominating favorite, let’s say AK v AT. You’re about 75% to win there, and that’s great, right? But let’s say the tournament is going to go another 2 hours. You’re going to have to make these decisions a few more times. Let’s say you get all your chips in as a 75% favorite 3 times, and if you lose any one of the three you’re out of the tourney. What’s your chance of winning all three? If you said .75^3, or 27/64, you are correct, and you see my point. The more often you get your chips all in, the more likely you are to go bye bye. And the point of a tournament, friend, is to not go bye bye. You should do your best to not get all in when you think you are likely to get called.

    The last sentence is bolded for good reason. Let’s go back to the end of the first hour situation. You have 1000 chips after posting your big blind and the blinds are 75/150. A maniac in middle position raises to 450 and you have AT. The guy raises every hand, you know that you are almost certain to have him beat. You can push for 1150 chips, which will pretty much compel a call from him. You don’t want to play here, generally speaking. You’re looking at a whole round of hands, and all those chances to bring in chips uncontested. Why gamble with a 40% or better chance of busting? Look for opportunities to get your chips in with a reasonable chance of not seeing a showdown.

    Finally, I hope (I really do) that you think this means you can push me around. Because good tight aggressive players (including such players as Solberg, ddollevoet, seitz33, scottwire, and others) happily encourage you to think they’re weak tight. The more you raise them, the more likely they are to get action when they want it. In my opinion, the tight aggressive style is perfect, when played well, because it can’t effectively be countered. It gives up on small pots, and goes aggressively after pots that are worth winning, and with hands worth gambling on. When used well, a player will play very few hands, and yet still steal his share. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

    One more finally: where this style and Megabit’s style really differ is in their attitudes about post flop play and stack fluctuations. Mega’s style calls for more difficult post flop decisions and for more stack volatility. Mine often simplifies your decision making and seeks for more stability. With Mega’s style, you’ll often flop middle pair with mediocre kicker and face an all in for 50% of the pot. What then? Or you’ll raise with a QJ type hand and get pushed on for “only” another 1000, offering your 2:1 odds. Then what? These situations can be handled optimally, but they require a lot of experience, and even then you’ll likely see your stack up in the top ten then down to the middle of the pack 2 or 3 times in the course of the tourney. As I mentioned earlier, both these styles can work. It depends on what suits you and what you’re good at. Good luck fellas, it’s rough out there.

    Additional reading:
    Tournament Poker for Advanced Players, David Sklansky
    Harrington on Hold ‘em I and II, Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie


    More advice from Jojobinks (Matt Feldman): Poker Coaching by Jojobinks and Themightyjim2k
     
    #1
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2008
  2. jmc

    jmc Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2006
    Messages:
    737
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, CA
    Re: Pre-flop play: From a Tight-Aggressive Point of View

    A quick rundown of the advantages/disadvantages of a tight/aggressive style:

    Advantages:
    1. You'll tend to get involved in pots with the best hand preflop.
    2. Your bluffs will tend to get more respect.
    3. Opponents may have a difficult time detecting when your opening requirements have dropped when the blinds start going up.
    4. Your post-flop decisions will become easier because your hand should be well defined.

    Disadvantages:
    1. Your hands are easier for your opponents to read, but the opposite may not be true.
    2. You may be passing on some very profitable situations against the bad players in the early stages of a tournament.
     
    #2
  3. Stevo

    Stevo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2005
    Messages:
    966
    Likes Received:
    20
    JoJo,

    Nice article. I wish I had read it before I read Mega's, I would have felt better about how people play.

    I think (and you know) you are being much kinder to a looser style (read loser style) of play Mega apparently utilizes. How have you both done since writing the article?

    I have to tell you. I'm in a weekly game and I play pretty much the way you describe. We usually play 10-14 guys, pay the top 3 and I almost without fail make the money. I even once essentially folded my way to 3rd picking up only three decent pots.

    The thing about tight play is - at least for me thusfar - people will call. People will call, Ray... I have played for weeks in and out and sat at the same table with the same guys and folded 30 hands in a row and then come in for a raise in early position and get 2 callers. It's incredible.

    While I have seen some folks play Mega's way and have some success - I also see them have huge fluctuations in chips over a tourney. I don't have the discipline to play that way. So you come in with Q9 and the flop is Q/8/2. Guy in front of you bets... you... ? I don't know, raise to see where you are? Ok, he calls. Then what? Or say you bet and he raises... you??? Really, the preflop action doesn't even matter at this point. If you both limped - what do you do? If you raised and he called - what do you do? If he raised - lord knows you should not call, but if you did, what do you do?

    Playing what I would generously describe as marginal hands preflop makes you have to make too many difficult decisions after the flop. At least too difficult for me.
     
    #3
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike Faux Clay Nation

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2005
    Messages:
    2,602
    Likes Received:
    52
    Location:
    Ontario
    Great work jojo.
     
    #4
  5. whataboutj

    whataboutj TAG extrodinare

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2006
    Messages:
    4,693
    Likes Received:
    120
    Location:
    on the wayyy negative side of varince
    WOW how did I miss this article last Dec??? Great work JoJo. Glad this got bumped
    J
     
    #5
  6. jojobinks

    jojobinks Poker Nerd (and Admin)
    Lifetime Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2005
    Messages:
    13,322
    Likes Received:
    310
    Location:
    bottom pair and a flush draw
    eh, he hasn't played much, but any difference in that short a period of time is likely to not mean much anyhow. both of us have done very well in the last few years in the CT tournies. i will say this, though; although many of the players in the CT tournament that have found success are tight, the most successful player, fsu88, is not what anyone might call tight.
     
    #6
  7. Turner Profit

    Turner Profit Creativity Alliance

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NYC
    OK 2 Silly questions.
    1. What are M's?
    2. I don't follow the use of Vigorish here

    Please help cure my ignorance.
    Thanks!
     
    #7
  8. jojobinks

    jojobinks Poker Nerd (and Admin)
    Lifetime Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2005
    Messages:
    13,322
    Likes Received:
    310
    Location:
    bottom pair and a flush draw
    both are from the harrington on hold 'em books.

    m=the ration of blinds/antes to stack. this is used as a measure of how patient you can be. if the blinds are 10/20 and your stack is 1500 (as it is to start on p*), then your m = 50, which means you have all available options (3 barrel bluffs, play squeaky tight, whatever). later, when the blinds are 75/150 and your stack is 1400, you m is under 7 and you're in some trouble. you need to push in with many of your reasonable hands (first in, in late position, etc).

    first in vigorish = the extra juice you get for being first in. if someone has already entered the pot, his hand is much more likely to be strong than someone behind you (who hasn't acted yet and has a random hand). so if you're shortstacked, you want to be very careful about what pots you enter after someone's already in. on the other hand, if you're first in, and you open for a raise, you are likely to win right there. being first in gives you the lead, and puts pressure on the random hands behind you. they could have AA, KK and QQ behind you, of course. but most of the time, when they don't, you might pick up some chips unopposed.

    first in vig: p137 HOH2
    M: p125 HOH2
     
    #8
  9. Turner Profit

    Turner Profit Creativity Alliance

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2007
    Messages:
    510
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NYC
    Thanks JoJo!
    I've heard good things about the Harrington book. May hafta get 'em
    Thanks Again
     
    #9
  10. clmayfield

    clmayfield Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2008
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX
    Nice article! I cut my teeth on Sklansky, so I grew up with the tight, aggressive style of play. But one thing I will say about Sklansky is that he is a lousy tournament player. He is the best for a structured game, decent for a cash no-limit game, but I don't think he is the smartest/best out there for tournament play.

    I agree that starting hands are very important pre-flop. And for most large tourneys, tight aggressive is the way to be at the beginning because you don't know what you are up against and there is guaranteed to be a maniac or two at any given table. Wait for them to bust out, and the dynamics will change... and so should your playing style. If the table tightens, you will need to loosen or watch the blinds cut into you... and BTW, this is me saying what the right thing to do is, but I am usually more conservative and fall into this very trap. What happens next? If the table is onto me, I get no action when I do come out aggressive... and the people who do push back on me are likely to actually have something.

    Now what is nice about this style is that I can miss the flop completely and still push everyone out... Actually, if it is cheap enough, it is kind of nice getting caught with your pants down now and again. You don't want too much respect. And that is the Catch-22 with being tight-aggressive... you want to play tight aggressive, you just don't want everyone thinking you are tight aggressive. Otherwise, your action will only come from solid hands. Which again, is why I think Sklansky's advocation of the style is great for cash games. There is always a fool at the table who will go against you... which is how the distribution of wealth goes in a cash game: the money flows from the fools to the tight players. In a tourney, the fools bust out, and then where is your money going to come from? You need to loosen up to get access to everyone else's chips.
     
    #10
  11. timsta007

    timsta007 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    210
    Likes Received:
    3
    Re: Pre-flop play: From a Tight-Aggressive Point of View

    Nice article, but when playing in a moderate to large field tournament (100 or more) the bold above is simply too large a disadvantage to me. Being able to take advantage of other people's mistakes post flop is too lucrative to pass up. Also, having a large stack in the middle and late stages of the tourny is critical to surviving the inevitable "bad beats" when you call a short stack, have him dominated and lose 25% of the time.
     
    #11
  12. butrflynlambie

    butrflynlambie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2005
    Messages:
    339
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Near Philadelphia
    When would a reraise or check raise be warranted in first round play?
     
    #12

Share This Page