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Exploiting Overly Aggressive Players: A Hand Example

April 22, 2021
MTT
by Dave Roemer

There was a recent discussion on the PokerStars Discord that I thought would make for a good educational article.

The game is the Big $2.20. In the hand, our Hero opens to 2 BB with a 32 BB stack from MP with AJ. They get one caller, who has position on them and covers their stack comfortably (87 BB). The flop comes AA9, giving hero trips with a jack kicker, and a back door diamond draw. Our hero elects to c-bet 4,100 (1/3rd pot) and gets called.

The turn brings the 3s. Hero now fires half pot, 10,300 into 20,600, and the villain folds.

Hero has provided the following read:

“(Villain) is VERY loose and weirdly aggressive. He played only 11 hands on my table, but he was overly aggressive during this time. I kind of feel like the best strategy would be to slowplay against players like him, but at the same time, I don’t want to give them odds to draw something that will beat me. The times they went to showdown were weak hands. The only time they had a good hand was AQs on a QQx flop, which they slowplayed. On another hand, they 3-bet preflop with J9s and shoved the flop with a stack to pot ratio of over 10 and middle pair.”

There were a couple responders before I chimed in with my thoughts.

  • The first said:

“Since this opponent seems to be making betting mistakes, I’m starting off by checking on the flop. If the flop checks through, I’ll bet about 40% on the turn. If the opponent continues, then I’ll size up on the river. If they bet the flop, I’m calling, and then check/raising the turn as I expect them to bet again.”

  • Another responder, who was making their first foray into these hand discussions, chimed in with:

“Given the position of your raise, a normal player would only call with hands of similar strength; however, given the fact that we know that he’s really aggressive, it is likely that he’s calling us with a relatively weak hand. Also, if he had AQo, AKo, KK, QQ, JJ and the like he would have probably done a 3bet, so we can cap his hand and exclude that range. Flop comes and it is very good for us. Yeah, he could still have Ax (A9 and A3 would beat us and are probably inside his call range), but we have a blocker and a definitely better kicker (see reasoning above about capping his hand). Since we know that he likes to double/triple barrel a lot, we can probably hide our hand’s strength until the river. We check and let him make the bet (we’ve seen him do that before, multiple times), then call it until the river, where we check-raise.”

  • The first poster replied to them with the following:

“If we were deeper, then I’d absolutely save the raise until the river and check/shove, but here if we had bet slightly larger for our open, we would have 58k behind and 14.4k in the pot going to the flop. If the opponent bets say 10k on the flop, we then have 48k behind and 34k in the pot… so when the opponent bets the turn, we’ll be pot-committed for a shove there.”

I think there are several issues here, in the initial poster’s thoughts, as well as the responses, that make this a nice instructional spot.

  • Here were the thoughts I shared:

As much as 11 hands isn’t enough of a sample size, villain has certainly been a maniac in this time, so I think it’s wise to adjust to exploit that. I think the optimal strategy in this hand is simply to check/call flop and turn, and check/shove river if they haven’t gotten all in already. We have the best hand likely 100% of the time as we should feel confident this player type would reraise us preflop with AQ/AK/99, as well as sometimes A9, maybe any ace. Regardless, the key factors here are:

  1. We have an extremely strong hand, the effective nuts on the flop
  2. Villain’s range is extremely weak on this board
  3. Villain is a maniac whose primary post flop mistake is bluffing/aggressing too much with weak holdings

When framed like this, taking any aggressive action on the flop or turn seems quite sub-optimal; particularly check-shoving. This opponent seems like a bluffy lunatic, so we are going to promptly take away his option to bluff and be a lunatic with air?

Pot commitment?

This is in reference to the comment about us being pot committed so we shove… the concept of pot commitment is being misapplied here. In fact, pot commitment shouldn’t factor into any decisions in this particular hand. We have a bona fide monster for the situation, of course we’re willing (and eager) to get an effective starting stack of 32 BB in, and so we have no need to consider pot commitment. The question is how do we best accomplish that goal? Villain’s range is super weak, and villain is probably a maniac prone to making wildly out of line aggressive actions. So let them aggress.

Check/calling

I like a line of check/call twice, and check to them again on the river. An alternative might be to bet the river really small, like a “please don’t move all in on me” blocking bet, in the hope that they see that as weak and pounce. But, given how wide and weak their range is on this board, I feel like just checking is better. If they should check behind us on the flop, which probably won’t happen often, I would probably check to them again on the turn. Since when can a proper maniac resist blowing up after being checked to twice?

Sure, if there’s history of you trapping them over and over again, they might be able to resist reaching for the honey after being stung once too often. But we are 11 hands in, that factor doesn’t exist.

If we do opt to bet the turn after a flop check through, I would again choose a very small sizing. I’m talking 1/5th pot kind of sizing, not much more than a min-bet. When we are taking exploitative lines to get value vs. big bluffers, actions that “look weak” serve our purpose well. Maybe a tiny turn bet induces a raise, which we can then take a little time and call, and now that we’ve got their foot on the gas pedal, check river.

What if they have an ace?

Don’t worry about Ax hands. If this player type flopped trips, we are getting all the money in no matter how good or bad a line we take. We are trying to extract value from the rest of their range, which – unfortunately for our monster holding – is extremely weak overall and contains a ton of air. Fortunately for us, if we adjust to this villain’s apparent weakness, we can probably extract a lot of value out of his over-eager bluffing while not losing a chip of value against actual good hands like trips.

Being outdrawn

Some thoughts about the comment made. “I kinda feel like the best strategy would be slowplaying against someone like this, but at the same time, I don’t want to give them the right odds to draw something that’ll beat me.”

The initial feeling is spot on, for the reasons I explained above, but this comment leads me to believe there is too high a concern about “odds to draw something”. Their hands that actually have outs to draw are 2-outers (small pocket pairs) at best. A vast majority of hands in their range are drawing dead to a runner-runner flush or straight. Their entire range is very low equity.The flop is AA9 rainbow, what do you think they’re drawing at?

Once in a while, extremely weak players will hit their runner-runner flush with their Ten-Four suited. The vast majority of the time however, they are simply going to bluff off chips with these hopeless holdings if we let them.