Passive Poker Players - Why Your Game is Weak

A lot of poker players start off playing passively. I did. I used to call with a lot of hands, hardly ever re-raise and slow play a lot of my so-called monsters.

For me, I think part of that was due to the fear I had of what my opponents would do if I raised. Would they re-raise me? Would I have to fold? Being put in that position is awkward and uncomfortable; it’s not a place a new player wants to be in.

But nothing good comes from being passive. If you want an example, look no further than your TV. What do you see the pros do? They bet, raise, 3-bet and check-raise. They’re more aggressive than they are passive.

And that should tell you something.

The Risks to Playing Poker Passively

There are multiple risks to playing poker passively.

At the core of most of them is one important concept – when you’re passive you often lose more money than you ever stand to gain.

For example, say you have pocket aces preflop. You decide to be sneaky and limp in. The play is sound – in theory – but sucks when it’s applied. Here are a couple of reasons why.

For one thing, when you limp in the pot (especially from early position) you invite a lot of other players into the pot with you. They can over limp with suited connectors, pairs and other hands with potential. Hands that will dilute your equity in the pot. Hands that put you at risk for your entire stack on the flop. Hands that would’ve folded preflop had you raised.

Secondly, when you choose to limp instead of raise, less money is going in the pot. That will make it harder for you to build a pot and get value from weaker hands. It’ll be hard to get your entire stack in when the situation calls for it, too.

Thirdly, most passive players bleed chips. Instead of raising (or maybe folding), they check or check/call, and end up at the river far too often with the worst hand.

The bottom line – there is nothing positive about a strategy that revolves around passivity. You need to pick up the aggression if you want to be a winning player.

Aggression Wins – Why You Need to Add Aggression and How to Get Started

The benefits to being a more aggressive player is the opposite of what I mentioned above. You build pots, prevent bad beats and get the most money in possible while you’re still ahead.

There’s more to it than that, though.

Aggressive play gives you fold equity. In other words, when you check, limp or call, you’re not giving your opponent’s the option to fold. Why fold when they can come along with a mediocre hand at a great price? When you bet or raise, however, you don’t give them a good price. Instead you give them a reason to fold.

You also appear to have a strong hand (whether you do or not). That will induce folds from lots of mediocre / garbage hands, that would otherwise dilute your equity in the pot and make it harder for you to win big / lose little.

Additionally, aggression gives you initiative in the hand. When you raise preflop, you can continuation bet the flop and immediately garner some respect. Your opponents will figure you to have a strong hand, whereas limping in preflop usually means you don’t. So you’ll have an easier time picking up dead money.

Aggression Doesn’t Work for Aggression’s Sake

With all this talk about becoming more aggressive, I want to make one thing clear. Being aggressive just because can backfire. You still want to use some common sense. If you’re coming from a passive background, you want to slowly add aggressive strategies and tactics to your game.

For example, you might start with your preflop game.  Instead of open limping preflop you might choose to raise instead. That gives you the chance to take down the pot, and at the very least you’ll narrow down the field.

From here you might start continuation betting. Instead of checking or calling the flop, you bet about half or two-thirds the pot. Your opponent is going to miss two-thirds the time, so this can be a relatively easy opportunity to pick up some chips.

Those are just a couple of ideas to get you started. My point here is that you want to progressively add aggression to your game, so that you gain confidence, see what works and avoid getting into awkward situations. From here you can start to adding tactics like reshoves, blind steals and check/raises to add even more aggression. Just make sure that whatever you do has a reason behind it, and that you review your play regularly so that you can learn from your successes and failures, and adjust.