Poker – like stocks – is a game of people. As a result, the right strategy is not something absolute but dependent on the other players’ strategies. In other words, it’s a problem for Game Theory. If players are bad, you can simply play solid and wait for them to make mistakes. That worked quite well ten years ago – and it is still a viable strategy at the low ($1/$3) and medium stakes ($2/$5).
However, the level of play has improved dramatically over the last decade as more and more people have gotten serious about poker. As a result, the tight aggressive style no longer works at the higher levels of the game for the simple fact that too many players have mastered it. If five of the other players at the table are solid tight aggressive players, playing tight aggressive yourself doesn’t give you much of an edge.
Now, instead of tailoring your strategy to exploit bad players, you have to tailor your strategy to exploit solid tight aggressive players. How do you do that? It’s actually quite easy. Tight aggressive players only bet aggressively when they have a big hand. Therefore, when they’re betting aggressively, get out of the way. However, if they’re playing more cautiously, they have a weak or at best moderately strong hand. In that case, you frequently want to be hyper aggressive regardless of your hand. That’s because you can get them to fold most of their holdings.
It’s like rock paper scissors. You need a different strategy to beat each type of player. And because the game has evolved and there are now far more solid tight aggressive players around – especially at the higher levels of the game – your strategy needs to evolve too. Of course, excellent players will adopt to your strategy and start to check their big hands in order to induce you to bluff. The game never ends…