Tight aggressive poker players can be some of the toughest opponents you'll ever face online. The first step in learning how to deal with tight aggressive poker players is learning how to recognize tight aggressive poker players.
A tight aggressive poker player does not play many hands in comparison to a normal poker player, but plays most of the hands that he or she plays in a very aggressive manner. This means that they bet and raise more often than check and call.
Many players operate by the rule that if the hand is good enough to play, it has to be good enough to bet or raise with. This is an oversimplification, but you could do worse than asking yourself if every hand you play is good enough to bet or raise with, and folding if it is not.
This doesn't mean you should bet when you are drawing to a flush or straight and can take a free card, but the reason the hand is good enough to bet or raise with is because you are getting the correct price to see the next card dealt. In both online and offline play, the tight aggressive players tend to be the best players at the table.
What Good Poker Players Know
Good poker players know that the person who enters a pot with the best starting hand tends to win more often than those who don't. So they only play their best starting hands and are very conscious of position. One important thing to realize when trying to spot a tight aggressive player is there is not a magic number of flops seen or anything like that. Some players play 15% of the hands while others may play 30%. Just from this information you cannot determine if a player is tight. To illustrate this, here is an example. If the average player at the table is playing 50% of the hands (which would be a very loose table overall) then the tight player might be playing 30% of the hands. On the other hand, if the average player is only playing 20% of the hands, the player seeing 30% is playing loose. The tight player is probably only playing 10 - 15% of the hands at the table with an average of 20%. He or she is probably also looking for a looser table because it is harder to make money in an overall tight game than a loose one. So when you're trying to spot a tight player, compare how many hands he or she is playing in comparison to the other players. Aggressive poker players bet or raise much more often than they check or call. The main reason aggressive players tend to do better than non aggressive ones is because every time they bet or raise it forces their opponents to make a decision. With every decision an opponent is forced to make, he or she has the chance to make a mistake. If you always just check or call, your opponents don't have to make as many decisions so they have less opportunity to make a mistake. This alone can turn an otherwise profitable poker player into a loser over time.
How to Beat Tight Aggressive Poker Players
The short answer is the same as most poker questions. It depends. There are many poker players who are not very good who understand that they need to be tight and aggressive but aren't able to make other decisions correctly. They lack skills on the flop, turn and river play, so they still tend to lose over the long run. They usually won't lose as much as players who don't understand that tight aggressive play is best, but they are still losing players. On the other hand, the best players don't make many mistakes on the flop, turn and river and when they combine these skills with tight and aggressive play, they are very dangerous opponents. So your first job after recognizing a tight aggressive player is to determine if he or she is a good one or a poor one. The players who make too many mistakes on the flop, turn and river are the types of players you beat by letting them make more mistakes than you do. You need to understand that they will tend to bet into you and raise you more often than your other opponents, so you can take advantage of them when you have a strong hand. For example, you limp from middle position with a pair of eights and the button, who you know is a tight aggressive player, raises. When you hit your set on the flop, you can safely check to the pre-flop raiser on the flop, because he or she will bet almost every time. You can even flat call the flop bet and check again on the turn many times and have them bet again. Of course you have to recognize dangerous boards and how often your opponent will bet again on the turn to know how often you need to check raise the flop. This is an area that can give you strong hints to the difference between good players who play tight aggressive and poor players who do so. The best players will usually not bet the turn behind you unless they are still strong. With these types of players you are almost always better off check raising the flop than flat calling. Because they have the position advantage you give up too many free cards on the turn that may beat you without charging them for the river. When playing out of position, be sure, at least 75% or so, that your opponent will bet after your check on the turn. Otherwise you should go ahead and bet. Giving an opponent a free look at the river when you have a strong hand can be dangerous. In addition, they may call the bet anyway so if you are in doubt it is rarely a mistake to bet. The only time it is a mistake is if you aren't strong enough to call if your opponent raises your bet.
Knowing What Hand Your Opponent Has
Another way to combat a tight aggressive player is to understand that they are not going to enter a pot without a strong hand. This should lead you to raise more often before the flop if you have tight aggressive players to your left. This will also help you narrow down the range of possible starting hands that tight aggressive players who enter the pot before you may have. One other trick that you need to understand when playing tight aggressive players who have position on you is they will call raises pre flop with pocket pairs hoping to take your entire stack when they hit a set. They know that if you're aggressive pre flop that you will likely be aggressive post flop and with position they stand to make a large win when they hit their set. They can also easily get away from the hand when they miss.
How to Be a Tight Aggressive Poker Player
In order to be a good tight aggressive poker player you need to work on your starting hand selection first. As you become a more experienced and a more skilled poker player, you will expand your starting hands depending on the competition at the table, the situation and most importantly your position in comparison to the best players at the table. But until you're a consistently winning player, you should strive to enter the pot with only your best starting hands. In general, if you are playing more than 15 to 20% of the hands, you are playing too many hands. This does depend somewhat on how many flops the rest of the players at the table are seeing, but less is almost always better.
Position, Position, Position
The second thing you must become a master at is recognizing and using your position at the table both before and after the flop. You will never become a great poker player without understanding and using position to your advantage. Good players do not play average or slightly above average starting hands from early position. In early position, fold anything that you can't raise with. For example, a pair of nines from early position is not a good enough hand to raise with, so it should be folded unless you have a good enough read on the rest of the table that you are sure you will be able to see the flop without having to call too large of a bet. At a tough table you would always fold this hand from early position.
To be a good aggressive player does not mean that you will be foolishly aggressive. You will still check when your hand isn't strong enough to bet most of the time and you will still call most of the time when you are last to act and you are receiving the right price to draw to a better hand. What being aggressive means is whenever you have a good chance of making your opponents make a mistake, you take advantage of the situation.