Aggression, Good or Bad?

Today’s hand from Arlie Shaban’s Power Up streams is all about aggression and the lack of it. Passive play has been looked down on in No Limit Hold’em for years, and for good reason. In most situations, it significantly reduces your chances of winning. With Power Up being a new format, it’s understandable that some players will default to playing in a passive way, but is that the best way to win?

The hand starts very passively, with Arlie’s opponent just calling from the button showing two power cards and only 6 Energy. Arlie has no reason to raise with a bigger stack and just Nine-Five off suit, so he checks his option. The flop is dealt, with the Ace of Diamonds and the Four and Nine of Spades on the virtual felt. Arlie checks his second pair. I’m not convinced by this play and would have preferred a half pot bet from our boy here. As the old saying goes, “A pair is hard to make” and the hand so far doesn’t indicate that the other player has anything as strong as an Ace in his hand.

However, in this case, Arlie checks, and so does his opponent. The Turn card is the Jack of Diamonds, putting two potential flush draws on the board, Spades and Diamonds. Here, Arlie does bet for half the pot, and gets a call from the other player. This is the first indication that Arlie’s opponent has something. Heads Up, a call from the Button can be done with any holding and the only information Arlie has before this call was that his opponent has just 6 Energy and 2 power cards. Now Arlie can deduce that the other player at the table has at least got some showdown value.

The last community card is dealt, and it is the Eight of Hearts. No flush is possible and a straight is unlikely, so Arlie’s pair of nines has a chance to be the best hand. I don’t mind his check here, but I hate his opponent’s half pot bet that follows. He has less than a pot sized bet in his chip stack, and he shouldn’t fold if Arlie decides to raise. I would prefer to see him move all in here to put the most pressure possible on Arlie. This is what I would do, but it’s not what happened. Arlie now has some choices to make. His opponent hasn’t told a consistent story. No real aggression until this raise and it is unlikely that the Eight on the river helped them. Mathematically, Arlie’s pair of nines aren’t strong enough to justify staying in the hand, but in Power Up, he has the option to change that.

Arlie plays a Scanner/Upgrade combination to add an Ace to his hand, giving him two pair. He’s now only losing to a hidden set, Ace-Jack, Queen-Ten and Ten-Seven. I tend to discount a set as the level of aggression shown doesn’t match this holding and Ace-Jack would have raised on the turn. That leaves Queen-Ten or Ten-Seven. Both make sense for how the hand played out, but other hands also make sense here. An Ace, a missed flush draw and many bluffs all fit into Arlie’s opponent’s range. Arlie says he just wanted to call here, but he raises. I think his raise is the right move. His two pair are very likely to be winning this hand and raising gives him the best chance to win the table.

I think Arlie is more concerned about his streak than winning this hand at that moment, and fortunately his subconscious took over and raised for him. Not showing aggression here would have been a mistake and could have potentially let Arlie’s opponent back into this match. He would have only had just under 2 Big blinds, but he would have also had 3 power cards and 8 Energy. Not a great situation, but certainly not one that guarantees a win for Arlie.

In my opinion, this hand shows opportunities for improvement for all involved. The play was too passive throughout the hand, and it took Arlie’s subconscious to get the final raise in when I think it was needed.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on the players in this hand? Let me know in the comments below, or by joining our Discord channel.

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