The benefits of persistent aggression are numerous and inherently exploitative. You apply pressure to constrict your opponent’s play, modify your image, pick up dead money, and instill fear in other players, ultimately causing them to make mistakes against you.

Examples of strategically applying pressure include stealing, 3-betting, and c-betting. An aggressive stealing game pressures the blinds, an aggressive 3-betting game pressures raisers, and an aggressive c-betting game pressures pre-flop callers. Additionally, the player who controls the action tends to pick up the pots where no one has a showdown worthy hand.

Consistently applying pressure also establishes an aggressive image among observant opponents. Many players will become frustrated by your attacking style and will begin actively avoiding you. Others will try to get into wars with you in order to “shut you down” and will generally spew money your way when they run into the top of your range.

If you play passively, then you are letting your opponents dictate the action, which forces you to make hands to win pots. By consistently leaning on your opponents, you are always keeping fold equity on your side. Therefore, when employing an aggressive poker game, you have access to income from two sources, showdown and non-showdown earnings. A potential by-product of a sound strategy based on initiative and pressure is a positive red line.

The Infamous Red Line

In case you do not know what the red line is, it is a graphical representation that poker tracking software uses in its graphs to chart your non-showdown winnings. Whenever a hand ends before showdown, those earnings go to the non-showdown winnings column of one player or another. But contrary to popular belief, positive red line earnings do not come from making crazy bluffs and playing like a maniac. They come from adhering to a sound aggressive strategy, adjusting to opponents, maintaining initiative, and applying pressure.

The biggest reason many players suffer from a free-falling red line is due to passive play via an indiscriminate pre-flop calling strategy. If you call without a plan only to fold later in the hand, you arespewingmoneythatshowsupinyourgraphinanuglyredlinespiralingdownward. Usingmy implied odds based calling strategy will eliminate this leak.

One way to improve your red line earnings is to change the way you are playing pots you currently enter. Thin value betting is an example of this. If you are checking behind a lot of rivers where you’re likely to have the best hand due to a fear of getting check-raised, you are adding much more moneytoyourshowdownwinningcolumnthanyoushouldbe. Bettingwhereyouropponentislikely to fold will have the pot going into the non-showdown column instead. Unfortunately, changing your post-flop play in this manner will just shift money around from the showdown column to the non- showdown column, so you are not likely to significantly increase your overall win-rate. All you will get out of it is a warm and fuzzy feeling from a better looking red line.

The way to increase your red line without negatively affecting your showdown winnings is in pots you are not currently entering at all. The easiest ways to find additional non-showdown earnings is through more aggressive pre-flop stealing and light 3-betting. In both instances, it involves being mindful of your opponents and exploiting them through small adjustments.

I find the simplest way to implement a more robust stealing game is to ramp up the pre-flop aggression against the correct people. If you are in late position and have tight players sitting to your left,youshouldberaisingwithrecklessabandonuntiltheyadjust. Iamtalkingaboutanytwocards here if the situation is right.

Finding spots for light 3-betting is a bit more tricky. Even if you have an opponent raising very loosely on your immediate right, you still need to weigh in several factors before deciding to go crazy on him. I will cover this in greater detail in Chapter 9.

Overall, the key to improving your red line and overall win rate at the same time comes down to having a game built on intelligently applying pressure to your opponents both pre-flop and post-flop through specific adjustments to your overall strategy. As your game improves, your call button will begin to disappear as an option. Once you achieve this, your red line will stop nose diving and begin to swing upward.

Here is a graph of my last 25,000 hands at 50NL as of writing this:

Notice that the non-showdown winnings (bottom line) have a steady upward trend. Some of this comes from aggressively stealing, but mostly it comes from consistently playing with initiative and applying pressure to opponents.

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