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So, what exactly is “aggressive play”?

10/10/2018 by Byron Jacobs

Many years ago I read the well-known book Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen. This is an account of Hansen’s win in the 2007 Aussie Millions. This book does what it says on the tin and is a detailed account of every hand that Hansen played en route to victory in that event.

It’s a pretty good book and I enjoyed reading it. However, as I have published many, many books I noticed a lot of things that, rightly or wrongly, I thought I could have done better if we’d been producing the book at D&B. For example, I thought the analysis was rather skewed – there were many hands that seemed fairly trivial to which a lot of analysis and chat had been devoted. The result was that, much of the time, Hansen was essentially repeating himself. On the other hand there were situations that appeared to be crucial to his progress in the event and these often had no more discussion than the perfunctory situations where he raised pre-flop, c-bet the flop and the Villain folded. Also, I wasn’t overly keen on the layout of the book which seemed to me to be unnecessarily cluttered and not particularly attractive. Nevertheless, despite these reservations, it was a good read, mainly because the concept of the book was so strong.

Ever since, I had wanted to produce a similar book but to do it much better. However, when players have just won major poker events and pocketed millions of dollars their first instinct is not usually to contact a publisher to write up their experiences. So, the idea had to sit around, waiting for its time.

It’s time actually came in late 2016, after Qui Nguyen registered his sensational win in the November conclusion of the WSOP Main Event. His final table coach, Steve Blay, contacted us with the idea of producing a book detailing Qui’s victory. His idea was to co-author the book with Qui. Steve runs the training site Advanced Poker Training and has a highly analytic poker style. Qui, on the other hand, while having a good understanding of poker maths is very much a “feel” player. If he sensed the Villain was weak, he was no longer interested in the raw maths of a play – he just wanted to put the Villain under as much pressure as possible and was unafraid to shove a load of chips into the pot to do just that.

Steve did a fantastic job with the book, allowing Qui’s raw, aggressive style to shine through while also providing much background analysis, with numerous in-depth ICM (Independent Chip Model) discussions. This analysis showed that – on almost every occasion – Qui’s instincts were good and that the timing of his pressure plays were spot on. This fusion of Qui’s instinct and Steve’s analytic approach is fascinating.

I think that the resulting book is one of the most instructive we have produced (and it looks miles better than the Hansen one). As we all know, standard poker advice is that playing aggressively is absolutely essential for any kind of sustained success. However, this mystical “playing aggressively” is something that is often very hard to translate into actual decisions at the table, especially when – as will inevitably happen at some point – we go card dead. In his Main Event win of 2016, Qui gave an absolute masterclass into how to apply pressure at just the right moments and was rewarded with his victory. Anyone who has ever experienced feelings of timidity at crucial moments in major events (in other words, probably almost everyone who has experienced crucial moments in major events…) could learn from this book.

From Vietnam to Vegas by Qui Nguyen and Steve Blay