One of the biggest issues I've had at the moment is staying at tables with players who put me in difficult situations and generally make me really uncomfortable about what the right play is. This not purely about ego, I just really want to get better. I think though that this 'throw yourself into the deep end' approach can be detrimental to your improvement as a player.
I've tried to come up with some approach for handling this. Do you see any flaws in it? Any improvements that can be made?
In spots you are really unsure, itís okay to pass over the marginal decision and do deep analysis on the hand later. This applies to bluff catching and value betting. Letís call this the conservative risk taking approach.
Assuming you face relentless aggression and are feeling really uncomfortable at a table the first question you need to ask is: what am I doing?
If you donít have a clear goal in mind, leave.
If you say your goal is to learn keep in mind that the learning process will be faster if you donít try too hard to push it. As you gain skills you will be able to face tougher opponents, there is no rush for you to sit down at a game you are uncomfortable if you still feel like youíre learning a lot playing in softer games.
You can start taking greater risks and deviating from standard once your able to visualize ranges, equity and play better. E.g. you get raised. Do you know what bluff: air ratio is required for you to call down for stacks?
Do you know what his value range is?
Do you know what your range is (while balance may not be important knowledge of your range helps you figure out which of folding or calling is most costly)?
Do you know what to do on various turns?
If the answer is no you can just avoid the marginal situation and analyse it later. The next time the spot comes up you can 'make a play' and you'll be in a much better position to experiment as there will be less emotional interference.
You canít immediately deviate from standard as strategies can take time to work. So if you believe playing tight and straightforward in a given spot is +EV then stick with that and plan what to do with your more marginal hands away from the table. Once you have some better mental framework developed for the spot you can begin experimenting.
While playing more hands may be +EV in a vacuum, if youíre out of your comfort zone and don't have the skills for some marginal spots, you can end up making huge mistakes post.