For those of you who still aren't comfortable getting more aggressive, remember:
When you play PROACTIVELY, they are forced to play REACTIVELY. Reactive players give away SO much more information than proactive players.
If it folds or there's one limper and it gets to me in MP and I raise... my range is wide. It's not insane, but it's wide. Now they call.
Flop is X. They almost always check. You should almost always bet. What do they do? THEY REACT. PAY ATTENTION. Now you have data. Now you can make a read. Narrow that range. Consider their stack. Consider their tendencies. NOW EXPLOIT THE EFF OUT OF ALL OF THAT DATA. They'll give it away pretty frequently if you make them.
Listen, sometimes you'll be forced to react. But as a general rule, if YOU'RE the one selectively and smartly putting the pressure on your opponents, they'll give you info. Again and again and again. It allows you to manipulate them and they don't even know it's happening.
And the more you do it, the better you'll get at categorizing their reactions. Now you have reads. And now you can ruthlessly eviscerate them by using their own info against them. Sometimes being ruthless means you'll fold when you know you're beat. You're not going to cave and give them chips back unless they earn them. You don't have to steamroll and try to win every hand. You still win the battle when you fold the worst hand.
And you're not "betting to see where you're at." You're playing a proactive game and forcing the other players to be on their heels and RESPOND TO YOU BECAUSE YOU'VE TAKEN CHARGE.
This brings us to the bet-fold. Sit and watch how many flops are raised at the 2 dollar up to 5 dollar blind level. Now watch when you get to showdown. How often was that raise weak? How often is it air? How often is it a guy with top pair just losing his mind?
It's the nut flush draw... it's a pair plus straight draw... it's JJ who just called pre and flopped and overpair and is now ready to go to war...
Go ahead. Take notes for a session. You'll see that flop, turn, and river raises are 1) RARE 2) STRONG.
Oh, and PS: raises often indicate strength from the PREVIOUS street. Keep an eye out and see how often you see that. The turn gets raised? Good chance they were already strong on the flop. Not always, but keep an eye out.
Anyway: If you're playing proactive, they are reactive. When they react by raising, you better have something to go war with more than you think. They'll raise and make it easy for you to bail out. I've paid off so damn much over time that I have, *sigh*, seen a lot of flop raises where my QQ over pair was crushed by the T7 that flopped top two and got all of my money. When raised on any street, DON'T assume bluff first - assume value and then decide your course of action from there.
If you're playing proactive, you box them into corners and they will react in ways that spill tons and tons of info. Use it! Bet for value and FOLD for value when they spill that info.
.... now imagine you're doing all of this while in position.