One of the bigger things I get when I coach students is the consideration of playing a LAG poker style. There are major differences between TAG and LAG players, but the common misconceptions and adjusts against a LAG style are what make it the most profitable style in today’s games.
What Is A LAG?
LAG is short for “Loose Aggressive” and is a playstyle that is more aggressive, and with more hands, than a TAG (Tight Aggressive). Even though players think that loose = bad, a good LAG focuses on finding spots where each extra hand added into their range is +EV given the mistakes their opponents will make.
Good vs. Bad LAGs
A LAG plays more hands, and more aggressively than just about every other player – and because of this, they must be solid on more levels. It is important to emphasize this…because a LAG style is NOT for everyone. If you do not have your fundamentals down, if you do not understand most spots you get into, if you cannot quickly deduce a +EV line – then LAG is not for you at the moment.
If you are not a winning ABC poker player, let alone a profitable TAG, you won’t be a successful LAG.
A good LAG is a solid player that understands situations, adjustments, and well-timed pressure.
Now there is a difference between good and bad LAGs. A good LAG applies pressure with solid reasoning and expands their range(s) when it correctly exploits their opponent’s propensities. A bad LAG fails to adjust and has less reasoning for their plays beyond “I want to be aggressive here.”
Bad LAGs are much closer to A-Fish (aggressive fish).
But note that it’s difficult to pinpoint if a player is a good or bad LAG in the short term since their aggressive play tends to end hands well before showdown and it’s nearly impossible to reverse-engineer their reasoning without seeing their hole cards.
Playing LAG & Applying Pressure
Pressure is why this style is successful. When talking about pressure, it is important to note that the most amount of pressure can be placed while in position. Just the threat of putting a big bet postflop makes most opponents play differently against us (us will now refer to LAGs). Because of that, good LAGs focus on playing tons of hands in position, even more so than a TAG does.
A good LAG is capable of being more aggressive both preflop AND postflop. So if we visualize this aggression preflop, here is a rough positional heatmap by position by player type:
You see LAGs focus everything on LP play, with heavy emphasis in the CO and button. This doesn’t vary at all from TAGs, as TAGs are very positionally aware and ramp up how many hands they play as they get closer to the button. But LAGs take this a step further and start adding more hands a bit sooner and also add even more hands from the CO and button.
A TAG might only steal 35%, while a LAG is constantly focused on pressuring every edge and might easily steal around 60% of the time.
This is your first step in transitioning to a LAG. You don’t just randomly jump from 14/12 to 28/23. You ease into it and get used to playing more hands preflop with a checklist that makes sense, adding initially on the button, then the CO, then the HJ, and so on.
The other aspect of pressure being more aggressive postflop, and is actually why this style is so successful nowadays. This is because the average player is better than they were in 2004 and now understands things like:
- Don’t get involved in 300bb pots with second-pair
- Don’t defend every raise from the SB
- Don’t play too many hands from OOP
- Don’t give every preflop 3bet action
It is that same knowledge that allows LAGs to thrive.
When players are folding at a certain threshold, then all a LAG needs to do is pressure right up to that threshold to get folds. A LAG operates successfully when poker players are folding too often.
When Is LAG The Best Style?
By this point, you are likely seeing the macro aspects of LAG, but might be wondering which players and tables are best for a LAG style.
If you are playing 30% of your hands and raising almost all of them…which tables do you think you are going to the best at? One where lots of pots are going multi-way? Or a table where lots of pots are going heads up?
Of course, you would prefer the table where pots are going heads up.
In multiway pots, you are forced to have strong hands and hit draws in order to profit. It’s extremely difficult to bluff well in multiway pots, and even cbetting against multiple players can be tricky.
But in a heads up pot you can apply more pressure, win with no hand more often, and capitalize on how rarely your opponent can hit a big hand on the flop.
I know many players that don’t play during the day-time because the games are filled with nitty regulars…but why is this bad? If your opponents are just going to set-mine and fold 85% of the time postflop, why not take advantage of that? If they are going to play super face-up, why not abuse them for that?
Playing LAG on tight tables is pretty boring, and will amount in you winning tons of small pots. But the variance is fairly small and it’s very easy to identify when players are adjusting to your aggression. Winning a bunch of preflop blinds and small pots with a cbet isn’t glamorous – but we came to make a profit, not get an endless serotonin drip.
When Should You Tighten Up?
Knowing when to loosen up and play more LAG is great, but you also need to know when to tighten up and revert back to a more TAG approach.
There are a few factors that I look for when determining if tightening up makes sense:
Are They Fighting Back?
I don’t mean that a player 3bet you once. I mean are there are few players are constantly re-raising you preflop, check-raising your cbets, barreling you on turns and rivers, etc.?
Having other pressure spots on your table will make your LAG life hell. These pressure spots are people who don’t just roll over and play dead postflop, good shortstackers, and aggressive 3bettors.
Are There Short Stackers?
Good short stackers will adjust and reship on you often preflop, especially when you steal against them. They get enough folds from your range if you have a 60% ATS (your O-range is 60% of hands, your C-range is like 10% of hands, so they get folds 83% of the time and make mega-profit from you).
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Are There 3bettors?
Aggressive 3bettors will ruin your flow at the table, show other people that you aren’t invincible (which then creates a table dynamic where even nitty players are trying to 3bet you), and put you in tough spots.
Remember, a LAG operates best in a fold-rich environment…if a table isn’t giving that to you, then get off it and find any of another 400 tables that will. Or, stay at your current table and adjust.
The Basics Of LAG Play
One of the things that helped me play LAG was looking into my TAG game. I found the situations that made me shudder while playing TAG. If I faced a raise on a certain board, and hated life because of it, I noted it. If I hated certain turn cards, I noted it.
While transitioning into a LAG I took all of these spots that made TAG-me shudder…and applied them to every TAG I could find. If I hated a certain spot as a TAG – why wouldn’t 90% of other TAGs feel the same way? This helped give me a plan of attack for looking at pressure situations and learning how to explore new ones while implementing them into my own playbook.
I’ve mentioned a few times that fundamentals are way more important while playing LAG. In saying that, it should also be noted that your misunderstandings will be amplified, as the situation will arise more often. So if you CB poorly, then seeing that spot more often is going to burn you more money. If you don’t double barrel well, then you are going to be less profitable postflop. Again, if you cannot play a TAG style well, then adding more spots postflop is just going to crush your winrate.
Playing LAG Postflop
Let’s talk about postflop for a minute.
There are some very important things to consider when moving into LAG play and playing more than just a preflop game. We already talked about adding more hands in your late position ranges when playing LAG and we do that in an effort to steal more preflop. This also set ourselves up to be in position for postflop decisions too. Of course, unless we are on the button, we will not always be in position, but poker is all about taking +EV setups – so do your best to contend for that button.
The big thing I suggest to people starting out is playing LAG preflop and TAG postflop. A TAG game postflop should be very solid at cbetting, have a decent handle on double barreling, and should understand value betting well. A lot of people think that LAG play means you have to play like a crazy person postflop making insane bluffs, value betting 3rd pair, and overbet shoving often. This is pure nonsense and another reason why people play poorly against LAGs. Keep your standard postflop game while LAGing, but pay more attention to the pressure.
It should go without saying that your range postflop will be inherently weaker. If you are playing 50% of hands from the button, you will not be hitting stronger hands very often. Your most standard hand strength will be air, then weak 1 pairs…so you have to be able to play these hands well.
Also, note that your value hands should actually get paid off a bit better, but not in a crazy way. It is more standard that if you run LAG in 6max that you can get crazy value with something like K9 on a K6344 board from any pair….but in full ring, players still tend to maintain their hand strength thresholds.
What I mean by this is that people have an ingrained threshold of pot size per hand strength. They understand that they want to make AI pots with nut hands, maybe 40bb pots with one pair, maybe 90bb with two pairs on scary boards, etc. (these are just random numbers…the real numbers are different and vary by player).
These thresholds are actually what allow LAGs to make easy profit. Once a LAG understands where a player’s threshold is with TP, then postflop is a breeze. Say we are playing against Billy, and Billy doesn’t make a pot bigger than 35bb with TPTK. This means, as a LAG, we are focused on threatening, a 36bb pot every time we bluff. Why should we make a 40bb pot? Or threaten a 55bb pot if we only need the pot size to be/look like 36bb?
Leverage is very important while LAGing…it is important while bluffing to look like you are threatening a large part of their stack. A big leak of new LAGs is that they over-leverage themselves and would make a 65bb pot against Billy as a bluff when that is just too large and a waste of time and money.
Pay attention to how you leverage your stack through your bet sizing and planning of the hand, and exploit a player’s threshold to apply correct pressure.
Common LAG Misconceptions
People hear “loose” and automatically assume “bad” and when they hear “tight” and assume “good”.
Do not automatically equate a LAG with a spewy fish.
A good LAG is a finely tuned machine that understands how & when to apply pressure, position, and adjustments. But a fish is a player that is too loose and doesn’t have an off switch. It is actually this misconception that helps LAGs make money. People will call your 3bets OOP with a poker range that includes hands like AT and 44 because they think you are crazy and that you are going to spew a stack if they hit. Remember this…it is important.
People also assume your preflop range is wider than it is, especially from EP. Look back to the heatmap from earlier – do you see a high concentration of hands being played from EP? Good LAGs use their position to pick up pots uncontested preflop and do their best to avoid being OOP with overly-junky ranges.
People also assume that LAGs will not adjust. They think if a LAG has an ATS of 80% over the first 30 hands at the table that they will remain that way the entire session. If the table starts approaching a LAG differently, a good LAG will identify it and adjust accordingly. They may do this by tightening up a bit and letting their image work in their favor for the foreseeable future – or they may get even more aggressive and take players even further out of their own comfort zone.
None of this is to say that LAGs won’t get out of line and add too many losing hands into their preflop ranges sometimes. But a good LAG is constantly assessing how much aggression they can assert in a given hand and at a given table, and adjusting their play accordingly. A bad LAG style will fail to adjust and veer toward spewy fish quickly.
Other Notes About LAGs
Some last-minute notes on getting into LAG play. Some stats will change dramatically from TAG to LAG. Your VPIP and PFR will, of course, get looser and higher. You will notice your FlopCB% will drop. If you were flop cbetting 80% of the time as a LAG you would get killed in the long run.
Remember, players do adjust to a certain extent, especially while the pot is smaller. So they will call your cbets a little more liberally on certain board textures. You will also notice that your Foldvs3bet% will drop as well. You are stealing more, and it is important that you learn how to defend better when you get 3bet. This will be by a mixture of 4betting and flatting in position, and/or leaving the table.
I cannot stress enough how important position is. I’ve seen countless players try to get into LAG and they start by raising 22+/ATB and every suited connector from EP and go crazier from there. They try to call a bunch of raises with SCs/SGs/Ax hands. These are people that are missing the big picture. Set yourself up for good profitable spots preflop, and we do that by using position with good playable hands and using spots where we can grab position.
And it doesn’t matter if you are playing online and using the HUD stats we’ve discussed, or playing poker in a live room or casino. The times to implement a LAG style, and when to avoid it, follow the same principles.
Good luck getting into LAG. Like usual, this is a guide and more of a “here are things to think about” rather than “here are the exact ranges and exact plays to use”. I apologize for those that will read this and hate that I didn’t make charts and such…but I assure you…put in some hours and you will grow a ton more from it.
Best of luck on the tables, and stay off mine 😁
- Learn to be a solid TAG before you start playing LAG
- Position is 90x more important
- Look for spots to apply pressure
- Evaluate and adjust always
- Leave if there are better opportunities at other tables