One of the bigger things I get when I work with people is the consideration of playing LAG poker. LAG play, for those unaware, is notation for a “loose aggressive” player. There are tremendous differences between TAG and LAG players, but the common misconceptions of LAG players are what make it, in my opinion, the most profitable style in today’s micro games.
So other than the textbook definition, what is a LAG? A LAG is simply a TAG on steroids. A LAG plays more hands, they play them more aggressive, and because of this, must be solid on more levels. It is important to emphasize this…because LAG play 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 come up with an optimal, or near-optimal, line…then LAG is not for you. If you are not a winning ABC poker player, yet alone a profitable TAG, there is no chance you will be a successful LAG. A LAG is a solid player that understands situations, adjustments, and the ‘secret’ ingredient that makes him successful; well-timed pressure.
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 bet out makes most opponents play differently against us (us will now refer to LAGs), and usually in a more passive way. Because of that, LAGs will focus, even more heavily than a TAG does, on positional play. Everything is based on position to a LAG. Here is a 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 may be stealing around 60%. This is your first step in transitioning to a LAG…you don’t just randomly jump from 13/11 to 20/18…you ease into it and get used to playing more hands, adding initially on the button, then the CO, then the HJ, etc.(the darker the color = the more hands played).
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The second part about pressure is actually why this style is so successful now a days, and even more so, at the micros. This is because the average player is better, and now understands not to make 200bb pots with 2nd pair…they understand folding in the SB and not over defending and getting into tough spots OOP…they understand not getting involved in too large a pot with single pairs. It is that same knowledge that allows LAGs to thrive. If players are folding at a certain threshold, then all a LAG player needs to do is pressure to that exact threshold to get folds. A LAG operates successfully in a fold-rich environment…and today’s games (where the tables have about 70% of people per table with a vpip of 15% or less) are perfect for it given the “standard threshold” players share.
Talking about players for a moment…let’s cover which tables are best. If you are playing 25% 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 HU? Of course you would want the HU pots table. In a MW pot you are forced to have hands, and forced to hit hands in order to profit. In a HU pot you can apply more pressure, win with no hand, and get involved more often. Because of this you want tighter tables. I know many players that don’t play during the day-time because the games are filled with nitRegs and 24 tabling HUDbots…but why is this bad? If those players are just going to set-mine and thus 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? I prefer very tight tables when I am LAGing…something like 5%-15% table vpip and no real pressure spots.
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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 3b’rs. Why? Good shortstackers will adjust and reship on you often preflop, esp 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). The aggressive 3b’rs will ruin your flow at the table, show other people that you aren’t invincible (which then creates a table dynamic where even 12/10 nitTAGs are trying to 3ball you), and put you in tough spots. The other player type will just float you often postflop (either in a value or float/bluff way) and will not just roll over to your aggression. 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.
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. If I as a TAG, say 13/12, hated a certain spot…why wouldn’t 90% of other TAGs feel the same way? This helped give me a framework for looking at pressure situations and learning how to explore new ones while implementing them into my own game.
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 murder your WR.
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 where to add more hands when playing LAG (LP) and we do that in an effort to steal more preflop and also set ourselves up to be in position for postflop decisions. Of course, unless we are on the button, we will not always be in position…but poker is all about taking high probability set ups…so do your best to get that button.
The big thing I suggest to people is playing LAG preflop and TAG postflop. A TAG game postflop should be very solid at CB-ing, have a decent handle on dubbing, and should understand VB-ing well. A lot of people think that LAG play means you have to play like a damn nutball postflop…running complex bluffs, VB-ing 3rd pair, and mastering the over-bet shove. This is pure poppycock, and again, another reason why people play poorly against LAGs. Keep your standard postflop game while LAGing, but pay more attention to pressure.
It should go without saying that your range postflop will be inherently weaker. If you are playing 40% 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. It should also be noted that your value hands should actually get paid 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 KJ on a K6344 board from any pair….but in FR, people still 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 1pair, maybe 90bb with 2pr on scary boards, etc (these are just random numbers…the real numbers are different and change by player type).
These thresholds are actually what allow LAGs to have easy lives postflop. Once a LAG understands where a players threshold is with TP, then postflop is a breeze. Say we are playing against PAUL555, and PAUL555 doesn’t make a pot bigger than 35bb with TPTK. This means, as a LAG, we are focused on making, or threatening, a 36bb pot everytime 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? Exposure is very important while LAGing…it is important while bluffing to look like you are exposing a large part of your stack and creating or threatening a large pot. A big leak of new LAGs is that they over expose themselves and would make a 65bb pot against PAUL555 as a bluff, when that is just too large and a waste of time and money. Pay attention to your exposure through your betsizing and planning of the hand, and exploit a players threshold to apply correct pressure.
People hear loose and assume bad, they hear tight and assume good. Do not confuse a LAG with a spewy loose player. A LAG is a finely tuned machine that understands pressure, position, and adjustment…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 3b’s OOP with hands like AJ 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 PF range is wider than it is, especially from EP. Look back to the heatmap…do you see a high concentration of hands being played from EP? Be aware of position, don’t put yourself OOP if you can help it.
People also assume that you do not adjust. They think if you have an ATS of 80% over the first 30 hands at the table that you will remain that way the entire session. If the table starts approaching you differently, it is time to change what you are doing. You can do this by tightening up and letting your image play for you, by out aggressing, or by leaving the table.
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 CBing 80% of the time as a LAG you would get killed in the longrun. Remember, people adjust to a certain extent, especially while the pot is smaller. So they will call your CB’s a little more liberally on certain board textures. You will also notice that your fold23b% will drop as well. You are stealing more, and it is important that you learn how to defend better when you get 3b. This will be my a mixture of 4b-ing, flatting and using 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/someSC from EP and go nuttier 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 or using spots where we can grab position.
Do not make mistakes! Easier said than done, but if you are making mistakes, your WR is going to suffer quickly. Because these spots show up so much more often, it is imperative that you either have few/no mistakes…or that you are very quick at finding and patching them. You will make less mistakes if you focus on position, VB-ing well, thinking through ranges, and exposure. LAG is still super simple poker because it is still poker. You just play a few more hands, apply a little more pressure, and make a little more money.
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 =)
1.) learn to be a solid TAG before you start playing LAG
2.) position is 90x more important
3.) look for spots to apply pressure
4.) evaluate and adjust always
5.) leave the table if conditions become less ideal
(for those interested, I made a video showing a little of this LAG playstyle in action…Enjoy!)