The loose-aggressive (LAG) poker strategy is very popular among high stakes poker players for a number of reasons. The main reason, of course, is money. If used correctly, the loose-aggressive style can truly maximize your profit potential. On the other end of the spectrum, if not utilized correctly, it can also be your own personal money pit. Before we go into explaining how and why the LAG style works, it is important to point out that the loose-aggressive style is definitely not a playing style that should be employed by beginners. Players just starting out would be well-advised to concern themselves with the fundamentals of poker before embarking on the LAG style of play, which is considered an advanced poker strategy.
What is a loose-aggressive poker strategy?
The “Loose” element of loose-aggressive refers to the selection of starting hands, while the “Aggressive” tag applies to betting after the flop. LAG style players will normally play an assortment of starting hands whose range is much wider than what is perceived to be fundamentally sound. This is done with the intent of outplaying opponents post-flop and also to keep other players guessing as to what cards the LAG player may be holding. If your rivals on the felt see you playing many different hands, it is harder for them to read you and put you on specific hands.
The LAG style is very dependent on two factors – your position at the table and the tendencies of your opponents. The vast majority of high stake poker pros are endowed with excellent people-reading skills, which is why many employ this style and also one reason why beginners to the game should not. With regards to position, the best players using loose-aggressive strategies avoid playing poor hands in poor positions. They will typically play more early position hands than their opponents, but will play much fewer hands in early positions in comparison to the amount of hands played in later positions.
Which players does a loose-aggressive strategy work best against?
The loose-aggressive style of play works best against tight-aggressive (TAG) players who tend to overvalue their starting hands after the flop, turn and river cards are revealed. The TAG style player normally will play only premium or near premium starting hands. Common sense tells you that a tight player who waits patiently for a hand like will tend to consider his hand solid when the flop shows . That’s when a LAG style player who called the tight player’s raise with :10 in late position can make the tight player pay.
TAG players become involved in pots for purposes of showdown equity. Basically, they are hoping to ride their premium starting hand all the way to the end of the hand. Loose-aggressive players will certainly be involved in a number of showdown hands themselves. And due to their unpredictable play, they can often receive maximum pot payoffs when holding a killer hand because opponents may be putting them on lesser hands. However, part of the LAG strategy is to rely on fold equity. In other words, by being aggressive post-flop and unpredictable as to the range of hands played, LAG players often entice other players to fold, taking down the pot well in advance of the showdown by expertly playing their position and relying on their knowledge of other players to fold in certain post-flop situations.
Another factor that makes the LAG style so attractive to high stakes pros in comparison to a tighter playing style is because TAG players are labeled as such by other players, and when a TAG player is raising, odds are that he is holding a premium hand. Therefore, everybody knows it and is more likely to fold, reducing the payoff or pot size. Loose players tend to get more action (and win larger pots) by maximizing the value on their wide range of playable starting hands.
If you’re wondering the best way to play against a loose-aggressive playing strategy, there are some key plays that you should and should not make. First of all, don’t make a continuation bet after the flop. LAG players don’t like to fold and part of the whole strategy is to induce other players to fold post-flop. Remember, a LAG player is banking on fold equity. A continuation bet normally won’t scare him away. If you happen to have a good hand and would like your LAG opponent to fold before he catches his cards on the turn or river, you must consider going all-in. Force him to risk it all if he wants to continue playing the hand. Next, don’t attempt a bluff. A LAG style player will merely see that as more money in the pot for him to win. Third, as his range of starting hands are insanely wide, trying to read a loose-aggressive player and put him on a particular hand is most often an exercise in futility. You will usually rack your brain trying to predict what he is holding. Another good idea is to sit on the left of a loose-aggressive player so you can act after he does and determine if his raise is worth calling.
If you’re thinking of trying to play or master the loose-aggressive style, your arsenal must include a few more skills. LAG players need to know when to change and mix up their playing style to keep their table mates completely off-base. When opponents see how loose you are, they may start calling more often. You counter that by playing tighter. It may also be the case where you have to adjust your LAG playing style to specific players at the table. Playing tight against one and aggressively toward another depending on your reads and the hand situations is the mark of a successful loose-aggressive player. The LAG style is prone to huge swings in your bankroll, so keep that in mind when deciding to give it a try. Huge losses can sometimes affect the mental stability of certain players. In other words, it may make you go on tilt. So if wild swings in bankroll sizes are not good for you, then the LAG style may not be the best fit.
The loose-aggressive poker strategy is used by many high stakes pros because it maximizes profits. It can be extremely dangerous if employed correctly. However, it is definitely not for everyone. Attempting to learn the LAG style requires a lot of practice, which should be done a couple of stake levels lower than you normally play. It also requires concentration. So if you are practicing online and are into multi-tabling, better to keep your number of tables played down to one or two. With enough practice and the correct mindset, you can master the loose-aggressive style and become a force to be reckoned with at the poker table.