What do Phil Ivey, Om Dwan, Vanessa Selbst, Lex Veldhuis, and Dario Mineiri have in common? In addition to being incredibly successful poker players, they all have a loose-aggressive style of play. Once considered reckless to the point of mania, this risky approach is increasingly becoming popular, especially in online poker. Skilled loose-aggressive players (LAGs) are hard to read and hard to play against, making them the ultimate opponents. Whether you’re keen to incorporate the basic principles into your strategy or you just want to know how to defend yourself against them, a knowledge of the LAG way is essential to get ahead in poker. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Loose-Aggressive Poker?
As you can see at a glance, the term “loose-aggressive” has two components that describe the LAG approach. The first is “loose.” Contrary to what many uninformed players may think, this doesn’t imply anything bad. On the contrary, “loose” is applied to a competent player with a broader range of starting poker hands than is the norm. In other words, they play more hands — as much as 30% more — and get into more pots than “tight” players.
The second term is “aggressive.” LAG players are never passive. They’ll come out betting and raising whenever they can sniff an advantage. This forces their opponents to make decisions continually — and those decisions can become very expensive as the bets keep piling up. No wonder LAGs are often considered to be irritating opponents. Well, nothing’s more irritating than losing, and the best LAGs sure do win a lot — from online poker tournaments to WSOP bracelets.
Loose-Aggressive Poker Strategy & Tips
Does that sound good to you? Before you consider a loose-aggressive style, a word of warning. Not all players are cut out to be LAGs. The primary reason they can win while making plays that apparently defy the odds is that they have expert-level knowledge of poker theory. It’s no sweat for them to calculate hand values in any given spot, or to deduce a positive EV line. Unless you’re at that level, the way of the LAG is not for you. Concentrate on becoming really good at ABC poker first. After all, knowing your limits is one of the life skills you can acquire by playing poker. With that out of the way, here are some broad-stroke basics for how to be more loose and aggressive when you play poker games online.
Before the Flop
Work your way out of your comfort zone and loosen up your opening range. Start by open-raising more hands in late positions like the cutoff and button. Aim to open with as many as 50 percent of your starting hands.
At the same time, get into three-betting more often. Add some bluffing hands to your three-betting range to make you less predictable and hopefully get more fold equity.
After the Flop
If you have the skill and experience, you will assess the board texture and your opponents after the flop and put them under pressure. Do they have a balanced checking range? Take advantage of any sign of weakness. Be sure to play your drawing hands aggressively to collect some fold equity as well.
On the turn, double-barrel bluffs can succeed where tight-aggressive players (TAGs) might C-bet and quit. Exploit your table image. Your tight opponents will be worried as they anticipate a massive river bet to come, so push them out of their comfort zone.
On the river, extract value when you have a hand. Make that massive value bet. Don’t be afraid to go all in. Your loose image means opponents are more likely to think you’re bluffing than if you were a nit or a fish, so they’ll defend against your bet and pay you off.
LAGs Versus Maniacs
Unless you know why LAGs do what they do, it’s easy to mistake them for maniacs. Also known as “bad LAGs, ” these are the crazy players who can’t take enough risks. They may not know much about poker theory or strategy and chances are they don’t care. They may not even care if they win or lose. What they do care about is playing hyper-aggressive poker that gets in their opponent’s face. As a result, they have a very loose, even erratic style of play. This is why beginners can struggle to tell maniacs and LAGs apart. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that while maniacs can inflict severe pain on their opponents from time to time, overall, they bleed money. One reason for that is their lack of restraint — they routinely bet everything they have. Sometimes it’s to bully their opponents into folding, but often it’s pure gambling. By contrast, LAGs tend to make money over time.
Another difference is that it’s much easier to deal with maniacs than LAGs. Once you’ve clocked the maniac at the table, check your position relative to them. If they’re on your right, great. This enables you to have position on them so you can see what they’re up to before you get involved and punish them when they do something foolish. If they’re on your left, you can think about using the maniac to set traps. When you think you have the strongest hand, try to get the maniac to bet large. Simply checking a strong hand can be enough. Living up to their image the maniac will bet and other players may get sucked in, so there’s a large pot when the action returns for you to make a decisive play.
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FAQs About LAGs
Are There Hands That LAGs Never Play?
Yes and no. Loose-aggressive poker players will play more marginal hands, but they won’t play junk unless there’s a good reason.
What Does It Mean When a Loose-Aggressive Player Calls?
If a LAG gives up the initiative, it means they’re either giving up (unlikely) or they are trapping an opponent.
Do LAGs Bluff a Lot?
Yes, they do, but only in the right spots. No matter what their hand, LAGs will put you under pressure and attack if you show signs of weakness.
How Aggressive Are Loose-Aggressive Poker Players?
LAGs are always attacking their opponents in order to force them into making tough choices that could result in mistakes, but they’re never mindlessly aggressive (unlike maniacs.)
Can LAGs Win in Online Poker?
Yes, LAGs can and often do win big, but only if they have the skill and experience to handle the risks.
Do LAGs Ever Tighten Up?
Yes, they do. A good LAG will balance their range and sometimes play tight-aggressive poker so as to be even more unpredictable.