There are many different ways to play poker, as the game’s complexity means thousands of options are available in every scenario. No poker strategy is usable in every situation; players must constantly adapt to changing variables like position and opponents.
Adapting to your opponents is easier said than done. It takes careful observation to identify their playstyles and lots of game knowledge to modify your strategy accordingly.
Some of the hardest kinds of poker players to counter are TAGs and LAGs. If you’re struggling with them, you’re in luck. This poker guide will explain what TAGs and LAGs are, why they’re so strong, and how to counter them.
What do TAG and LAG stand for?
TAG and LAG are two of the four main poker playstyles. Those playstyles come from combinations of “tight” or “loose” and “passive” or “aggressive.”
Tight and loose describe how many hands you play. Tight players stick to only the best hands, folding most other ones away. Loose players play far more hands, even drawing or outright mediocre ones.
Passive and aggressive describe how you bet with your hands. Passive players rarely bet proactively, preferring to check and call. Aggressive and players seldom check, always looking for a potential raise or bet.
TAG stands for tight-aggressive, a player who sticks to premium hands but will frequently bet and raise once they do get them.
LAG stands for loose-aggressive, a player who plays a wide variety of hands yet is also not afraid to be aggressive with them, employing frequent bluffs and chasing lots of draws.
Why is the TAG style so strong?
The TAG style has numerous characteristics that make it a great way to play, especially for beginners.
It’s consistent and well-rounded, making it naturally difficult to exploit. Waiting for premium hands and betting aggressively with them is a great way to maximize value, and it leaves you less vulnerable to luck as you simply fold away non-premium hands.
It’s also much easier to execute and has fewer weaknesses than the LAG style. This makes it often recommended to beginners as the first style they should play. It’s a strong, well-rounded style used by all kinds of players, from newbies to pros at the highest level of competition.
Tips for dealing with TAGs
While the TAG style is strong, it’s not invincible. There are a few things you can do to beat TAG players, and one of the best counter-strategies is becoming a LAG player yourself.
This is easier said than done, but a skilled LAG can easily exploit TAG players. LAGs are the bane of a TAG player, as they use the TAG’s tight playstyle to win the pot more often.
LAGs exploit TAG players in two ways. You actually don’t even need to be LAG to use these methods, especially against less-experienced TAG players who frequently play too tight.
The first way is bluffing. You can exploit how frequently your opponents fold by betting aggressively even with middling hands since it’s unlike they will call or raise unless they have a premium hand.
The second way is folding. You may wonder how folding helps, as it essentially gives your opponent the pot for free. Folding is all about minimizing your opponent’s profits while maximizing your own.
TAGs are often predictable – it’s rare to see them play aggressively without a strong hand. By folding at the first sign of a TAG’s aggression, they will only win a tiny pot. It might feel bad giving up the pot now and then, but this will allow you to deny TAGs value from their strong hands and win more over time.
Why is the LAG style so strong?
The LAG style is also particularly powerful yet distinct from the TAG style. It’s characterized by many hands, unpredictability, and frequent bluffs.
Many players consider the LAG style to be the hardest to play against. They have far more options than tight players since their style involves taking a lot of risks with weak hands. Their frequent bluffs and aggressive actions put even more pressure on their opponents, making it very difficult to deal with a skilled LAG.
The LAG is also potentially the most profitable playstyle in poker. Unlike TAG players, LAGs don’t rely too much on luck for a strong hand. Through bluffs, LAGs can win the pot even without having the best hand, meaning they can profit in situations no other style can.
Many professional players use the LAG style, and not just because of its potential for profit. It’s often seen as the most fun and engaging way to play due to the complex decision-making involved.
Tips for dealing with LAGs
While tricky to play against and very unpredictable, the LAG style is not invincible. Its biggest weakness compared to the TAG style is how hard it is to execute properly.
Being a good LAG requires quick thinking, good math, and a lot of experience. Beginners trying to become a LAG from the start without proper foundations is a disaster waiting to happen. Because of this, you can take advantage of the most common mistake a LAG makes: Becoming a maniac.
A maniac is a person who plays an insane amount of hands without caring about what happens. While this strategy is terrible for profit, it can be hard to understand how to counter. The golden rule for playing against maniacs is to simply check and call more often. Don’t get involved in re-raise battles, and absolutely never try to bluff him.
Besides that, a great way to counter LAGs, particularly more experienced ones, is slow playing. This is when you intentionally play passively, even with a good hand. While it’s normally a terrible strategy, it works well against LAGs because of how aggressive they are.
By checking and calling, you could bait the LAG into trying to bluff you out of the pot, since your actions signal weakness. Slow playing can trap the LAG into a pot they’ll lose, which solves the issue of slow playing being an unreliable way to build the pot.
Practice playing against these players online!
While at first, TAGs and LAGs may seem overwhelmingly strong, they aren’t unbeatable. Now that you know the steps for dealing with them, you need to put your knowledge into practice. You won’t succeed on your first try; it’ll take a lot of experience playing against TAGs and LAGs firsthand. A great way to get this experience is online poker. Online is faster-paced, meaning you’re able to get in more hands per hour. This helps you learn quicker and play against more TAGs and LAGs over time.