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How to Switch from TAG to LAG

Evan Jarvis

categories Concepts, General NLH
Photo Credit: slgckgc | Flickr

Photo Credit: slgckgc | Flickr

Making the transition from playing with the concentrated effort of a sphincter muscle to playing with the awesome terror of a lose canon is probably one of the most difficult changes to make at the tables. After all, while both TAGs and LAGs are aggressive, LAGs take far more calculated risks. 

To the untrained eye, LAGs seem erratic and unpredictable, even though there is undeniably method to their madness – and here's the thing: they are erratic and unpredictable, but they only seem this way because they’re not so stringent in their style that they can't go with the flow. Rather than waiting for the game to suit their style of play, they adjust their approach to fit the game. This is a lucrative tactic, for many reasons, which I’ll get into below.

How to Switch from TAG to LAG

1. You'll play more hands.

Like I said, LAGs change their approach when the game changes, which means they can play more hands, and score more pots over the long run. This isn't to say they jump at every opportunity: LAGs aren’t maniacs; the sociopaths of the poker world. They play when experience and strategic thinking leads them to believe they can. They may not even have the best hand, but they know where they stand in the game, their competition, and know how to manipulate their opponents with aggressive moves. Which brings me to my next point...

2. You'll bet more.

And 3-bet more, and generally be able to drive the action instead of being pushed along in the wake of stronger players. Anytime you can drive the action in poker, you've already turned the table in your favour - holdings be damned. 

Keep in mind, however, that as a LAG you shouldn't be calling a bunch of pre-flop raises; rather, think about opening more and 3-betting more (especially against players who consistently fold to 3-bets). Basically, it's your job as a LAG to be a giant boil on the butt of your opponents’ big plans to dominate the game. 

Betting more also means you'll be finding more post-flop spots to bet since you won't have thrown in the towel early. Unlike most tight players, a little educated patience can land you in some pretty sweet spots. 

Don’t confuse this with staying in the game for no reason except that you want to earn the “loose” of your LAG designation. Your mission is to find opportunities that make raising a wider range of hands lucrative. Maybe a hand will add more to the pot pre-flop. Maybe playing a hand will create a cushy payout in later streets. Just remember it’s not about winning every hand; it’s about having the strategy and know-how to win more than you lose.

3. You'll widen your ranges.

If you don't already know how important range balancing is to poker, I invite you to read up on it here. The wider your range, the less likely your opponents are to pin you down to a particular pattern of behaviour. They’re less likely to get inside your head, and the less they know about you, the better. 

Again, a LAGs playing style doesn't resemble Tony Montana’s coked-out shit-show in the final scene of Scarface; LAGs only appear to be turbulent. In reality, they know what they are doing, and they're doing it for a reason - they're just taking a little more risk than their tighter counterparts.

4. You'll put pressure on positional players.

Being in position is a serious bonus. You're the one making the calls; everyone else is just reacting to them. However, being a LAG is one of the best ways to shake positional confidence - especially if you are playing a tight or weak table. 

Raising from early position is a great way to hijack the power of being on the button. This tactic against tight or weak players means you'll be scooping blinds or buttons most of the time, and as I’ve already said, long term performance is what matters. 

5. You'll up your fear factor.

This is good. The fear factor is worth its weight in gold at the tables. Being able to intimidate your opponents is a great way to control the action. Let's not confuse intimidation with bullying, though. Many of the best poker players in the world are intimidating, but they're also respected. Don't be an asshole. 

You'll also want to keep in mind that you aren't going to be able to scare everyone. Pick the players who are more susceptible to your schemes and engage them. 

Having said all this, a lucrative and successful LAG strategy will ultimately depend on you. It's a little like the man-bun. If you can rock it, go for it, but if the idea of asking to use your sister's hair-ties has you in a cold sweat, don't do it. 

Ultimately, the best and only way to playing consistently winning poker is to be yourself. I'm not saying you shouldn't step outside comfort zone now and then or expand your capabilities, but if playing a certain way doesn't feel right – if doesn't feel good - if you feel more terrified than exhilarated, don't do it.