Playing Against Reg Players: TAGs

Let's talk about the most common, strong player type we'll play against: TAGs (tight-aggressive players). These guys make a ton of money, combining tight pre-flop play with a solid understanding of post-flop play. 

They aren't as tight as NITs and they're not as loose as LAGs, but when it comes to good thinking players, these guys are right near the top. 

HOW TO SPOT TAGS

In full ring, TAGs have relatively tight stats, with a VPIP as high as 14% and a PFR as high as 12%. They do very little limping, and that explains the difference of only 2% between VPIP and PFR. 

It also indicates that they're extremely aggressive pre-flop. This aggression carries over to after the flop as their aggression factor will range from 3% to 6%.

In 5 max games they have tight stats as well, with VPIP of 26% and PFR with as high as 26%. Again, the aggression will range from 3% to 6%. 

TAG STRENGTHS

They’re Solid

TAGs have a great understanding of the game. They make very few mistakes equity-wise post-flop, and even fewer mistakes pre-flop. They know which hands will get them into trouble, and they know which hands are worth gambling on and they play them accordingly. 

The point is they have both good foundation and skills, so they are very tough to win against.

They Have a Tight Image

The fact that they have such good hand selection means that they’ll be showing the goods a fair percentage of the time. With this in mind, most opponents won’t give action to TAGs. 

Because of their tight image, they're also able to get a lot of folds when they bet. This means they can get away with a solid percentage of bluffs. TAGs do a fair amount of bluffing, but you'll never see it. 

They make the small bluffs we teach here at Gripsed.com, but when the money gets big and opponents play back, they'll only continue to give action if they've got the gold. 

They Understand Proper Hands and Proper Value

These guys know how the game works, and they play their hands accordingly.  They know what hands are good for one street of value, two streets of value, three streets of value or all-in. They rarely miss out on value bets. Our only advantage, is by knowing their thinking, we can blow them off hands that they're attempting to use for pot control. 

Still, it's super tough to win money off these guys, so I don't recommend going into battle unless you have a good reason. 

TAG WEAKNESSES

They’re Counter-Aggression Wimps

TAGs like to be in control, which is why they don't deal well with counter aggression. When things don't go according to plan, they can get confused, and lose their bearings. So, to make sure they don’t run us over, we're going to have to deal out our fair share of counter aggression. This means re-raising before the flop, raising on the flop, it means not falling into their plans and having us just call. We want to put the pressure right back in their face.

They’re Position Conscious

TAGs don't play well out of position. They aren't the best hand readers (like LAGs). They do a good job of reading the action, but they're only able to do this when they're in position. By forcing them to play out of position, we can take them out of their comfort zone while getting into ours.

They’re Tilt Prone

These guys are the most likely to tilt. When TAGs don't have full control and things aren't going their way, they often get frustrated. Similar to weak-tights, TAGs have a breaking point, and if we can be there for it, there's usually a few stacks up for grabs.

They Over-Think

TAGs also over-think, especially when they're in these slightly-tilted mind states. They try to look at the big picture of what's been going on, and this often leads them to make poor decision in the moment. This "mega-game" big picture thinking is detrimental. Often, the game is much simpler than they presume and they are over thinking. 

SO, they are extremely smart players, but exploitable if you can get under their skin for small pots. Just don't go into your game expecting to stack these guys. 

ADJUSTMENTS

Let's find out how to profit against these sorts of players.

Re-raise in Position

If we are planning to play a hand where a TAG has raised - and most of the time we won't (unless he has raised from early position). Re-raising is the best play. If it's going to be a heads-up pot, we don't want to be flat calling TAGs. It's way too hard to play against them. 

As well as premium hands to for re-raising, I would also suggest adding in six or seven suited connectors (your choice) to add to your range for 3-betting them when they are opening from middle to late position.  

Just as you would re-raise when you have Aces or Kings, you're going to pick a few random hands to re-raise them with when they've opened from late position. 

Why?

TAGs will fold upwards of 80% of the time to a 3-bet. Technically, this means that 3-betting them with any two cards is profitable, but that's a little too much variance for my liking.

As long as you're not 3-betting too often (such that they still give you credit for a real hand), you'll get a ton of folds and pick up a lot of small pots. And if they do call your re-raise pre-flop, just fire out a continuation bet. Most of the time you'll take them down. 

Still, as I said, we should just respect their tight pre-flop play and fold when they raise. We're not looking to get involved with these guys unless we have to. 

On Flop Re-Bluff

We've got to play-back against the TAGs. We can't let them be in control. We know which boards they like to c-bet, with everything they raise pre-flop - these would be the dry boards. But we also know that those boards are hard to connect with and most of their range of potential holdings did not dig that flop. Against TAGs, you want to bluff-raise their c-bets on these boards a fair percentage of the time. 

You'll get a lot of folds when they didn't actually connect, and you'll set a solid precedent for when you do pick up a good hand. You can make your same raise on the dry flop and they may think you're bluffing because you've raised them before and they didn't see your hand so they may get frustrated. 

BE SURE to only pull this play when you're in position, because if you're out of position it's too easy for them to call and see what you do on the turn. AND DON'T pull this play in a re-raise pot. This is only a good play to do if the play has been called and raised before the pot.

Also, we want to lean into them on the same boards as a bluff. If they've raised and we've just called before the flop, we have to "donkbet", which means we're betting when we don't have the lead in the hand. It's kinda the opposite of c-bets. 

TAGs have no idea what to do when you donkbet, so if they react by raising us every time, which a lot of TAGs do, (because they see donkbetting as a sign of disrespect), then we adjust: only lead with our big hands and check-fold with our marginal ones. 

FIRE AWAY!

When you have the lead in the hand, we have to apply a lot of pressure against TAGs. They'll call to keep us honest, sometimes more than once in one hand. But they don’t like calling big bets, so when double or triple barrelling TAGS, I suggest betting at least 80% of the pot - maybe 90% or full. If you make your bets bigger, TAGs won't float you as much or call you with weak hands. You'll get more accurate information from your bet and that will make your decisions a lot easier. 

Betting big is also good because if we're betting big with our bluffs, we get to bet big with our made hands and we're more likely to get paid.

Float In Position

Float means calling the flop bet with nothing, because you think their c-betting you without much, which the intention of stealing a pot on later streets. 

This is an alternative to the aforementioned bluff, which costs you the same amount, but allows you to get more information since we get to see what they do on the turn before attempting our steal. 

You'll find against some TAGs wet boards are better to float, and on dry it's better to bluff-raise and on others it's the complete opposite. 

Just make sure not to use any of these tactics to excess.  TAGs are clever players, and they will catch on. Switch it up, and keep your eyes open. 

Playing Against Reg Players: LAGs

Loose Aggressive players (LAGs) are in my opinion the most difficult opponents to play against. Many people think they are LAGs, but the fact is, they're just mad, aggressive jackasses.

This article is dedicated to the LAGs that actually know what they're doing and have a steady win rate. 

As you go higher in stakes, most of your opponents will be loose aggressive, and believe me, they are a handful. This is why I can't and won't guarantee any of this advice will make you able to beat them all the time, at least you'll be able to hold your own. 

HOW TO SPOT A LAG

In full ring games, LAGs will have a VPIP of 18% and up and a PFR of 14% and up. These numbers can go as high as 30% in some cases, but anything above 30% in a full ring setting would typically be indicative of a shoddy player. The aggressiveness of a LAG will of course be quite high at 3% or greater.

In short-handed games, their VPIP will typically be 33% and up, and their PFR 28%. Yes, they play a ton of hands, but they are able to play a ton of hands because they play so well after the flop. Their aggression in short-handed games is about the same as in full ring, coming in at 3%.

STRENGTHS OF LAGS

Fearlessness

LAGs are willing to put their hand in at any time if they think they have the best of it. They will put a ton of pressure on you, and they are able to do this because through betting patterns and timing tells, LAGs can do a great job of reading your hand and figuring out where they stand against you.

Bet Optimal Spots

LAGs know when their fold equity is high, when their opponents have probably missed, and when it's a good time to try to pick up the pot with any two cards. 

Extreme Pressure

LAGs are relentless. Sometimes when I play them I feel like I don't even have a second to breathe. They're constantly pounding and their 'smart aggression', as I like to call it, is tough to play against.

The Image Pays

Most people assume LAGs are just bluffing lunatics, and play back at them without thought, but as I mentioned, they bet smart. The LAG gets action when he has a big hand and can stand the heat. It's really quite a deadly combination, especially because LAGs tilt the hell out of most tight players. These tight players will adjust incorrectly, and this is why we have this lesson; so you guys can spare yourself some hard hits. 

WEAKNESSES OF LAGS

A Lot of Air

Since these guys play a ton of hands and are stabbing at so many pots, they'll often have nothing a lot of the time. It's up to us to determine when they're betting because they have a made hand, and when they're betting air just because it's a good spot. 

Easy to Trap

Many LAGs have issues with slowing down and they constantly have their foot on the gas. They assume passiveness is weakness, so if you can play a proper, smart passive style, you can trap these guys for a decent amount of value. 

You're not going to demolish their stack, but you can snag a medium sized pot if you pot control properly and throw them off the rhythm. In fact, when playing against a LAG is one of the few times I'd recommend moving from an aggressive style to a passive one. 

Remember: to get the max value in poker, you want to play the style that's opposite of your opponent or the style the table is playing.

Likes to School Opponents

LAGs like to keep their opponents honest, so they are willing to make BIG calls for a lot of chips with as little as Ace high. If you can get in the head of your opponent and do some whacky stuff, you can get a lot of value since they won't understand what the hell you're doing. 

Against these opponents you have to learn how to be very creative, which is why so many people have difficulty playing against them. 

Undervalue Position/Defend Light

The final leak in LAG play is that if they open a pot, they hate giving it up. In my opinion, they defend their opens way too wide, even if they find themselves out of position. 

Typically, if a LAG raises, and he gets re-raised, he is going to call a large percentage of the time - even if it's a tight re-raise. This is the one weakness we can get a ton of value from, simply because they are willing to play out of position and position is such a big advantage in No-Limit Hold'em.

ADJUSTMENTS

Re-Raise Pre-Flop in Position

This first adjustment is based on that final weakness we discussed. They defend their opens super light, so take advantage of the fact they're opening too many hands and that they should fold a lot of these hands when we re-raise them. 

We want to re-raise them with both our premium hands and our speculative hands to put on the pressure. Dealing with 3-bets out of position is one of the hardest things to do in NLH, so that's what we have to throw at LAGs.

The reason we 3-bet with suited connectors here is simple: usually a c-bet will win the pot, or LAGs will give up if they check-raise our c-bet, so we won't have to showdown and it doesn't matter what we have.

By throwing in suited connectors with our premiums, we increase the frequency with which we're making this play, and since it's such a big money maker, there's nothing wrong with doing it three times more often than we would be if we were only doing it for value. 

This said, we also have to balance our range so they don't know we're only 3-betting them with Aces and Kings. And hey, we might even tilt them, so bonus for us.

Flat Call Dominating Hands

We can call with some good, but not great hands. Since LAGs are raising a lot of sub-par hands, like 10,9 off-suit or A,6 suited, hands like Q,J or Q,K or A,10 are ahead of their range and as long as we keep the pot small, it's fine to flat call with these hands in position.

If we snag top pair, we can probably win a few barrels off them since they're so aggressive and they assume our calling means weakness since we're not raising them.

BUT, when getting involved in these marginal hands pre-flop, I've got to stress that you have to keep the pot really small. Do not let the pot get out of control because if you're giving action to a hand that's easily dominated pre-flop, you're probably beat, but if you keep the pot small, you're playing against a large enough percentage of their bluffing range versus their value range that overall, you're profiting in the long-run. 

Of course, simply folding to their opens to limit variance is a completely legitimate option. It's what I did for a full year, and I've made a lot of progress since I didn't have to deal with the stress of playing against LAGs.

Play Back

LAGs love to put pressure on us with their stabbing bets, so to counteract them, we have to use leverage. You want to threaten your opponents stack. Now, you'll have to do a fair bit of bluffing to keep LAGs in check, because you can't just fold to them every time they bet at you. This said, you don't want to be bluffing your entire stack; just enough to keep them in check.

For example, let's say we're on the flop and the pot is $10 and we both have about $90 left in our stack. That's three bets left: we've got the initial $10, the re-raise to $25 or $30 and then the all-in. Let's also say the board is really dry, like K, 7, J - the board we know they'll c-bet with their entire range, but will only hit with a small amount. This would be a good spot to bluff-raise some percentage of the time. 

We put in the second bet, which would be about $30, which forces them to play back for the third bet, which in this example is their entire stack - if they choose to continue. We never have to risk the third bet, because if they come over the top and we don't have a made hand, we're trashing our hand anyway. 

The point is they don't know if we're making that third bet, but when we make the second bet, we're leveraging them and making them risk their entire stack, while only risking about half of ours. This way, we get a ton of fold equity against these guys because they're bluffing so much they have air a lot and they have to fold to counteract, but we never have to risk it all.

Just keep in mind that to pull this off, you have to be aware of stack sizes and put in the amount that forces them to play for their stack rather than vice versa.

It will come with experience. Trust me.

Be Prepared to Get Barrelled

If you're going to call, be prepared to play on later streets. These guys are capable of triple barrelling with nothing. If you have top pair on the flop and the turn and river don't change anything, you're going to have to call a bet on the river and you're probably going to have to call a bet on the turn too. 

These guys are so aggressive that top pair is usually good against them - in a pot controlled pot. Now if there had been a raise, that changes things, but if there's just been bet/call, bet/call, bet/call, the pot's going to be relatively small and top pair is probably going to cut it.

Until you show the ability to call them down to a showdown, they're going to keep beating you relentlessly. At some point, put your foot down and stand your ground so they know they can't push you around. 

I still advocate folding early if you think you're beat, but you just can't call their bet on the flop and not expect to get barrelled. Don't give up because the money gets big; if you think you have the best hand, see it through. Once you tear down their bluffs once or twice, they'll stop trying to BS you so much, which will be great for your meta-game since they'll be more honest with you in future.

Pot Control. Use your pot control to the max against these guys. LAGs love the threat of big bets. They go for check-raises, over-bets, whatever you can think of to keep the pressure on, they're doing. Unless you have a stellar hand, keep checking to keep the pot small. The smaller the pot, the less of an effect variance will have on you playing one another. We want our variance big against weak opponents and small against tough ones.

FINAL THOUGHTS...

The best advice I can give you is to avoid games populated with LAGs, as much as possible. They're a pain to play against, but if you can't avoid them (and you won't always be able to), the advice I gave you should help you keep these players at bay, if not make a few bucks in the process.