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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.