Poker has evolved through time and with the growing popularity of online poker in recent years.
In online six-max short-handed cash games, no longer will you find players only raising with premium hands. There is a lot of action pre-flop with raising and re-raising on almost every hand. Wild aggression has become the norm in these no-limit hold’em cash games.
One of the most profitable styles, yet hard to master is a style called LAG (loose-aggressive). Being LAG means you raise and re-raise without premium hands in order to steal a lot of pots you would usually have no interest in. This style requires incredible hand reading ability and the ability to put your opponent on an accurate range of hands.
LAG’s rarely rely on their own hand strength, rather they exploit their opponents perceived hand ranges. They use their table image to their advantage by constantly betting and raising to keep their opponents guessing. When you are very aggressive, opponents have a difficult time putting you on a hand, netting you more profit on your monster hands.
When you have a monster hand and you have been very active, opponents will begin to question if you actually have a good hand. Opponents will be more likely to pay you off not knowing if you are bluffing or betting for value. If you play very tight, opponents will know you must have a big hand and will be more inclined to fold their medium strength inferior hands.
If you have folded the last 20 hands, and now you are betting hard, it is pretty obvious that you have a good holding. You can however pull off well timed bluffs if you are playing TAG (tight-aggressive). Because your perceived image is tight, you can bluff occasionally when you know your opponent will have a hard time calling your bet.
Developing into a LAG is a long process. I recommend a TAG style when you first start to limit your losses. Playing LAG is an extremely high variance playing style. By this, I mean your bankroll is prone to wild swings. Bankroll management is essential, and I wouldn’t recommend playing this style without 50 full buy-ins for the stakes you are playing.
Here is an example of standard LAG play.
No-limit Hold’em six-max deep stack $2/$5 blinds, effective stacks $1000. I have been sitting at the table for about 20 hands and the action has been slightly aggressive with no one getting out of line.
I am on the button with K10 suited of spades. A TAG UTG (under the gun, first position) opponent raises to $15, cutoff flat calls $15, and I raise it up to $75. UTG calls and the cutoff folds.
Pot is $162.
We see a flop of 7,5,9 rainbow. UTG checks and I bet $95. UTG thinks for a while, then calls. At this point, I put my opponent on a range of 10 10, JJ, 777, 555 and 999. My opponents is a tight aggressive player so I believe he would re-raise AA,QQ,KK or AK pre-flop unless he is being very tricky which wouldn’t make sense in a deep-stack game. In a deep-stack game, you don’t want to be slow playing big hands like these because they are vulnerable to be cracked for a monster pot.
I have a program called PokerTracker which gives me every statistic possible on my opponents. My opponents has a VPIP (voluntary put money in pot %) of 11% and a PFR of 8% (pre-flop raise %). These are typical TAG stats and pretty tight for a six-max cash game.
Pot is $352.
Turn comes a 2 of spades. This card doesn’t change much. My opponent checks again, and I fire $175 into the pot. I make a 1/2 pot bet here for two reasons. If I get raised, I can get away from my hand cheap and if he calls, I am setting myself up to pull a monster bluff on a lot of river cards.
He thinks again, and calls.
At this point, I don’t believe he is slow playing a monster hand. Most players will raise a set on the turn, especially TAGs. If he checks the river and I check too, he is losing a ton a value for his hand in a deep stacked match.
If he bets the river big, I can fold for cheap too. If he bets the river, the only possible hands he could have are monsters, like a set of 7s, 5s, or 9s. It wouldn’t make sense to bluff the river in his position because he doesn’t have the initiative in this pot, I do. I am the one representing a big hand and it would be foolish to try to bet the river as a bluff if I do in fact have a monster.
Pot is now $702 and I have $655 left in my stack. River comes an Ace of clubs. He checks quickly and I think for about 20 seconds, and I dump my remaining $655 into the pot. If he was playing tricky and planning to set me up on the river, I am glad to pay him off here as he wont normally be doing this.
My PokerTracker gives me the stat that my opponent check-raises the turn 33% of the time after flat calling the flop and checking the turn. This is a high %, and makes me believe if he is flat calling out of position then raising the turn, he has a monster.
My opponent could easily have JJ or 10 10 here and continued with his over pair on the turn. The river is the perfect bluff card for me.
The ace is a very scary card for my opponents hand range. If he has JJ or 10 10, I don’t think he can ever call this river. I could have easily hit my ace on the river if I had AK,AQ,AJ and was bluffing the flop and the turn. I am not giving him good odds to look me up.
The total pot is $1357 and my opponent also has $655 left. He is getting a little better than 2/1 odds to make the call meaning he has to be right almost 50% of the time. Based on my perceived hand range, this river shove all-in is a no-brainer if you are trying to profit from playing LAG.
I am eligible to have 777,555,999,AAA,222, AK,AQ,AJ here, all of which he has to be worried about. As I said before, I don’t put my opponent on a set as he would usually tell me on the turn with a raise. His passive play on the turn set me up for this bluff.
My opponents thinks for a minute, hits timebank, lets it wind down to 0, then folds. I take down the $1357 pot. He types in the chat box “nice catch.” I respond with a “ty”.
This is just one example of where aggression can land you pots you have no business being in. I would only pull a move like this on a TAG and in position. Position is one of the most important parts of playing LAG. Having position enables you to see what your opponent does first before you have to act. If you have the initiative and position, you can bet the flop, turn and river with nothing if the board gets scary for his perceived hand range.
This might look like a crazy hand and an extremely risky bluff, but based on my opponents statistics, I feel he folds here more than 85% of the time. If he folds 85% of the time and we ran this situation a million times, in the long-run I will technically win $1153.45 each time (85% * $1357). There will be times where he played a monster slow and tricky and I will lose those situations but my overall expected return on this play is +EV (positive expected value).
Because I haven’t gotten out of line or been caught bluffing yet at this table, making this move is completely necessary to drive your opponent out of the pot. As a LAG, you have to take calculated risks and not worry about the outcome. If you are making profitable decisions, in the long-run, you will net yourself profit. Once again, this is where bankroll management comes into play as you need to have a deep roll to risk a lot of chips on bluffs.
I recommend trying this LAG style once you are comfortable with the game and you have shown a profit as a TAG over 10,000 hands of short-handed cash-game play. You have to be honest with yourself on your skill level or you will run the risk of going broke by playing over your head. PokerTracker is absolutely essential for evaluating your own play and getting solid reads on opponents. Without it, all the players online are simply a name with an avatar. You will have no idea of how they are playing.
More Poker Strategy:
The Poker Trance
Top 5 Reasons You Lose at Poker
My Multi-Table Tournament Strategy
Booking the Win at Final Tables
Top 10 Reasons You Should Play Poker
How to Play AA For Maximum Profit
How to Overbet For Massive Value
Additional Strategy, Sports Betting:
The Three Tenets of Profitable Sports Betting