Loose aggressive (LAG) players are known for playing lots of pots, bluffing frequently, and using their loose image to get paid off for big hands. They often present the most challenging and stressful situations at the tables.
A bad loose aggressive player can be reckless, spew chips and struggle to find the fold button. But a decent LAG player also has excellent hand reading skills and can get away from a hand when they are beat. It’s tricky stuff.
Famous loose aggressive poker players who have made this style their own include Tom Dwan, Dario Mineiri, Vanessa Selbst, Phil Ivey and Lex Veldhuis… all opponents who you’d usually rather avoid.
The problem is, there are thousands of cash game pros and online tourney regs who also don this loose aggressive style. Avoidance is not an option. Though LAG players are not easy to combat, you still have to stand up and fight.
Here we explore how to play against loose aggressive poker players.
Characteristics of loose aggressive poker player
You can expect to see decent loose aggressive poker players:
- Have a wide opening range, perhaps 18 – 25%+ in full ring games and as high as 30% in 6-Max formats. This translates to any pair, many suited connectors, and lots of suited King and Ace hands among others.
- Show a deep understanding of the game, far beyond basic poker rules.
- Usually raise when they get involved with a pot, including open raises and 3-bets.
- Will C-bet, raise, and check-raise flop often
- Bluffs often, including semi-bluffing draws. Won’t just give up after one bet on the flop. Is capable of firing multiple barrels over several streets
- Can value bet thinly and use loose image to get paid off for made hands
- Has good hand reading abilities, and can make a fold when they meet too much resistance or know they are beat
It may seem like the loose aggressive player is impossible to exploit, but every style comes with its strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths of LAG players: Gets involved with lots of hands and will be actively aggressive to win pots, attacking weakness and making bluffs. Will attempt to dominate the table if they have the stack and can get away with it. Can also use loose image to get paid off for monster hands.
Weakness of LAG players: Plays too many hands and bets too much, too often.
Before we talk about how to use the loose aggressive player’s weakness against them, let’s discuss what NOT to do against a LAG player.
What NOT to do when playing a loose aggressive player
First of all, don’t try to battle for every pot. Compromising your starting hand strengths could leave you in even more difficult situations, especially when you are out of position.
On the other end of the spectrum, don’t just shut down completely. We often hear advice on how to play against aggressive poker players that encourages people to “tighten up”. This is true in certain situations, but that doesn’t mean you should just stop making moves and wait for Aces.
Shutting down in this way will make your hand strength more obvious to perceptive LAG players. They will know that you are only playing premium hands, and won’t pay you off for value. Waiting for premiums is also not very time effective. You could easily get blinded out in tournament poker taking this approach.
So, how do you play against loose aggressive poker players? We’re going to keep it simple with a few tips that can help right away.
Position, position, position!
It’s the number one factor in almost any discussion on poker strategy. Position is key. Have it, and you can act last and gain a massive advantage. When your LAG opponent has it, you’re going to find it difficult to fight back.
If you have a solid loose aggressive player to your left, they will have position on you for most hands. It will be an uphill battle taking them on. In this situation, you have little choice but to tighten up. This doesn’t mean shutting down. You can still find profitable spots to make moves.
If you have position on the LAG player, you’ll have a lot more options when it comes to trapping, controlling the pot and bluffing – all covered in more detail below.
There’s not much you can do about where you are seated in relation to opponents, at least not in tournament poker. It’s still important to be aware of position. As a general guidelines, look to make more stands against LAG players who are seated to your right, tightening up against LAG players directly on your left.
Consider slow playing strong hands
By definition, loose aggressive players have a wide opening range. They will also 3-bet light, bluff often, and are capable of barrelling for several streets if they sense weakness.
All of this is terrifying if you’re playing a medium holding out of position, not so scary if you’re holding a monster. In this case, it makes perfect sense to lay the trap.
For example, you could consider flat calling LAG opponent’s 3-bets more often with QQ+, rather than 4-betting. This keeps the LAG player in with a wider range of hands. By showing weakness and flatting the 3-bet, you can expect that they will often continue to bet after the flop.
You can carry on with this trappy play post-flop, check calling, or simply flatting bets and re-raises to encourage your opponent to fire on the turn and river. The trick here is to feign weakness and let your opponent take the lead. Dangle the rope, as they say…
If you get caught or you start trapping too often with big hands, then decent LAG players will eventually catch on. Be sure to mix up your play so that you keep it creative, dynamic and unpredictable.
Pot control with top pair type hands
Loose aggressive players like to build big pots and apply pressure over multiple streets.
Due to their wide starting range, and tendency to blend their range by betting everything from draws, to medium pairs, to complete air, you’ll often be looking down at top pair type hands and wondering whether they are any good. Often your mediocre hands will be ahead, but you can’t be sure and you don’t want to build a huge pot and possible get bluffed off it on later streets.
The solution to this is pot control.
Again, this is where the power of position comes into play. In position, you’ll have a much easier time checking back streets or flat calling bets to control the pot. You can still control the pot out of position too by check-calling rather than re-raising.
Playing this way will make decisions easier against loose aggressive poker players. You’ll be bluffed off your medium hands less often, and will also get paid off for your made hands more often.
Bluffing a loose aggressive poker player
Players who advocate “shutting down” against loose aggressive opponents are going to miss a lot of profitable spots.Not only that, but decent LAG players are scoping out for players who shut down. They will target them more often, steal their blinds, bluff them off pots. Shutting down will quickly make you a victim of the aggression you are aiming to counter.
Loose aggressive players actually make great targets for a well timed bluff. They open with a wide range, make lots of bets, but can still make a fold when they meet resistance.
A couple of sections ago we talked about how you should 4-bet and re-raise monster hands less often against a LAG player to keep them in the pot. Now we’re going to do the opposite, making bluff raises that will create enough resistance to force a fold.
LAG players are often 3-betting light. When you notice someone doing this often, you can wait for your moment to counter with a well timed 4-bet bluff. If you have a tight image, your 4-bet represents a huge pair here and will find a lot more folds than you imagine.
This extends to post-flop play. You can use moves like check-raising the flop as a bluff, or re-raising a c-bet lead.
Semi-bluffing is an excellent tool to have in your arsenal. Check raise your draws more often against LAG players. This can force them to fold their bluffs or weak holdings, but when they call you still have decent equity in the hand.
Use these bluff moves sparingly, or your opponents will start to adjust – possibly putting you to the test with a 5-bet or trapping you with a monster.
Adjusting your game
Remember that every situation in poker is unique. So is every player. You can’t apply the above advice as a one-size fits all solution for beating loose aggressive players. Trap or bluff them too often and they will turn the tables on you to regain control. You have to be able to adjust to the dynamics and look for spots to make your move.
Following this advice will help you to reduce the edge of decent LAG players and give yourself more chance to stay active and build your stack. At the very least, you don’t want LAG players to see you as an easy target.
Mixing up your play and effectively introducing traps, pot control and bluffs will help you to hold your own and find profitable spots against these nightmare players.