Both acronyms serve to designate the two main types of players in a poker game, especially Texas Hold’em. It makes a lot of sense to analyze the key points of their respective playing styles, especially in cash games.
TAG and LAG stand for “tight-aggressive” and “loose-aggressive”, respectively. How do the two styles differ? How can we recognise each other? We give you the keys.
Tight-aggressive players: how to recognise them
Tight-aggressive or TAG players are those players who are characterized by their good pre-flop hand selection, i.e., they know which hands to get involved in. Although they are more selective, they always play them aggressively, entering pots with a raise preflop rather than a call. 9 times out of 10, in the event that someone ahead of a TAG has opened the hand, these players tend to 3-bet rather than cold-call.
They always take the initiative, and if they make it to showdown, they almost always do so with a strong hand. They are very likely to play suited connectors, as they tend to fit well into their game with some flops.
They are easily recognizable with poker software because their data is very distinctive. What to look for when recognizing a TAG player? Their VPIP and PFR.
- VPIP. The percentage of money voluntarily put into the pot preflop (Voluntarily Puts money In Pot) determines the aggressiveness and playing style of an opponent. It also determines the tendency to go to the flop. TAG players have a high VPIP.
o In shorthanded or 6-max poker, their VPIP is between 15% and 25%.
o In full ring poker, their VPIP is usually between 10 and 18%.
- PFR. Acronym for Pre-Flop Raise. It is the percentage that marks the number of times a player enters the pot with a raise before the board is known. A TAG player has a high PFR, usually above 20% but never reaching 30%. Anything above 30% would be playing against a kamikaze player or a fish who is going crazy.
Normally, a TAG player reduces his range in the middle of raises and re-raises. If a player does 4-bet, it is almost always safe to say that his hand will be strong. If you are faced with a 4-bet from a TAG player, always consider that he will be playing against you with a strong hand: KK, QQ, AA, JJ and even AK.
What makes a good TAG player?
Broadly speaking, these are the key points that a TAG player must have in order to play well and develop his game effectively:
- The pot, always controlled. You will not always have a better hand than your opponent, and a good starting hand will not always win the pot. Controlling the pot will increase the likelihood of winning more hands.
- Know your range. Both your opponent’s and your own, because you may be interested in bluffing in certain spots. For example, if you have Q♣ Q♦ you can bet on a K♣ 3♥ 7♣ If you don’t do this, what will happen is that a LAG player will steal it.
– Watch out for postflop play. A TAG player places a lot of importance on preflop play, but that’s not the end of the game. Good preflop play to get nowhere postflop is useless.
– Get the big picture view of the hand. It is important for a TAG player to analyze the hand as a whole, not dwell on isolated details that add nothing. Every decision you make has to be framed in a larger strategy.
TAG players: how to beat them
TAG players are natural born teasers. You have to be careful preflop because you can end up in pots where they have 4-bet and you don’t have a strong enough hand.
Don’t fall into the trap and let the hand run if your cards are not favourable: this will cancel out their aggressiveness and you’ll be sending them a clear message: you’ve got them all wrapped up and that’s not going to work with you.
An important advantage is that the aggressiveness that characterizes TAGs exposes their weaknesses on bad boards. As soon as you see signs of weakness, call or raise. But beware: that weakness could be faked. In that case, there is little you can do because it will probably be too late when you realize their play.
Don’t be afraid to throw your hands away frequently, it’s the best way to mitigate damage with a TAG player. Be aware that any powerful post-flop bet from a tight-aggressive will come behind with a strong hand, so don’t gamble. If you’re facing heads-up, you’re likely to lose.
Loose-aggressive players and their identifiers
Loose-aggressive or LAG players are characterized by their tendency to play a large number of hands preflop, almost all of them very aggressively. They differ mainly from TAGs in that LAGs play more hands (they are less selective), and their level of aggressiveness is slightly higher.
As with TAG players, a LAG player will be exposed with poker software by reflecting their VPIP and PFR data.
- VPIP. A TAG player’s VPIP is between 25% and 35%. A LAG player with a low VPIP can be considered a very adventurous TAG, less selective than usual. To be considered LAG, his VPIP has to be close to the 30% threshold.
- The PFR of a LAG player is between 20% and 30%. As with VPIP, a loose-aggressive player with a PFR of 20% can be considered a particularly aggressive TAG.
A LAG player is primarily looking to make money. That is the motivation for the game of these players. However, their aggressiveness can be turned against them, and it is something that players can use to their advantage when facing a loose-aggressive player.
Typically, LAG play goes well against TAG players, as the former takes advantage of the latter’s weaknesses (as we mentioned earlier, if a TAG player is not sharp, a LAG player can steal the pot).
The best way to confuse a LAG player is to mix up the game, that is, to make moves that don’t clearly reflect our style in order to confuse the opponent and prevent him or her from getting a hold of us. This way, you will be able to counteract the bounces that LAG players try to take when they see the weaknesses of a TAG player.
Within the LAG players we find the “maniacs“. Let’s say that LAG players are divided into two groups: the good ones, who are aggressive but able to fold when it’s time, without obsessing about winning every hand, and the bad ones, who ignore the option to fold, play every hand and bet big for value.
Good LAGs vs. bad LAGs
A LAG plays more hands and more aggressively than almost any other player, and because of this, should be solid at more levels. It is important to emphasize this… because a LAG style is NOT for everyone. If you don’t know the fundamentals, if you don’t understand most of the points well, if you can’t deduce quickly, then the LAG style is not for you at this time. A good LAG is a solid player who understands the situations, the adjustments and the pressure at the right time.
When playing against a good LAG, watch out for bluffs. If you spot one, don’t go for it – it almost never pays off.