The players in a poker game are classified before or after by the rest of the opponents, who analyze their tells in order to find out how they approach their game and avoid surprise moves that put them in trouble.
In essence, the playing style of both amateur and advanced players is classified as TAG or LAG, acronyms widely used to designate the type of player they are, especially in a cash game.
TAG and LAG stand for tight-aggressive and loose-aggressive. Identifying the similarities and differences between the two is vital to know for sure what kind of opponent you are playing against.
TAG players: how to identify them
Let’s start with the TAGs. The psychological profile of a poker player is a world rich in nuances and, therefore, you will have to know a little of the opponent’s psyche to establish links that allow you to develop that germ and turn it into an intuition.
The tells will be elementary when analyzing the players; their study, combined with all the data you extract by observing their game, will allow you to have some very interesting predictions to find out if you are facing a type of poker player more LAG or TAG.
Tight-aggressive are players who are characterized by:
- Being very selective with preflop hands.
- Reducing their range on re-raises.
- They always have the pot under control.
- Maintain a genuinely provocative attitude.
- Enter the pots raising preflop, and not calling.
- Have a tendency to 3-bet and not cold-call when they have opened the hand before them.
They are players with initiative, selective but aggressive, with a marked character of decision from their first preflop move. They are strong players who arouse fear on late streets, because when they get to showdown, they almost always do it with a very strong hand.
They tend to know how to play suited connectors very well, because they fit their style of play, especially on some flops. This is where you have to keep an eye, because it is on the flop where a TAG will decide if it is worth betting and going to the turn or folding.
If we take a look at poker software, we can extract very interesting data about TAG players.
- Their VPIP will be 10% – 18% at full ring poker tables. In 6-max it will be somewhat higher, between 15% and 25%.
- Your PFR (preflop raise) rate is usually between 20% and 30%. If he exceeds the 30% threshold, he is no longer a TAG, but a maniac or a fish who does not know very well what he is doing.
LAG players: how do they approach their moves?
The loose-aggressive game is somewhat different. We are talking about a type of player who has a tendency to play many hands preflop, and almost all of them aggressively. That is, he shoots more times trying to hit, as opposed to the TAG, who spends more time fine-tuning his aim, but when he shoots, he almost always hits.
As always, that extra aggressiveness and less hand selection leads LAGs to take more risks and be less effective, but we are not talking about bad players. In fact, a project with potential in the hands of a LAG is an almost certain doom for the rest, since their game will not give them any respite.
If we look at the data, we can recognize a LAG player by the following characteristics:
- He has a VPIP that can reach 35%. Sometimes, the borderline between TAGs and LAGs is blurred, because a VPIP that is around 30% but does not go beyond that can be considered a conservative LAG, or a TAG too much given to risk.
- The rate of raises preflop always moves in a range between 24% and 30%. From 20% to 23% we would speak of an adventurous TAG, and lower percentages would indicate a certain conservatism that would not match the style of play of LAGs.
Something very characteristic of LAG players is that they always seek to generate profits no matter how or when, hence their extremely aggressive style that, without being maniacal, sometimes borders on the obscene.
A good strategy to face a LAG is to camouflage our game by randomly executing incoherent moves that do not harm us. This will make our game much opaquer, sowing doubt in the LAG. Although this may end up not working, given their extreme aggressiveness that they sometimes use.
And it seems that many LAGs do not know the FOLD button. Those who play every hand and always bet heavily are what we call “maniacs”, players who try to sweep everything head-on with raises, re-raises and bluffs.
TAG vs LAG: main differences
If we had to make a scheme as a summary to assimilate the differences between a tight-aggressive and a loose-aggressive, it would look like this, based on the profile of the poker players we have faced since we started to enjoy online poker:
- A TAG knows which hands to play. A LAG plays almost every hand.
- A TAG player always has the pot under control. LAGs don’t even think about it: their goal is to make money.
- TAGs 3-bet if a hand opens ahead of them, but they intersperse cold-calls. LAGs base their game on constant re-raises.
- Tight-aggressive players tend to reduce their range when there are re-raises; loose-aggressive players do not.
- A TAG is harder to beat at showdown than a LAG, because the former always comes with strong hands, and the latter takes more risks but doesn’t always succeed.
- IF a TAG makes a strong postflop bet, he will lead a strong hand. A powerful postflop bet from a LAG can be a bluff or semi-bluff, an area we don’t want to get into. The result is the same: it forces us to fold if we are not very, very sure of our hand.