Poker Strategy: Tight Aggressive vs Loose Aggressive

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March 28 2009

Written to Poker Strategy by willdang

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"Poker Strategy: Tight Aggressive vs Loose Aggressive"
March 28, 2009

There is a continuing debate amongst the top poker players in the world that the traditional tight aggressive style of play (TAG) is a dying strategy.  Many feel that what was previously called the ‘winning strategy’ is being superseded by the new loose aggressive play (LAG) that seems to be growing online from Scandinavian countries.  So why is this occurring? Most of the well known introductory poker literature seems to educate players to play a TAG style, especially in tournament play.  To the player who is just learning the fundamentals of playing position and raising preflop, it seems to be a highly confusing mix of arguments.
The solution is to make sure you know how to utilise both styles of play throughout a tournament and be able to play against different styles of opposition.  Against players who are overly tight or are refusing to gamble, then it is optimal to take advantage of this by using loose aggressive strategies.  Against players who are continually throwing their chips into the middle, you will be looking to trap them when you have good starting hands to punish them for their lack of respect.  Your opposition are also likely to change styles as a tournament wears on.  Generally, close to tournament cash bubbles and final table bubbles is where many players slow down and hope to fold their way through.  There is always plenty of dead money in the middle so it is up to the bravest players to claim the dead money. 
The fundamentals of TAG play is to save your chips for the best starting hands and folding speculative hands during the tournament.  The best hands to play, according to the TAG manual, are high pairs, an ace with a good kicker and suited-connecting picture cards.  Raising small amounts to eliminate limpers and not risking great amounts to win a hand.  This is a very safe way to play and obviously not too hard for beginners to employ.  This type of play is generally more advisable against other novices, but experienced players will know how to exploit such a game by changing their style to a more LAG style game.
Good LAG playing involves strong reading of a player’s character and working the texture of the board to find the best opportunities to attack a player.  Although we have all seen Gus Hansen or Patrik Antonius pull off the most awesome all-in moves with next-to-nothing holding or crippling a player when their rags have become the nuts, it is their range of cards that keep players confused.  They do not stray too far from the fundamentals of playing in position but are carefully building a picture of their opposition’s pattern of play.  They watch for leaks in betting or the willingness to gamble and will use their chips as weapons against your weaknesses and insecurities.
Good tournament players always start looking out for the tight players at the table to grab their chips.  These are the players who are unwilling to gamble, will only bet when hitting or are afraid to bust.  Using your position, look to be in pots with them to outplay them when their cards miss the board or when the opportunity opens to bluff them off a pot. Your chip accumulation process, using what you know about a player, will set you up to go deep into a tournament and allow you to survive the inevitable bad beats. Keep on using all the different types of plays that both TAG and LAG styles present to keep accumulating chips.  Ultimately, only bad beats will bring your undoing and not bad decisions.
To be able to reach this type of playing level requires lots of practice.  There will be situations where you lose a tournament trying a new type of style but these are all part of the learning curve that leads to a well rounded player.  Also look for structures that support this type of play.  A structure with a generous starting stack, long blinds and slow increases in levels gives time and room for players to exercise all their moves.  A fast structure will not give much time to actually figure out a player’s patterns let alone exercise the correct moves after you have worked out the player’s tendencies with the blinds having decreased the potency of your chip stack.
Ultimately, you are looking for more ways to win hands and tournaments. Watch how different players play and frequently change your style to match their playing style.

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