Meet your Opponent: Part 2 – The Loose-Aggressive Player (LAG)
Beat your Opponent: Part 2 – The Loose-Aggressive Player
On a wonderful and relaxed Saturday, you decide to play in poker and jump into the action in the GGMasters Bounty $105. You find your opponents to be all very loose and very aggressive. Many of your openings see action, and the villains are fighting for every pot. How are you going to handle this situation? Do you stick with your regular poker strategy? What adjustments, if any, should be made against this style of poker player?
A Strong Checking Range
Constructing a strong checking range at the poker table is essential when you want to beat loose-aggressive players (LAGS). You open Under-the-Gun (UTG) and your LAG opponent calls from the button. The flop comes down As-8s-2d. In this scenario, you could opt to check 100% of your range on the flop. The Expected Value (EV) loss for a pure flop check strategy from Out of Position (OOP) is very minimal. Many professionals will combine a check in this position with either a very wide check-raising strategy or they will check and call to allow overly aggressive opponents to punt off their stack.
At game theory optimal (GTO), on the flop UTG is checking 50% of his starting poker hand range across all possible boards. Many players err with a continuation bet (c-bet) 80% of the time or more. Doing this while out of position and heads-up is a costly mistake against LAG poker players. To counter their play style, you should adopt a strong checking strategy. The strategy for under the gun is going to be quite polarized. LAG players that are out of position will be betting with a huge range of hands, when when in position, the range is quite condensed, missing the top and bottom of the range. The best poker hands are going to be raising preflop (3-betting) and the worst ones will be folding against the open.
Checking with Top Pair
One of the first adjustments you want to make when playing against a loose-aggressive opponent is to ensure you are checking on the flop with hands, like top pair or two pairs. Some of these LAGS will bet heavy when they sense even the slightest weakness. If you check the flop, as most poker players do not construct a strong checking range – checking with top pair or two pair – many players will think your range is weak. LAGS are usually recognizable by their very high VPIP, usually above 30%, a high PFR of 20 or more, and a high 3-bet of 10% or more. Once you know your opponent is a LAG, when you make a hand like a top pair with a decent kicker, check and call every bet until showdown. This is the best way to extract maximum value from an aggressive poker player.
Mixing Strategy with Flush Draws
A mixing poker strategy is when some portions of your range you will bet while others portions you will check. A single hand could be mixed or even a large portion of your entire range. Looking at breaking down your strategy for your flush draw combos, some of your hands will benefit from checking while others benefit from betting. On the As-8s-2d board, a hand like Ks6s benefits from betting as it gets better king high combos in your opponent’s range to fold. If your opponent holds a hand like Kc7c or Kc9c, the EV of your Ks6s goes through the roof. Betting with this hand gets better hands than ours to fold and gives us a clean out to the K if it comes on the turn or river. However, a hand like KsQs does not gain equity by betting. It does not get a better poker hand to fold because there is no better king high hand. It can only gain equity by checking, setting up a scenario where if a Q rolls off on the turn we can cooler a hand like QT from villain s range.
Check-raising the flop
If your loose-aggressive opponents c-bet too much when facing a check, you can check-raise with a wide variety of poker hands. On the As-8s-2d board, hands like KsTc and QhJs can check-raise, the key is to have a high spade in your hand. These kinds of hands can also make a backdoor straight or flush. The plan here would be to check-raise and then bet again if the turn improves our equity. A spade turn or a straight card in this instance.
Constructing a fundamentally sound poker strategy is not an easy task and will not be achieved overnight. Taking lines to maximize our exploitation of the loose aggressive poker players that we encounter will go a long way in our search for glory, fame and treasures at the poker table!