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TAG vs LAG Tournament Strategy

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How to Classify TAGs and LAGs in Tournaments

In poker tournaments there are two common types of strategies you can deploy – TAG (tight aggressive) and LAG (loose aggressive).  Each of these styles comes with advantages and disadvantages. The style you adopt will basically determine your starting hand ranges, 3betting range and shoving ranges from different positions.   You can even mix your game up and change from one to the other as Hellmuth and other pro’s do.  Asking which is better however, is like asking what flavour ice cream you prefer.  Both of these styles have their limits and advantages, some players might even feel uncomfortable changing from one to the other.  In this series of articles, I’ll go over the important points in the debate and cover the specific differences between the two.  See Advantages and Disadvantages of LAG/TAG Strategy.

Tournament HUD Stats

First of all, TAG opponents have a conservative starting hand range, as outlined in Harrington on Holdem.  Most TAGs will have a VPIP% below 15%, where as a natural TAG will play anything from 20% VPIP% upwards, a lot of this is from positional limping and stealing from the CO.  Furthermore, an extremely agressive player will have an AG > 1.5 according to tournament indicator.

TAG Starting Hands & 3Bet Ranges

Early Position (first 2 players to act – UTG and EP): Pairs 10-10 to A-A; AK off suite; AQ suited

Middle Position (places 3-6 to act): Pairs 8-8+; A-J off suit or better, K-Q

Late Position (Button and Cut-Off): Pairs 7-7+, Any Ace + Suited Connectors J-10+

All these hands will be raised by tight players on an un-raised board, and TAG players only 3bet with a hand from earlier level.

LAGs will 3bet and blind steal from position with a broader range of hands including pocket pairs, suited connectors and broadway cards.  A very loose player will have a 3bet% of 10% or more, a 30%+ RFI% (raised first in)  and an AG > 1.0.   The aim of a LAG is to set up as many dead-money pots as possible and win the pot in post-flop using exquisite hand-reading and bluffing skills.  Loose players will also jam their stacks and call 3bet shoves more often and out of position (your average LAG will have a 50%+ calling-range against over-bet shoves in contrast to 5-10% for TAGs). 

LAGs set mine alot too.  With a 1 in 8 chance of hitting a set, LAGs will happily enter pots in position with small pocket pairs or suited connectors on raised boards.  LAGs will even call an EP raiser from more positions than a Tight player, for instance LAGs will call EP raises from mid-position with pocket pairs, and with any suited connectors, high broadways or AK from late-position.  LAGs normally don’t call EP raises from the blinds unless their limp-shoving (bluffing premium hands). In the later stages of tournaments, LAGs in UTG will open-raise and shove with 77+.  This has to take into account effective stacks and the opponents’ stack at the table, but overall shoving from EP without premium hands is a LAG thing.

LAG 3Betting Range & Blind-Stealing

Loose players defend the blinds better than TAG’s and when sat on the SB and BB will hit back against late position raises with suited connectors, pocket pairs and face cards.  They also only ever call raises on the blinds for deception with AJ, AQ and AK (limp shove).  I contrast, TAGs will fold on the blinds a lot more (this isn’t necessarily bad thing considering they’re out of position).

TAG vs LAG Premium Hands

TAG players make a habit of folding their marginal hands 6h-8h out of position and always raise premium hands pre-flop.  The tight mentality of TAG players prevents them from wanting to see a flop with a premium hand so you won’t ever see KK or AA slow-played.  Loose players have a completely different mentality, they like to mix up hands and 3bet out of position or 3bet light from LP.  They will sometimes slow play their monster hands pre-flop (AA/QQ) knowing they will often get called in later streets for value, and  this is what makes LAG’s so dangerous in tournaments post-flop.

LAGs Limping from Late Position

Limping from late position with junkish hands is normal for loose opponents.  They utilise their position to good effect post-flop however fold quickly to any action from TAG’s which prevents them from committing too many chips.  You can see this by an above average PRF/F%.   The failure of many tight players to limp from position is one of their downfalls.

Conclusion on LAG and TAG Strategy

In general, LAGs will have much a wider starting hand/opening range, which not only creates more pre-flop opportunities to hit a monster but it also makes them more difficult to read and isolate hand ranges against.  However, the concepts above are only a narrow generalisation of what separates a TAG from a LAG.  Occasionally a LAG will tighten up and switch gears.  And sometimes a TAG will do the same.  Hence, the manner you play an MTT shouldn’t just be determined by your “comfort zone” but also based on the players at your table, position, and M-ratio.


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