Exploiting Loose-Aggressive Poker Players

In this post (and podcast episode), I’ll teach you the exploiting and chip earning strategies I love to use versus the loose-aggressive (LAG) players at my table.

Loose-aggressive players play exactly as their name implies: they throw chips in with a ton of hands, so they’re loose, and normally put in chips as bets and raises rather than checks and calls, so they’re aggressive.



For your average TAG player, these LAGs present a big problem. As a TAG, you know that bets and raises often equal a strong hand. LAG’s try to use this idea against you. Their goal is to force you to fold with lots of pre-flop open raises and post-flop bets and raises.

If you fold, great! They took down a simple pot and now it’s on to the next hand. And, if you call or re-raise, their hope is that you do this at the wrong time. You think they’re bluffing, but they have the nuts! and can get maximum value due to their LAGgy image.

So how do we take advantage of these ultra-aggressive players who like to push us around?

I’ll answer this question through 3 parts:

  • 1 is about your position in relation to the LAG.
  • 2 is about playing preflop against LAG’s.
  • 3 is about playing post-flop against LAG’s.

Listen to this podcast episode:

Part 1: Your Position Against LAG’s

LAG’s love to use position to make things difficult on you.

You know that position gives more information in the hand, and as soon as you check on a street, you’ve given them information. Sometimes your check is expected, like if you called preflop from the BB and you check.  This expected check isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness. But, if you check the flop and they check behind they now showed weakness. If you then check again on the turn, you’ve shown more weakness and they can use their aggression to take the pot from you.

Positional advantage is given to whoever sits on your left; be it a LAG, TAG, Nit or Whale.  But the worst players to give this advantage to are the LAG’s. They are the ones most likely to 3bet when you open-raise preflop and bet when you check at any point down the streets.

You’re making poker harder on yourself with a LAG on your left.

Taking Advantage of Position

Tip #1: Play against LAG’s in position. With position comes more information, and more information leads to more +EV decisions and easier exploiting. Choose your seats and tables wisely. Leave the table or change seats if your position is unfavorable. Think back to every table you’ve had a hard time with. Most likely you had competent and LAGgy players to your left. Make poker easier and increase your profit potential by having position on LAG’s.

Tip #2: If you choose to play with a LAG on your left, you must expect aggression from them. Plan for it before you make your preflop decisions, and for each of your post-flop decisions. If you bet, expect a call or a raise. If you check, expect a bet. Then the question becomes, “What will I do when the LAG makes the expected aggressive play?” The expectation of aggression will aid in exploiting these players.

Part 2: Preflop Against LAG’s

A LAG’s preflop aggression is normally in the form of open-raising and 3betting.

Occasionally, you’ll find LAG’s who do a lot of preflop calling but utilize post-flop aggression. But for the most part a LAG is aggressive both preflop and post-flop. They see the value in open-raising and 3betting a ton preflop, and they see the value of cbetting, raising cbets, check-raising, donk betting and probing post-flop.

Preflop, we’re mostly concerned with LAG open-raises and 3bets. It’s critical to know where your LAG opponents love to 3bet from. This is easiest for online players to figure out because of your HUD use:

The Smart HUD shows us Villain 2 loves 3betting from the MP, CO, BTN and SB (super LAG):

I’m thinking specifically of 3 different opponents I routinely play against:

  • One of them loves to 3bet in the CO and the BTN, with 3bet percentages between 10% and 12%.
  • I have another LAG opponent who treats both blinds like great 3bet bluffing opportunities, and his 3bet percentages are also between 10-12%.
  • And a third LAG I know loves to 3bet out of the SB only at 13%. This player loves to use the worst position at the table to appear ultra-strong and take down lots of preflop pots. This same player also treats the BB as a huge discount on calling and calls 2bets in the BB 35% of the time.

The first two players have Total 3bet percentages at 8%. But this third player’s Total 3bet is only 3%. They appear to be a strictly value 3bettor, but unless you look closely, you wouldn’t notice their tendency to 3bet bluff from the SB.

Key lesson: ALWAYS utilize a positional popup (like in the Smart HUD above) to see which positions your opponents make their bluffs. When you see this, exploiting is easier!

I have a 4th LAG opponent who uses smaller 3bet sizings for bluffs and goes bigger for value. This makes exploiting them super easy.

And it’s not just 3bets where you can get a sense of where the LAG’s like to bluff. 2bet percentages by position are critical as well. You’ll find some LAG’s who open 15% or less from the MP and EP, but suddenly in the CO it jumps to 30%, on the BTN it’s at 60% and the SB is at 50%.

Positional awareness of your opponent’s tendencies is critical when exploiting loose-aggressive players.

Taking Advantage of Preflop LAG’s

Tip #1: If you’re choosing to go post-flop with a LAG (by calling an IP 3bet or calling out of the blinds), know what kind of post-flop situation you’re getting yourself.  Are you facing a HU situation or multi-way?  Will you be IP or OOP?  Also, pay attention to the stack sizes involved, your hand and their post-flop tendencies. Think about the kind of boards that can come that will help their range, and which ones help your range. Know that because they’ve got position, you can expect bets when you check to them down the streets.

Expect the bets and plan for them.

Tip #2: Call preflop with tight ranges that can be ahead of many hands the LAG is aggressing with. There’s a general rule in poker that you need a smaller range to call than to raise. This helps to offset the betting initiative advantage your opponent has post-flop.

Tip #3: Know which exact positions your opponents like to open-raise bluff and 3bet bluff.  If you see any 2bet or RFI stat over 20%, and for sure over 25%, they love to bluff from that position. If their 3bet is over 7% and definitely over 10%, that’s their 3bet bluffing position. When you suspect a LAG is likely going to 3bet bluff you, you’ve got 3 options:

3 Preflop Options Versus 3betting LAG’s:

Option 1 is to tighten your range so that you can better defend against their 3bets, If your normal open-raising range 20%, cut it back to just 12% or 15%. This will remove some the auto-folding junk from your range and make it so you can profitably defend more often.

Option 2 is to keep your same range, but call the 3bet more frequently.  This is much easier to do if the 3bets are coming out of the blinds so you have post-flop position against them. If you know your opponent can 3bet with A4o, JTs and 55, you can start calling more frequently with ATs, KQs and 99 or 88.

Option 3 is to keep your same range, but choose to value and bluff 4bet more often. Hands that you would normally call a 3bet with like JJ or AQs, can now be a value 4betting hand, especially if they can call with worse like TT or 99 or AJ. You can also add some more bluffs this way. If you’re adding the 10 combos of JJ and AQs as value, add 10 combos of bluffs. Maybe 44 and QJs. Or even use some blocking power with 8 combos of suited Aces like A5s and A4s. Make sure you also review their 3bet/Fold to 4bet stats before you decide to add more 4bet bluffs to your game.

There isn’t a single best option of the 3 above. It depends on the LAG opponent you’re facing and the others at your table. But, these are your options and you can experiment with all 3 to see which suits your style of play the best.

Tip #4: Exploiting LAG’s is easier when you note the SD hands they use as bluff 2bets and 3bets preflop. Every showdown is a wealth of information. Prior SD hands give a great insight into their bluffing ranges. Take note of their hands and the positions they played them in. If you’ve seen 76s as a 3bet bluff on the BTN in the past, you can assume they’ll use it again, as well as similar hands like 65s, 87s and 98s.

Tip #5: Note any sizing tells with the hands you see at SD. If you notice min-2bets and 3bets as bluffs, great! Utilize this for exploiting them in the future.

Poker Forge 4th of July Sale:

Part 3: Post-flop Against LAG’s

LAG’s with too much post-flop aggression are capable of spewing a lot of chips in poor bluffing situations.

These players play too many hands preflop, so they get to the flop with wide and weak ranges. Because wider ranges hit the board less frequently, they often feel forced to use aggressive plays to bluff you off the pot.

Their value:bluff post-flop ratios are all out of whack. They’re bluffing too many hands down the streets because it’s the only way they can win the pot. This over-reliance on aggressive bluffing is what makes post-flop so unprofitable for LAG’s, especially if YOU are calling with narrow ranges.

Some LAG’s know to attack foldy players with aggression, and other LAG’s just throw it out there willy-nilly. Consider the type of LAG you’re up against and if they’re smart with their aggression, you will find less opportunities to bluff raise them, but you’ll have more opportunities to bluff bet against them after they check a street or two.

Let’s get mental: many LAG’s have a mindset weakness in that they tilt and spew chips easily. They love aggression and when it doesn’t work, they tend to try and force the action even more in an effort to get you to fold. And, I love it when I see a LAG lose half of their stack with AA or KK.  This is a sure sign that some extra aggression is coming really soon.

Taking Advantage of Post-flop LAG’s

Tip #1: Because you get to the flop with tighter ranges that are more likely to hit the board, you can withstand more post-flop pressure from the wider ranged LAG’s.

They’re betting and barreling their draws, marginal hands and complete bluffs. You can call down the streets with 2nd pair and weak TP type hands and your best draws when the price is right.

In this video, I review 4 hands where I used Tip #1 above:

Tip #2: Before you click CHECK or BET on the flop, have a plan for the LAG opponent’s reaction. Ask yourself, “What will I do if they bet?” Your answer should be to fold, call or raise depending on their bet size, their range, your hand and the board.

Another question you can ask yourself is:

“How do I approach the turn if he calls on the flop?”

Well, you’re betting right now for value or as a bluff, right? The turn card can make your hand even more valuable or even more worthless. It can also add some sort of drawing power to your hand. Will you double-barrel or check? If you check and he bets, what will you do? Start “game planning” on the flop for potential turn cards and actions. If you make any type of play on the flop and you’re surprised by your LAG opponent’s reaction, you didn’t think through your situation enough.

Tip #3: Pay attention to their post-flop stats.  You want to look at their Flop/Turn/River Cbet, Fold to Flop/Turn/River Cbet and also view these from IP and OOP separately. Your opponent might aggress more when IP, fold more when OOP, or maybe treat them the exact same. Their stats will give you insights into how you can take advantage of their post-flop tendencies. Any type of betting stat over 70% is clearly indicative of a bluffer. Other stats like a Raise Cbet over 15% and a Check-raise over 15% are signs of bluffing aggression as well.

Tip #4: Against an opponent who is tilting or who I expect will tilt soon, I am definitely tightening up my range in an effort to get to the flop with a strong holding.  If I have any type of top pair hand against a tilting LAG, you can bet I’m staying until showdown unless the board comes super ugly like a four-flush or four to an easy straight.

Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

In your next 3 play sessions, focus on the LAG at your table who you have position on. Ask yourself, “How can I take advantage of this LAG on my right?” I gave you plenty of tips on how to do so, now start experimenting with them and tag hands for later review where you face off with your intended LAG opponent.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Sky Matsuhashi