This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Fran Ferlan.
A loose and aggressive (LAG) style is the most fun, and arguably the most
profitable play style in no-limit Texas hold’em poker, especially once you
start climbing up the stakes.
This is a style of play in poker that has been made famous by loose and aggressive high stakes pros like Tom Dwan and Patrik Antonius
And that is because it puts a massive amount of sustained pressure on your opponents and sometimes causes them to tilt hard and blow up badly at the poker table.
While a straightforward tight and aggressive (TAG) style can get you decent
results at the lower stakes, once you start playing higher limits, it is
crucial to start mixing up your game, lest you become overly
The best poker strategy actually entails being comfortable with both styles of
play, depending on the opponents you are up against.
While playing a straightforward ABC poker works like a charm against
recreational players, it doesn’t always cut it against your more observant
So getting comfortable with playing a LAG style is a must if you want to
consistently crush at the poker table.
This article will show you how to play a LAG style successfully, and hopefully
highlight some potentially profitable spots you might have missed
1. Steal the Blinds A Lot
A great way to start practicing a loose and aggressive style is to start
open-raising more hands in late positions, namely the cutoff and the
On the button particularly, you can often get away with opening as much as 50%
of all hands profitably, especially with tight players on your left.
If your hand is even remotely playable postflop, chances are you should
open-raise with it on the button. Start expanding your comfort zone, and
gradually add hands to your button opening range.
You can play any Ace, suited Kings, suited one-gappers, suited two-gappers, any
pocket pair and so on.
You shouldn’t go crazy with any two cards, of course.
Use your judgment.
A lot of players don’t defend their blinds nearly as often as they should, and
some players fold as much as 80%, sometimes even 90% of all hands when playing
in the blinds.
This means you can profitably steal their blinds with basically any two cards.
And even if you get called, you’ll be in a great spot to take the pot down
You will be playing in position with an uncapped range versus your opponent’s
capped range, so you can just keep barrelling and applying the pressure.
It’s difficult to play out of position versus an uncapped range, so your
opponents will be forced to fold quite often.
This means your own hand strength isn’t as important as your opponent’s
perceived range. So you should keep barrelling on all but the most
unfavourable boards, if you suspect the board connected well with your
If you try to steal the blinds with a smaller open-raise size, you reduce your
opponent’s required fold equity, so you can steal very wide indeed. You can go
for a 2.5x open-raise, or even as little as 2x in some cases.
Getting into the habit of looking for potentially profitable stealing attempts
can do wonders to your bottom line. Even though you’re only stealing 1.5 BB,
you’ll be able to do it quite often, and it adds up quickly.
It’s not really about the size as much as it is about the frequency with which
something occurs. If you’re playing a 6-max cash game, for example, you have
the opportunity to steal the blinds 3 times per orbit.
So even doing it a couple of times per session can be a great boost for your
winrate. This is something that is discussed in much more detail in The Micro Stakes Playbook.
By the way, if you want to know what the best poker winrates possible are these
days, Nathan recently made a video about that.
2. 3-bet Light Frequently to Avoid Becoming Overly Predictable
3-betting is the act of re-raising somebody preflop. They raise and you re-raise. However, you need to know that 3-betting only with strong premium hands is a bad long-term strategy.
do these strong hands come around rarely, but if you 3-bet only for value, you
can get predictable quite quickly.
So once you actually get a monster hand, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able
to extract a lot of value, because your opponent might pick up on what you’re
doing and get away quickly.
If you only 3-bet premium pocket pairs like Jacks or better and AQ or better,
that only accounts for 4% of all hands, so it’s very easy for your opponents
to put you on a range.
You’re basically playing your cards face-up, and you
let your opponents play near perfectly against you.
In order to counteract that, you should add some bluffing hands into your
3-betting range. This is something that you can even do at the lower limits as Nathan shows in his video course.
However, it is important to remember that you shouldn’t just add any two random cards to your 3-betting range in order to become less predictable.
So you want to avoid 3-betting for example with all the obvious trash hands like:
A better choice are the hands that have a potential of flopping strong
combinations. Hands like suited connectors, suited Aces or suited Kings are
great candidates for that.
Suited Aces and Kings are especially useful not only because they have the
potential of making strong flushes, but they also have blocker power.
A blocker is a card that reduces the amount of strong hands your opponent
could potentially have in their range.
For example, if you hold an Ace, it’s
less likely your opponent holds strong hands like pocket Aces or Ace King.
Having a blocker reduces the amount of combinations in your opponents range.
Holding an Ace reduces the number of combinations of pocket Aces in your
opponent’s range from 6 to 3, and the number of combinations of Ace-King from
16 to 11.
This means your opponent is far less likely to have a monster hand
and come over the top with a 4-bet of their own.
Remember, the point of 3-betting light is getting folds preflop. If you don’t
expect your opponent to fold often, it’s not a good spot for 3-bet bluffing.
This means you should only 3-bet light if your opponent actually has a fold
button. As discussed in Crushing the Microstakes, you simply can’t bluff a calling station.
Because by definition, they are just going to call you down!
Ideally, you want to attack players who are positionally aware themselves, and
are probably abusing the power of position, but are also capable of folding.
You should therefore attack loose and weak ranges.
For example, you can 3-bet resteal against button steal attempts, or 3-bet
against a player who is isolation-raising limpers.
In these cases, the raiser
usually has a playable hand, but it’s often not strong enough to stand the
pressure of a 3-bet.
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3. Throw in a Couple of Light 4-bets as Well
A 4-bet usually means quite a narrow and strong range, like Queens or better
plus AK, for example. Since a lot of players 4-bet only those hands, they will
assume their opponents will do the same.
That’s why incorporating a 4-bet bluff in your arsenal can be quite an
effective tactic. You should note, however, that it’s a high risk play, and
you commit a huge portion of your stack right away.
As for the best spots to employ it, you should look for:
a) Players who 3-bet light a lot themselves
b) Players who are able to fold to such aggression, and won’t do something
crazy like calling you down with A7o
c) Spots where you are playing out of position. 4-betting is preferable to
calling a 3-bet out of position, because you won’t have a range advantage or a
positional advantage over your opponent.
The best cards to 4-bet light with are similar to 3-betting light, but the
absolutely best candidates are small suited Aces (A2s to A5s) for a couple of
a) They have the aforementioned blocker power, so they reduce the number of
strong combos in your opponent’s range
b) They have a great postflop potential, as they can make straights and nut
c) They are fairly straightforward to play postflop. If your 4-bet gets
called, you will be automatically committed to the pot due to the shallow
If you flop an Ace or a draw, you are automatically
committed and can shove the rest of the stack in, and if you miss, you simply
give up on the flop.
The art of light 4-betting (and the exact best spots to do it), is discussed in much more detail in Modern Small Stakes.
4. Continue Barreling on Scare Cards
In order to bluff successfully, you need to tell a believable story. If you
are representing a strong hand, your opponent needs to perceive your range to
connect well with the board.
This is why barreling multiple streets post flop is most effective when the
board gets progressively scarier. Your opponents will need quite a strong hand to keep calling you down.
The best cards to keep barreling, therefore, are the ones that connect well
with your perceived range, and the ones that could potentially make your
opponent’s hand relatively weaker.
Aces, Kings, or even Queens work best,
especially on uncoordinated, dry boards.
Of course, you should exercise caution if you see potential draws completing,
if you suspect your opponents range to connect well with the board.
Most good advanced poker training programs these days emphasize the importance of continuing to apply the pressure on many turn and river cards that hit your perceived range.
5. Float Wide in Position to Get Great Bluffing Spots
Floating in poker is the act of just calling a bet in position either on the flop or the turn, with the intention of taking the pot away on a later street.
A majority of decent poker players know they should c-bet the flop fairly
often, or about 2 out of 3 times. However, 2 out of 3 times, hands miss the
This means that a balanced c-betting frequency has as many light c-bets as
value bets. So you should try to call down the flops c-bets a little wider,
especially if your opponent tends to give up a lot on future streets.
Some players have a huge discrepancy between their flop and turn c-betting
frequencies, and they will give up on the turn if they don’t have a strong
hand (which they won’t most of the time).
In fact, this is just one of many bad poker plays that you will see often in the lower stakes games as Nathan discusses in a recent video.
When you encounter such players like this, try to float the flop in position. Once they
check to you on the turn, you can simply fire off a half-pot bet to take down
The beauty of this play is you can basically do it profitably with any two
cards, so it’s a perfect bluffing opportunity.
What’s more, these situations tend to happen fairly often, especially when
both players’ ranges are wide.
For example, the cutoff open-raises versus the button, or small blind versus
big blind. Since the ranges are very wide in these spots, hands are bound to
miss the flop quite often as a consequence.
A lot of players will fire off a standard c-bet, but won’t have the heart to
keep barreling on future streets. So it can be outright profitable to float
these players, regardless of your hand strength.
This is why floating the flop in particular with a wide range is one of my absolute top advanced poker strategy tips these days to start winning a lot more pots.
6. Play Draws Aggressively to Give Yourself More Ways to Win the Pot
The main difference between a TAG and a LAG style is bluffing more. Since
bluffing is a high-risk play, it pays to have some sort of hand equity to fall
back on if your bluff gets called.
This is why learning to semi-bluff is crucial for playing a LAG style
successfully. There are a couple of advantages of playing your draws
aggressively as opposed to passively.
First of all, you give yourself more ways to win the pot. Instead of only
hoping your draw completes, you can push your opponents out of the pot
regardless of your hand strength (or lack thereof).
Secondly, even if your draw completes, you might not be able to extract a lot
of value from it. Your opponent might figure out you have a monster hand if
you suddenly start blasting off big bets on wet, coordinated boards.
By betting or raising before your draw completes, you expand your perceived
range, and your opponent will have a harder time of putting you on a completed
As a general rule, the stronger your draw, the faster you should play it.
you are drawing to the nuts in a shallow SPR (stack-to-pot ratio) pot, you are
automatically pot-committed, and should put the rest of your stack in as soon
If you are not drawing to the nuts, more caution is advised. Your opponent
could potentially have a stronger draw than you. In that case, you should also
consider the reverse implied odds and act accordingly.
Either way, if you have a big draw, you should generally aim to play it fast,
not only because it’s generally the most +EV play, but also because it will
help with your table image.
7. Find Your Targets and Keep Pushing Their Buttons Relentlessly
Playing a LAG style doesn’t mean being aggressive for aggression’s sake only.
It means maximizing the skill edge you have over your competition by getting
involved in more marginal situations.
You should therefore look for opponents that have a hard time dealing with
your aggression, i.e. they play too timidly and give up a lot.
There are a ton of players like this who think they are playing a tight and
aggressive style, when in reality they are nowhere near as aggressive as they
should be, and can get exploited quite easily.
While they won’t make a lot of huge fundamental mistakes, they will still have
major leaks in their game, namely playing too passively.
You should always be on the lookout for these kinds of players.
Some of the
telltale signs you are dealing with this type of player are:
a) They will fold their blinds 80% of the time or more
b) They will 3-bet mainly for value
c) They will fold to 3-bets 80% of the time or more
d) They will c-bet the flop mainly for value (only about 50% of the time)
e) They will give up too often after the flop c-bet (they will have a huge gap
between their c-betting the flop and turn percentage, like 20%)
f) They will fold too often to a double/triple barrel
Playing against this kind of opponents is where the LAG style shines the
brightest. The best part is that very often, your own hand strength is totally
You are playing the player, not the cards. If someone is folding their blinds
9 out of 10 times, you can steal them holding two napkins. If they fold to a
3-bet 9 out of 10 times, same thing.
Chances are these players often don’t pay as much attention to what you are
doing, and won’t adjust their game, unless you get really out of line.
happens and you notice they start calling you down wider, simply switch gears
and go back to the value betting mode.
Playing a loose and aggressive style can be challenging, because you can find
yourself in a lot of marginal situations where you aren’t quite sure what to
However, while challenging at first, it can also be the most profitable play style. So if you are looking
to maximize your winrate, it’s absolutely crucial to get comfortable with it.
It basically comes down to expanding your starting hand selection, upping your
aggression, and bluffing more. It doesn’t mean going crazy with any two cards
just for the sake of it, though.
A good place to start practicing a LAG style is trying to steal the blinds
more often. A lot of players don’t defend their blinds as often they should,
and you’d be surprised how many stealing opportunities are out there.
You should also expand your 3-betting and 4-betting range to include some
bluffing hands. Suited Aces and Kings are good candidates because of their
blocker power and the ability to make strong combinations post-flop.
Consider double and triple barrel bluffing, especially on big scare cards like
Aces or Kings if they connect well with your perceived range.
If you are playing in position, float the flop if your opponents tend to give
up a lot on future streets, and simply take down the pot when they check to
you on the turn.
If you have a drawing hand, play it aggressively to give yourself more ways to
win the pot. As a rule of thumb, the stronger the draw, the faster you should
Using these tactics is the most effective against weak and passive opponents
who aren’t exactly fish, but they have glaring weaknesses in their game
You should look for them and keep applying the pressure where
they tend to be the weakest.
Weak regs are the new fish, and using these tactics, you’ll be able to hunt
them down and take their money in no time.
Good luck, and stay loose!
And lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy for crushing small stakes poker games (for $1k+ per month), make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.