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Understanding Poker Playing Styles

For the majority of poker players in online poker, you can break an opponent’s playing style into 4 main categories: tight-aggressive (TAG), tight-passive (TP), loose-aggressive (LAG) and loose-passive. Most of the world’s most successful poker players are LAGs. as this is considered the most difficult yet profitable playing style to master. However, nonetheless there are still opinions on this debate and there are a number of games where a TAG approach is more profitable. Dan Harrington is a good example of this, having cashed out over $10 million from a predominantly TAG playing style.

Tight-Aggressive (TAG)

A tight-agressive player plays very few hands pre-flop, but when he’s dealt a premium hand he’ll play it hard and aggressively, c-betting flops and value betting the river. You’re average TAG will play less than 20% of his starting hands, including JJ+ and AJ+ however he’ll always raise solid starting hands like high pockets and KK pre-flop, with the aim of taking the pot down straight away. What makes a TAG approach most profitable is that it gains maximum value from big hands such as AK, whilst avoiding the risks and costs by folding poor hands pre-flop. The downside to this strategy is that it comes with limited potential. A lot of the time you’ll miss the chance to trap opponents or hit monsters by not playing marginal hands.

Tight-Passive (TP)

Tight-passive players are a weak version of TAGs. They will play a tight range of hands just like a TAG, however they’re inability to lead out on strong hands and fire back at opponents when in front means they’ll lose too many pots to drawing hands. The missed opportunity to extract value from monster hands such as KK will cost them in the long run. TP players are also very easy to bluff and steal against. They defend their blinds poorly and will constantly be exploited by LAG players who can bluff, c-bet, double barrel and 3bet pots effectively. Ultimately you want to avoid being tagged a TP, as this means you’re pretty easy to win money against. Although it’s possible for TPs to make profit, they’ll be losing to TAGs and LAGs in the long run.

Loose-Aggressive (LAG)

These are the sharks of the ocean. 3betting, check-raising, blind-stealing and triple-barrelling are all part of their game. They have a wild propensity to play a large range of hands, and the reason this pays off is because they can outplay and outmanoeuvre opponents post-flop. LAG players will commonly blind-steal and raise pots with marginal hands in late position. Their ability to mix up their game makes them incredibly unpredictable and hard to play against also. When they limp pre-flop, they could be holding KK or 72o (a standard LAG will play up to 30% of starting hands). Ultimately, LAGs make the most money in online poker and this is approach all players should aspire to perfection. They’ll win the most pots on tight tables and they exploit weak players including TPs and LPs better than anyone.

Loose-Passive (LP)

The fish of online poker! These guys are calling stations all over. LPs will play hands too loosely and bleed chips. They won’t fold when they’re behind, they won’t bet when they’re in front, and generally speaking they’ll be losing money faster than anyone.