Changing the Rules
by Green Plastic on 5/29/2007 07:38
Taylor "Green Plastic" Caby is an owner and instructor for CardRunners.
Loose aggressive play over the past two years has given some smart players the chance to make extraordinary profits by playing a style that exploits more conservative players. However, the general level of skill for the average player has increased greatly in this time span. It is now possible for some smart players to exploit the "LAG" (loose aggressive) player, which results in profitable play without as much variance as the LAG will see. This article will explain some methods for doing so.
Loose-aggressive opponents change games in ways tight players do not. Against them, you need to protect and risk your stack differently; you need to track all your opponents--even the tight ones--as they deal with the LAG, and you need to reexamine the most basic elements of your game. Even some of the fundamentals of no-limit hold'em, such as not playing too many hands and betting in proportion to the pot size, need to be scrutinized.
Before you decide what to adjust, you need to decide when to adjust. An opponent who raises 25% of his hands or sees 30% of the flops is a good target. Some opponents will also make continuation bets 80% of the time or more. In each of these cases, your opponent is habitually committing money when he's weak, whether it's before or on the flop, and you should retool your game accordingly.
You can begin by simply playing against the LAG more often. Call with some extra hands in position, especially if the LAG has raised from middle or late position. Plan to raise when you hit the flop, and also sometimes when you don't. A good guideline is to see 50% more flops against a player like this: if you usually see 20% of the flops, make it 30%, given that the LAG has opened the pot. By playing extra flops and also reraising sometimes with air before the flop, you'll create more spots to take the weak money the LAG is putting in the pot. Tightness is a cornerstone of traditional winning play, but if you have position against an opponent putting too much money into the pot too frequently, you will be folding away profitable spots if you wait for the strongest starting hands.
You can also depart from traditional bet sizing when you're battling a LAG. Minimum raises get (and usually deserve) derision, but they can devastate a LAG, who will very often be caught with little or nothing. Often a bigger raise would be overkill; your opponent will fold trash no matter what, and a small raise lets him make a bad call now or a bad decision later. If you use this play, mix it up: do it with top pair or a worse pair, a draw, or nothing at all. If your opponent can't reraise you profitably with air and isn't happy about folding his borderline hands, you have the best of it. You leverage your opponent's looseness into both cheap bluffing spots when you're weak and inflated pots when you have a big hand.
Finally, you might think about adjusting your play based on how other people are playing the LAGs. There are many players who lose all sense of rationality when LAGs are running the table. They frequently call VERY lightly in and out of position, and may be prone to making light raises with trouble hands such as Ax when the LAG opens ahead of them. If a LAG opens and one of these players quickly calls behind them, you might consider raising a hand like 79s or 88. The player that just called is unlikely to have much at all and the LAG by definition will rarely have a hand.
For the players that decide to reraise the LAG very liberally preflop, you can take this one step further and push them around a bit. For example, if a known LAG opens on the button and a loose reraiser raises from the blinds, this is a good spot to put in another raise, with our without a hand. The important thing to remember here is that you are going to get called sometimes and you are going to get busted every once in a while by doing this. What you must be able to do is adjust your play once that does happen. At that point, your raises will get little to no respect, and you can profitably sit back and wait for some good cards to make another play like that.
Minimum raises and preflop calls with weak hands are improper, according to the fundamentals of poker, but correctly adjusting to a LAG requires moving beyond the fundamentals that assume your opponent is entering the pot with strong hands. When he's not, playing back frequently will give him fits, and small bets and raises are strong enough to battle the weak hands that make up so much of his range. Use your money more often and more efficiently, and you will crush your loose opponents.