Playing like a maniac on purpose
Usually we list lags (loose-aggressive players) as losing players. These are good people to have at the table because they routinely put lots of money in the pot with poor hands and constantly pay us off when we have strong hands.
Most of the time that’s the case. But have you ever played at a table where the lag was a player who seemed unstoppable? He might have had a huge stack and seemed like he always bluffed you when you were weak and folded when you were strong. If that’s ever happened to you, you’ll know how tough it can be playing against lags.
Sometimes it’s just dumb luck. The lag player had a good run at the table, hit a few big hands and threw everyone else off track. But what if he was actually a good player doing this on purpose? They are out there you know.
Good lag players can throw an entire table off balance and take advantage of table image by getting paid off more with strong hands. Well-timed bluffs also add to the profits to make the lag strategy a dangerous one if put in the right hands.
The basic concept at work behind winning lag players is that superior postflop play can make up for poor preflop play. Playing hands like 75s before the flop is a losing strategy by itself but if you can make up for it with superior postflop play, you can turn losing hands into winners.
On top of that, it creates a crazy table image which results in more pay offs from players who would otherwise fold their weak hands. When the lag plays so many hands aggressively, his opponents have an incredibly tough time trying to read his hands.
Position is everything
No matter how good you are, position is the ultimate equalizer. Strong lag players know this and avoid playing trashy hands out of position. They might play more hands from early position than other players but they still player fewer hands from early position compared to the number of hands they play in late position.
When they build that aggressive table image, having position becomes an even stronger weapon. They use that table image to the maximum by stealing the blinds, raising from the button and buying the button with raises on the cutoff.
Lags have to use every advantage they can get because the very nature of the loose-aggressive style gets them into all kinds of difficult postflop situations. Playing marginal hands after the flop is a difficult task but having position makes it much easier for the lag.
They get into postflop situations with drawing hands, pure bluffs, mediocre hands and everything in between. Having position makes it easier to read their opponents’ hands so the lags can get away cheap if someone has a strong hand.
Position is everything for lags.
Lag players use folding power more than any other type of player. They raise those weak hands not because they think those hands are good but because they know they can win the pot in one of three ways:
1. Hit a well-disguised monster hand and get paid off
2. Win pots by making their opponents fold the best hand
3. Earn extra money by stealing the blinds
In addition to that, the table image developed by lag play leads to additional profits later on down the road because players are less likely to give them credit for strong hands.
Lags thrive on making thin value bets. What I mean by this is that the lags can make profitable bets with weaker hands because their opponents are more willing to call them. An average poker player will call bets from a lag with a much wider range of hands than usual.
Value bets are a major source of profit for lags. With all the weak hands they play and tough decisions they have to make, those extra value bets provide a nice cushion for good lags.
Hand reading is the most important skill for lag players. Lag players get into so many iffy situations with marginal hands that having excellent hand reading skills is an absolute necessity.
Lags have to know when to keep pushing for the fold and when to give up when someone is being stubborn. They have to catch on when other players are slowplaying or setting up a checkraise. They also have to be able to gauge hand ranges well enough to know when to place thin value bets and when to bluff.
Lags need to be able to change playing styles on the drop of a dime. This skill is almost as vital as hand reading and is just as difficult. When opponents start calling every bet a lag makes, that lag needs to switch to value mode and play tight, straight-forward poker.
What makes changing gears even harder is that the lag needs to change gears for specific opponents only. So against one opponent, the lag might have to start playing straightforward poker but against his neighbor, the lag might need to keep playing like a maniac. Being able to switch in and out of different playing styles is one of the hallmarks of great lag players.
If huge swings in your profits bother you, the lag style is a bad fit for you. The lag style is extremely volatile, marked by huge swings in the bankroll. Some days might result in 8 buyins worth of losses while other days might result in 10 buyin upswings.
Lags also experience more bad beats than anyone else because people don’t like to fold to lags. If you can’t handle taking ridiculous bad beats on a regular basis, you’ll probably want to avoid the lag style because bad beats are a way of life for lags.
Learning the Lag Style
The lag style relies on a lot of creativity, hand reading and feel so there’s not a lot of strategy advice out there for lag play. Most websites and books only teach the tag (tight-aggressive) approach because it’s easier to learn and it’s the best strategy for new poker players.
The best way to learn the lag style is to get practice. It’s a difficult playing style to learn so you should definitely move down one or two stakes when practicing the lag style. By doing so you’ll have more confidence at the table and the crazy swings won’t hurt your bankroll as much.
The lag style requires more concentration than any other playing style so it also helps to reduce the number of tables you play. If you cut down to just 1 or 2 tables at a time, you’ll be able to get better reads on your opponents and make better decisions.
You should probably keep double the bankroll when trying the lag style. The volatility in the style is just too great for average bankroll recommendations. It’s not a bad idea at all to keep a minimum of 40 or 50 buyins when playing the lag style.
•The lag style can be dangerous in the right hands but it’s not for everyone. New players should worry about getting their fundamentals down before even thinking about the lag style.
•Only the most experienced players should try the lag style because it requires a lot of skill to play successfully. Poor lag players can lose a ton of money in short time periods.
•If you decide to try the lag style, move down in stakes and cut back on the number of tables you play.