It used to be every player’s goal to be a “TAG”, meaning a tight-aggressive player. This meant you were tight preflop and aggressive postflop to extract value from your hands. TAGs play that solid ABC Style of poker. It wasn’t fun or cool to be a TAG, but it was a winning playstyle (and still is in micro stakes games). In terms of HUD stats, TAGs were the guys playing 20/17. For those of you who are new, this means they played about 20% of their hands preflop, and 17% of the times they played they came in raising. A game full of regs in the old days usually meant TAG on TAG. It was just a bunch of people who never get out of line and who play ABC poker playing against each other and losing to the rake. When you think of a TAG you think of old school players like Barry Greenstein and Doyle Brunson. You may be saying wait? What about Tom Dwan? We now move on to the next old school player type.
While those who studied hard and wanted to win tried to be TAGs, the recreational players and the gamblers wanted to be like Tom Dwan or Gus Hanson. They wanted to come in raising with any two cards and never back down postflop. These were known as loose-aggressive plays or LAGs. It was hip and cool to be a LAG. A good LAG could run over a table of TAGs with aggressive poker. The TAGs would just fold. In reality, the TAGs were and always have been nits. The main issue for the LAGs of old was the risk they would turn into aggressive fish or maniacs. They would take it too far. A great example of this is Dario Minieri on High Stakes Poker.
What about the players who were not TAGs or LAGs?
The Loose-Passive Player
The loose passive player still is prominent today in soft games such as on Ignition Casino but they frequent games on any site including tougher sites such as ACR. These are recreational players, otherwise known as “fish” or in extreme cases “whales”. These are the players who hate folding and usually are not very aggressive. When you are watching a poker stream and you see someone marked with a green ring, this is the international sign of a loose passive player. You shouldn’t run big bluffs on this sort of player and for the love of God fold to their raises. If a loose passive player who only raises with the nuts raises you, fold. I don’t care if you have Td9d on Jd8d7c2s4d for the T high flush. If the loose passive player check jams the river on you, you have to fold. You are dead.
The Tight-Passive Player
The next player type is a tight passive player, otherwise known as a “rock” or a “nit”. Live players call them OMCs, short for “old man coffee”. This is the guy who is reading a newspaper and sipping a coffee at the table. He is not going to stop reading that paper for anything short of about the top 10% – 15% of hands. You don’t want to 3-bet these players unless you have the goods because their range is just so strong. They are usually losing players because they do not get their fair share of the blinds as they are always folding. Tight passive players like this tend to stay like that because they feel a sense of safety. They want lower variance. They want to play for a long time on limited funds. This is absolutely the wrong way to think about the game. Instead, you need a proper bankroll with proper bankroll management.
The Maniac Player
A scary player type that is rarer nowadays is the maniac. They will put money into the pot with reckless abandon. Expect to get check-raised a lot and barrelled into on really any runout. It used to be the case 10 – 15 years ago a maniac could still be a big winner because the regulars had no idea what to do. They kept waiting for a good hand to try to catch them out. That can work but the correct response to a maniac is to call down far lighter, as uncomfortable as that may be. 10 years ago no TAG had the balls to call down QT on AT46J. They would get scared of the A or by the river get scared of the J but against the maniac QT is a premium hand. The maniacs run over the tight players but usually have poor win rates vs loose-passive recreational players who can’t find a fold in a fold store. A maniac though is no problem for a GTO style player. That player knows which boards are good for his range and which ones are not. They know which hands they can call down and which hands they can’t. They can adjust to the maniac’s range and call down more. It’s a style of play that transcends any other player type listed here. If a winning mid-stakes solver based player went back in time to 2008 they would be the best poker player the world has ever seen. They would absolutely crush televised games on High Stakes Poker as if it was a 2nl game.
The Solver-Based Player
A GTO style of poker transcends these player types. A theoretically strong player today is not a TAG nor a LAG. They get involved more than the TAGs but are not as crazy as LAGs. They understand there is merit in balancing ranges. You can play a particular spot passive in one hand and then aggressive in the next. This entire site is dedicated to teaching a GTO style of play. As we explained in a previous blog post, there is no such thing as exploitive vs GTO poker. Rather, your exploits should come from understanding GTO principles and spotting errors of a player.
To give you an example, if you are facing a player who plays loose and passive, rarely check-raising the flop, on the BTN vs the BB what you should do is bet any flop for just 1bb. The reason is that you can now have the option to check back the turn (since loose-passive players won’t donk bet the turn) and therefore guarantee you see all the cards for the price of 1bb. This is an absolute steal and the proper exploit against such a player. A good LAG would adjust by not bluffing so much and playing more like a TAG against such a player. A TAG would do a lot of checking and just bet for value and never bluff. A GTO style player sees the weakness in the game at a theoretical level and does something no other player type would do. The GTO style player exploits the fundamental weaknesses in the opponent’s game by utilizing their positional advantage to realize the equity with their entire range for just 1bb.
If you want to be a theoretically sound player who can exploit the weaknesses of those who do not study as hard, then this site is for you. Read the previous beginner blog posts. You should start with the BTN vs BB continuation bet guide but being a technically skilled player is not enough, you need a plan, a schedule, and a proper bankroll management system.