How to Adjust to a Tight or Loose Poker Table

The Field

One of the prime skills you as a poker player can possess is the ability to change gears.

A given style might be highly profitable versus one set of opponents and yet might be a total money-loser against another set of opponents. It's the players who can adjust to the particular circumstances of each game they take on who are the most successful.

Simply put, if you can't adapt to the game you're playing in, you are going to be a loser in that game. You cannot just force-fit some cookie-cutter style onto any most profitable style of play is often opposite to the one your opponents are employing.

That is, if your opponents are playing tight, you must open your game up and play loose. If your opponents are playing loose, you can just clam up and play tight, waiting for a hand.

How to Win in Tight Poker Games

Some people see a tight table and lament the supposed fact that there'll be no easy money at it. This is misguided. Tight players are as exploitable as their loose brethren, just in a different way.

The Tournament Room
There's money to be made at every table - including the tight ones.

Where loose players will be putting money in bad all day, tight players will fold all day. Tight players by definition will only be playing their best hands, meaning they're folding a ton. You can exploit a tight player by using his tendency to fold against him.

To beat TAGs, you must know how they think. TAGs do not like to risk much. You can often steal small pots off them all day.

ABC TAGs don't open up their play to beat you. If they see you raising every button they aren't all of a sudden going to start calling with A 2. Instead they're thinking, "When I get a hand I'm going to bust this aggressive asshole."

However, by the time they get that monster and play back at you, you will have stolen so many small pots from them it'll be easy to let that one pot go.

A few years ago the predominant style in online poker was tight-aggressive. Even at six-max games you would find a table full of these TAGs playing extremely ABC poker.

They would all be hoping that some fish would sit and start raising it up all day long, thereby paying off their pocket aces.

A New Species to Beware Of: The Good LAG

However, that wasn't the case. As the games became tighter a new playing style began to emerge: the loose-aggressive style (LAG). Good LAG players began punishing the TAGs by raising 20% of pots and stealing pots from them before and after the flop.

John Phan
Beware the good LAG.

Let it be understood that these LAGs are a different species to bad LAGs. Good LAGs will push and push and push when they know their opponent will fold. They'll be stealing tons of small pots.

However, if the pot gets big, they'll be sure to have a big hand. Good LAGs know that when their opponent pushes back, they'd better have a hand. Bad LAGs do not possess this type of discretion. They don't distinguish between small pots and big pots.

Good LAGs know that TAGS like to fold and thus they give them a reason to whenever they can. They develop this loose image and they exploit it.

TAGs are often frustrated by loose players raising and betting all the time. LAGs know this. They use their image and they get their normally TAG opponents to stack off much lighter than they would against another TAG.

Good LAGs punish their opponents by playing aggressively in position. And you should too. This is the trick to playing against tight opponents: you take their tendency to fold and you use it against them.

Play in position and play aggressively. Your TAG opponents will be caught off guard. TAGs play an ABC style of poker and are thus very easy to read.

If you are considering a LAG game, you must first be familiar with ABC poker. Their hand ranges are ridiculously easy to read. You know that TAGs do not like to risk money with one pair and you can often get folds out of them on dangerous boards.

Successful LAGs play strong post-flop poker. When you play many hands you must have very strong hand-reading skills, because you will be put to some tough decisions.

LAG is not an easy game to play. But it's definitely more fun than folding all day, and against a table full of TAGs it's your best bet to make money.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, where I'll explain how to adjust to loose games and games with both loose and tight players.

More strategy articles from Dan Skolovy:

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Douglass Pinkard 2017-03-09 10:14:52

Online, maybe, but I only play live and at most tables tight play is far more common than GOOD lag play. I'm not talking about bad players who play too loosely, but those who know how to do it successfully.

FredFrog69 2013-11-12 04:37:40

Ran up against one of these two seats to my right the other night. For more than an hour I sat there, utterly tight and consoling myself "I'm gonna get you, fella!" Game ended and I never got him -- but I learned a bit from him, and I'm acting like him sometimes, and profitably...

Panda 2012-03-17 06:32:45

Are there still alot of ABC players around -- or do most people seem to play LAG..

Sean Lind 2010-01-21 20:12:25


ABC - someone who plays "by the book" straight forward poker. They always raise very good hands, always fold very poor hands. No bluffing, nothing creative, just straight forward A-B-C poker.

TAG - Tight-Aggressive. These are the players who only play strong starting hands, but play them very aggressively when they do.

Tito 2010-01-21 01:54:46

what on earth is an ABC TAG?

LennyP 2009-12-04 05:17:51

You are confusing TAGs with weak tight players. A true TAG is not playing ABC poker and is never easily exploited.


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