LAG Play In Sit N Goes – A Detailed Analysis

Loose Aggressive Play (LAG) In Sit N Goes – A Viable Approach?

From time to time someone comes up with a ‘New Strategy’ for SNG play on one of the many poker forums. Individual differences aside, the idea is usually the same – to play 'loose aggressive' (LAG) poker in the early stages in an effort to build a stack that will let you dominate the later stages.

This article will have a deeper look into this idea and discuss some of the pros and cons of the LAG SNG approach. After all, the age old maxim of poker strategy is to play in the opposite style to your opponents – and the majority do indeed play the Tight Aggressive (TAG) game in the early stages of a sit n go tournament!

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Loose Aggressive Play In SNG Tournaments - What Consitutes A LAG Approach?

Firstly let us define exactly what we mean by a LAG approach. This involves raising lots of pots, making continuation bets on many flops, calling raises in position and generally loosening up ones pre-flop Sit N Go Starting Hands criteria. We will separate this from ‘donk’ loose play for the purposes of this article. When resistance occurs our LAG will back down, semi-bluffs will replace coming over the top with air and so on…

This approach could indeed exploit the ever-growing number of players who refuse to part with a single chip without a premium hand. The value of these extra chips would then act as a buffer in the end-game – the question is this: Are the potential risks of LAG Sit N Go Play Worth The Rewards?

The risks come in two forms. Firstly there are always a number of very inexperienced (or just very bad!) players at any one SNG table. When playing without premium hands the risk is that someone will overvalue 3rd pair or that ace-six and decimate the LAG’s stack.

Secondly, the LAG will naturally find themselves up against the best holdings from the rest of the table. Again, the thinking LAG player should be able to get away from 2nd best hands without going broke – but could this have a big enough effect on their stack to spoil any realistic chances during the middle game?

To understand the effects of these risks we can look at prize pool equity models – this will follow in Part #2 of this series where we look deeper into the math side.

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Loose Aggressive Play In SNG Tournaments - A Profit Based Perspective.

The next step in understanding whether LAG play has a role in SNG tournaments is to look at where the real profit comes from in these games. It is widely acknowledged that over a reasonable sample size of 1000+ games a 20% ROI is considered excellent at the lower limits and 10% a good return at the higher limits.

If LAG play in the early stages is indeed a profitable strategy we have to ask what is the effect of this on overall profits. The main point here being that, in order to play the loose-aggressive style effectively, it would be necessary to play only a few tables at most.

Conversely, the players that this style may successfully exploit – the tight-aggressive players who become ‘pushbots’ at the bubble – are playing many tables at once. The central concept behind this is that accepting a lower ROI per table is profitably balanced by the ability to play 6, 10 or even more tables at once.

A comparison will illustrate this point:

  1. Good LAG SNG Player – 3 * $10 tables at 20% ROI = $6 per hour
  2. Good TAG Pushbot – 10 * $10 tables at 12% ROI = $12 per hour

To conclude part #1, yes – LAG play, when executed in a ‘thinking’ manner, could be a profitable counter strategy to the TAG Pushbot ‘standard’. The downside is the potential risk in losing your fold-equity for the middle stages (more in part #2 on this) and the requirement to play fewer tables to make this style effective.

Of course – not every player has a desire to maximize their hourly rate, instead playing poker for pleisure as well as profits. If this is the case then a Loose-Aggressive approach to Sit N Goes might be for you!

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