TAG = tight-aggressive... a style of play characterized by playing few hands and doing very little calling. This style of play is extolled by many poker authors. When reading about the way that tight-aggressive play is described in the poker literature, you may feel like being TAG entitles you to massive profits. Play tight-aggressive poker, and your opponents might as well just hand you their cash directly to save the time it would take for chips to travel from their stacks to yours. If this is how you feel about poker then it's time to adjust your thinking. Answer the following questions honestly:
• Do you subconsciously use tight as synonym for good?
• Do you subconsciously use loose as synonym for bad?
• Do you think poker is primarily about getting good hands and hoping that no one sucks out on them?
• Is your pre-flop game dictated by rigid hand charts, even after you've observed your opponents for a few orbits?
• Do you base your reads after the flop largely on how your opponents play before the flop?
• Are your reads only as specific as loose or tight?
• Does your relative lack of activity at the table prevent you from laying down big hands that are obviously beaten?
• Do you cough up huge implied odds against opponents who hit sets, straights, and flushes and then bemoan your bad luck, thinking that you'd be the world's most profitable poker player if you weren't so unlucky?
• Do you think about absolute hand values instead of equity against hand ranges?
• Do you think only about minimizing losses instead of thinking about maximizing your profits?
• Do you make by-the-book plays without having a deep understanding of why you're making them?
• Does fear of making mistakes in future betting rounds drive your decision-making process because you know that your play gets worse as you progress into subsequent betting rounds?
If you answered "yes" to even one of these questions, then you're most likely a TAGfish. Simply defined, a TAGfish is a tight-aggressive player who's easily exploited. Many species of TAGfish exist. Some TAGfish stack off in no-limit hold 'em with A-A every time an opponent flops a set. Other TAGfish fold way too often. Certain TAGfish bluff, but do so in horrible spots, while TAGfish never bluff. Some TAGfish are horrible at bet sizing. Can you think of some other ways that TAGs without a good understanding of poker are exploitable?
A few years ago it may have been possible to be a winning TAGfish. But today, even with disciplined table selection, the best a TAGfish can do is to tread water. Having a style of play roughly defined as tight-aggressive doesn't automatically make you a profitable player.
To be a profitable player, you need to see the game through your eyes and your opponents' eyes too, and progress beyond generalities to think critically both at and away from the tables. You also need to be brutally honest when assessing your own play. If you're playing tight-aggressive poker, but you're not winning money, then do whatever it takes to evolve past your TAGfish tendencies.
Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker by the Numbers and Killer Poker Shorthanded (with John Vorhaus). Visit him online at www.killerev.com, and check out his weekly show, Killer Poker Analysis, on Rounder's Radio (www.roundersradio.com) Fridays from 5:00PM to 6:00PM Pacific Time.