How to Crush the TAGfish at the Micro Stakes (2020)

How to Crush the TAGfish at the Micro Stakes
This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Frank Reese.

If you’ve been one, then you can beat one.

Unfortunately, you will very rarely be against a table full of nothing but loose-passive fish along with one or two easy-to-read aggrofish.

Nearly always these days, there will be tight-aggressive players (TAGs), sometimes a few, sometimes most of the table.

You can avoid getting involved with the TAGs while competing with them for the fish’s money, or you can figure out a way to turn them into profit sources also.

Some of those TAGs may be another type of fish though – the TAGfish.

These are often beginners who have read a little or watched some Youtube poker strategy vids, such as BlackRain79.

They understand the two most basic concepts for a poker beginner, which is to play fewer hands and stop limping.

My first evolution was about a 50/5 VPIP/PFR fish to a nitty bad reg, and then a TAGfish. Now I just remember the mistakes I used to make and watch for the same mistakes in others.

There are 3 things to do in order to play against micro stakes TAGfish profitably:
  • Identify them
  • Look for each of their specific weaknesses
  • Create opportunities to exploit them


1. How to identify the TAGfish at the micro stakes


You want to look for players with a low VPIP percent. I look for less than 15 at 6Max or less than 10 at full-ring and a PFR percentage that is only slightly lower.

If you are unfamiliar with HUD stats by the way, here is a complete guide to the most profitable HUD stats.

But basically, this tells you that they are playing only strong starting hands and they are raising them almost every time.

With a VPIP that low, likely they are a TAGfish. TAGfish have little or no bluff frequency pre-flop and if they are uncomfortable playing certain hands, then they just call.

That is a leak you can exploit. They only play premium or very strong hands in the blinds, so they fold their blinds almost every time.

They understand that playing out of position is bad, but they do not understand defending the blinds when the button or cutoff raise them every time.

Look at their fold to 3bet percent (or watch them if you do not have a HUD). TAGfish often fold all but premium hands, another exploitable leak.


2. What specific weakness will micro stakes TAG fish show?


One common weakness of a TAGfish is to cbet too infrequently. If his flop cbet percent is less than 50%, he is playing the flop too weakly.

With two big cards, an opponent will pair on the flop about 32% of the time. If the cards are suited, he will flop a flush draw about 8% of the time.

If that is all he cbets with, then his game is fit-or-fold.

poker tagfish don't bluff

He has not learned to bluff c-bet. By the way, you can find the complete guide to the most profitable c-bet percentages right here.

This is very exploitable, especially if you are in position. If he raises pre-flop ahead of you and checks the flop, he is very likely to fold to a flop or turn bet.

A more profitable TAGfish is one who cbets the flop enough or even too much (as I used to), but then plays poorly on the turn and river. They are more difficult to spot, but more profitable because they put more in the pot before they quit.

A high folding frequency on the turn or river is a key exploitable weakness of many TAGfish. With each street, they lose confidence in their skill.

They want to pot control, but they make it too obvious.


3. How can we exploit TAG fish at the micro stakes?


TAGfish like predictable opponents, making predictable responses, just like the ones in those how-to-be-a-TAG example hand videos they watch (like we all did).

So you want to take them out of their comfort zone. 3bet them, raise them a street after you just called, let a street check through if they seem to want you to, then donk into them the next street.

These actions would not be optimal against a better player, but for a TAGfish, it will confuse and/or tilt them into making a calling or folding mistake.

Recently I started on a 5NL table full stacked, and spent three orbits mainly folding, but losing some small pots by taking stabs and getting called.


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Versus TAGfish Example Hand


I am on the Cutoff with $4.35 in an NL5 cash game. I was dealt K♣T♠

MP2, ($7.87), who had not played a single hand the in the three orbits I had seen, open raised to 0.10.

That was strange because this was a “monkey, see-monkey do” table where all previous pre-flop open raises had been 5X, 25 cents.

The fact that he was ahead by more than fifty big blinds meant he had won a hand or two, probably by waiting for premiums and flopping well.

Based on how long he had waited to play, I read this min-raise as an attempt to set mine with a medium pair or as unsuited Broadway gappers that he would not have played had he been getting better cards.

That read was based on my own poor play after first learning TAG strategy. My least favorite hand was medium pairs. I knew I “had to” play them, but I always felt lost if the flop had overcards and I did not flop a set.

He did not limp, I thought, because he has internalized the advice to stop limping. However, a mini-raise on a table with nothing but 5X raises previously, was basically a limp plus an attempt to block a real raise.

I decided not to play along. I re-raised to .30, it folded to him, and he called. Pot was .67 going to the flop.


The flop:

3♠65

TAGfish checked. I bet 0.60.
TAGfish called. Pot was then $1.87.

I put him on a medium pair that flopped an overpair or the Broadways.


The turn:

K

TAGfish checked.

I checked behind thinking this villain would fold to any bet unless he had a king, that would likely be better than mine.


The river:

8♣

TAGfish appeared to tank.

He bet $1.80 exactly instead of just clicking “bet pot” for $1.87. He had not really tanked, he was clicking the “+” button thirty-five times.

Now, I was sure he had a king or pocket eights.

Not ace-king or king-queen suited; he would have raised to 5X preflop with those. It was king-queen offsuit, king-jack or king-ten. He was too tight to have played king-nine or worse preflop.

Pocket eights were definitely in his range according to my read so far, but with only three combos, the king was more likely.

He had checked after turning top pair, to induce a bluff. That did not work, so he wanted to get his street of value or better yet (to him) take down the pot.

I used to do this, bet too strong because I was more comfortable not going to showdown.
How could I beat this TAGfish when I was either tied or behind, with behind being more likely?

By the way, learning how to correctly assess your odds of winning at showdown when facing a large river bet is an extremely important skill to master in poker.

This is something that this discussed in much greater detail in The Upswing Poker Lab.


How to Break a TAGfish By Using Exploitative Poker Principles


First of all, I could make an exploitative fold. By that I mean that I recognize that he is most likely ahead and therefore, avoid paying him off.

That is one key to beating micro stakes TAGfish: Do not pay them off. Exploit the fact that they play too tightly and they bluff too infrequently.

This is exactly why I have mentioned many times that a GTO play style is actually likely to harm your results at the micros (despite what all the so called "experts" out there will tell you).

And this is especially the case against an extremely common opponent that you find at the micro stakes like the TAGfish.

For more on this, see this article: Why GTO Poker Strategy is Really Bad Advice.

Now, against a trickier opponent, with a wider calling range and a river bluff frequency, we would have had a real decision of whether to abandon top pair/middle kicker here.

Fold now and we are ahead by however much we would have lost to that trickier villain.

But...there is another option. TAGfish hate surprises.

I looked at his stack and it was down to $5.17. That was seventeen cents more than he started the session with, so even if I call and he loses, he is still ahead.

If I raise, he has to risk being stuck. Is he thinking like that?

I know I used to when I was a TAGfish. I hated for a winning session to turn into a losing one.
I had $3.45 left in my stack. I shoved it all in.

Villain tanked for real, used extra time, and then folded. That shove may seem to fly in the face of “do not pay them off,” but I mean do not pay them off by calling.

Why did he fold if he had a reasonable king?

Maybe he had KQ, KJ or KT and feared I had AK or that the eight had given me a set or two-pair.
Maybe he applied the Baluga Theorem to the river.

That is the kind of easy to remember lesson baby TAGs internalize quickly.

The point is not that I definitely made him fold a better hand. He may have had a worse one, like K9 and was really hoping I folded to his near pot size bet.

The point is that my raise seemed to have confused him and that makes it more likely that he made a mistake.

With TAGfish, who are often at 5NL and 10NL tables, you have to be a bit more creative. That makes poker more profitable and more fun.

Lastly, if you want to know the complete strategy that BlackRain79 use's to consistently crush the micro stakes, make sure you grab a copy of his free poker cheat sheet.

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How do you play against a TAGfish at the micro stakes? Let me know in the comments below.

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Frank Reese. Frank has been playing poker part-time for two years, primarily 5NL and 10NL full ring cash games. Frank (Seymourflops2020) is a middle school math teacher with a degree in psychology who finally found in poker a way to combine both fields.

How to Crush the TAGfish at the Micro Stakes

5 comments:

  1. Question, if this article was written by contributor Frank Reese, why does it say "my book" that was written by Nathan? It gets really confusing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Gulas,

      I can see how that could be a bit confusing. I have fixed it now, thanks for pointing that out.

      Delete
  2. Hi Nathan, good job!

    What you think about flop/turn donkbets?
    Hero is BB, Villain is MP

    MP raise 3xbb
    BB calls
    The pot is 6,5bb

    The flop comes 7 5 2 rainbow

    Hero donkbets ~4,8bbs

    I think we spend less money buy bluffing this way instead of c/r.

    But also, we could c/r in order to allow villain put more money in the pot.
    What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Davy,

      I think mixing in some donkbets on the flop/turn as the preflop caller sometimes is a good idea against some of the smarter regs.

      Delete
  3. Thanks, Dayv. I'm sure Nathan will have a better answer(I almost called you "April" so take anything I say with a grain of salt), but I'll take a stab at it.

    I like the answer you kind of implied yourself the flop is a good time to donk bet from the blinds on a low-action flop like that as a bluff if you missed the flop.

    On the other hand if you hit a set or an overpair, I would c/r to get more money in the pot or take it down now if you feel vulnerable to an overpair that might make top set.

    With only two players in the hand you can expect a cbet most of the time regardless of villain's cards.

    Frank/Seymour


    ReplyDelete