In the modern game, defending against the LAG and hyper-LAG styles is arguably the most difficult thing to do. These opponents mix up their game so much that they’ll almost invariably put you to a tough decision. It’s especially difficult to play against them out of position (OOP).
Close to the bubble is the toughest time to face hyper-LAGs, because you’re forced to fight back with a lighter range at times, or to give up control of the table at this crucial juncture.
Oversized 3-bets all-in, even though they’re obviously high-variance, can be a good counter against hyper-LAGs at bubble time, with hands such as medium pairs (where you wouldn’t normally like to make the same move against other opponents). For instance, let’s say you have 66 with 60 BB in the big blind. A hyper-LAG has 25-30 BB and raises from the cutoff. This may be a good spot to for you to shove, because it’ll be hard for him to call with less than 88+. He may not be ready to play for his tournament life if he’s holding KJs, KQs, or QJs. However, if you make only a standard 3-bet, he’ll very likely re-shove with such holdings. Therefore, especially around bubble time, a lot of your decisions should account for stack sizes and position, and you need to have fold equity on your side so you can pressure the hyper-LAGs with the threat of elimination.
At the final table, the situation is pretty similar to the bubble. Stack sizes matter a lot. To the best of your ability, confront hyper-LAGs when you’re in position, because it’ll be much less of a headache. However, as fewer and fewer players remain, you’ll definitely have to be ready to play a higher-variance game, dictated mostly by the behavior of your hyper-LAG
Heads-up, especially when your opponent’s 3-betting frequency is high and stacks are fairly shallow, limping on the button more frequently may be a good strategy. Whereas your opponent may move all-in when you open with a min-raise, he won’t be able to do so if you just limp, which should enable you to see more flops, especially with hands that have good flopping value. Of course, you’ll have to mix up your limping range as well, from weak holdings to premium hands. When you limp with a monster and get raised, we think it’s best just to call and trap your opponent, as he’ll often take one or more stabs at bluffing. Hopefully, by the time you get to play heads-up against your opponent, you’ll have assessed his poker style well enough to set a trap at the right time!
What to Do
To play against hyper-LAGs, you have to increase your game variance. These are definitely the type of opponents against whom you can make some hero calls, since you know they seldom give up when they engage in a big bluff. They’ll 3-barrel bluff quite often.
Hyper-LAGs tend to think that people will make a lot of moves on them. Therefore, it may be easier to set a squeeze trap for them with a premium hand.
Avoid squeeze attempts with marginal hands against hyper-LAGs. Their 4-betting frequency is way too high for squeezes to be profitable in the long run. Therefore, unless you’re ready to play for all your chips, it’s better not to re-raise pre-flop too often against hyper-LAGs. Calling 4-bets from hyper-LAGs, especially out of position, is optimal only with monsters.
There’s no middle ground. Either play really tight or really aggressively to fight back. If you decide to play back at them, you should do so once antes commence, rather than early on when pots are smaller. Before antes, we think the best strategy against hyper-LAGs is to wait for a big hand and try to set a trap. For instance, you may just flat-call a raise from the BB with KK and check-call all the way, unless the board is really too scary, because your opponent will usually fire three times. However, as always, you need to use good judgment and be able to adjust. Indeed, the good hyper-LAG players have an extraordinary ability to sense troublesome situations and dodge bullets. If you make a stand against a hyper-LAG, it’s better if you play tighter than your image may suggest, because it’ll be easier for you to trap your opponent.
Try to get involved when you’re in position. More than against any other opponent’s profile, you should try to control pot sizes against hyper-LAG players, which is always easier to do when you’re in position. Additionally, you should try to play a little tighter than the hyper-LAG opponent’s pre-flop range. However, there’s no getting around the fact that you need to prepare yourself to play big pots.
Hyper-LAGs call light as well, so avoid shoving speculative hands such as 76s.
It might sometimes be possible to 4-bet light if you decide to use counter-aggression and project a tight image, but first make sure your opponent is not crazy enough to 5-bet all-in with air!
If you decide to 3-bet with AK against a hyper-LAG early on, you should be ready to play for all your chips pre-flop, because you’re usually ahead of your opponent’s range. This is nevertheless a very high-variance spot.
If you have a big stack or your table is about to break soon, tighten up and avoid clashes.
Beware of weak leads and fake blocking bets from hyper-LAGs; your opponent could actually have a big hand. If you raise, it gives him an opportunity to come over the top to represent a strong hand. Against predictable players, you can sometimes raise for information (with the intention of folding to a re-raise) and take down pots this way. This isn’t a move likely to work against hyper-LAGs, though, not to mention that by doing so, you’re the one potentially increasing variance in a significant manner. Again, you should focus on pot control and raise when you have a hand with which you’re ready to commit.
Suppose there’s only one hyper-LAG at the table and you have a comfortable stack. When stacks are deep and you’re getting a decent share of table control, you’ll sometimes be better off avoiding the overaggressive opponent - even if you have to fold hands that are way ahead of his range. This is especially true if you have to play OOP. Your range should be tighter OOP, unless another bad player is already in the pot, because this will serve as some kind of protection for you. Smarter hyper-LAGs will seldom bluff the biggest calling stations. So if, for example, you’re in the big blind and a hyper-LAG opens from mid-position and gets called by a calling station in the small blind, it’s a decent spot to get in with a bit of a wider range than you’d usually call with heads-up. The hyper-LAG will bluff less, plus the value you can get from the calling station makes this play feasible. But be wary of all parameters and how good, or smart, the hyper-LAG is. Maniacs don’t care about calling stations and are just going to rapid-fire anyway.
Check/raising your big hands, especially on the river, is a good strategy to extract maximum value against hyper-LAGs, who will 3-barrel a lot.
Thin value bets could also be effective against hyper-LAGs, because they tend to call down very frequently, thinking their opponent may be making moves on them.
There is, unfortunately, no single counter-strategy to universally employ against hyper-LAGs, which is why their style is so effective. You simply have to be ready to play high variance and bigger pots, closely observe your opponent’s tendencies, and
exercise good judgment to pick the right spots.