Preflop Limping is Bad

Except in rare circumstances, you should not be limping (simply calling the big blind) preflop. There are a few reasons for this. I’ll attempt to highlight some of the major ones below.

  1. You want to give other players a chance to fold. One of the two ways to grow a bankroll over the long run is to force your competitors to fold off their equity (chance of winning the pot). When you limp, unless someone behind you raises, the big blind won’t need to put in more chips in order to see a flop. This could give them a chance to make a strong hand with no risk. Also, in ring games, you don’t pay rake unless you see a flop; taking the hand preflop will give you the full pot.

  2. Limping raises the chance of having to play against more than one competitor postflop. Multi-way pots are tricky to navigate. On average, hands will be stronger, leaving you uncertain whether your moderately-strong hand is the best at the table. That could also make it harder to get value when you make the nuts. It will be also more difficult to get bluffs through, since you’ll need to convince more players to fold.

  3. It dilutes your “open” range. Some hands that would be more profitable as a bet will need to be limped instead in order to disguise the strength of your limping range. This means that some of your strongest hands will get less value than they should.

  4. You see too many flops with weak hands. Sure, you could make the nuts, but you’ll end up getting dominated and having to throw away the blinds you’ve committed far, far more often. As a result, you end up losing chips overall.

  5. How do you react when someone later to act preflop raises? If it’s a small raise, you’ll probably end up having similar odds on a call (again) as you did when you originally limped. Regardless of the raise size, you’re probably well behind the raiser’s range, and that puts you in a bad spot - either you fold off your equity, or put in more chips when you’re probably behind.

5 Likes

You are absolutely correct if you are playing against people that have the slightest understanding of this concept. However, it is not 100% effective against people who do not.

  1. You can give these players all the chance in the world to fold, but they will not fold. They will call all-in bets pre-flop with garbage and not care. Which leads me to…
  2. I’ve raised 25BB only to still have 5 callers to a flop. Your chances to win are far lower than against 1 or 2 opponents, but now you have put a larger amount of chips on the line when your AK hits nothing but air. Forget trying to bluff your AK too, because against calling stations, bluffing is suicide. You really should be playing for value against these types; which is where…
  3. your limp range should come in. Honestly, these players can barely understand what two pair is, much less what your open vs. limp range is. It is absolutely great thinking when you’re on a high level of play, but vastly over-thinking the situation when you’re at very basic levels of play.
  4. Which is why you don’t play too many and try to save those limps for when you’re in later position. I don’t advocate limping in with 98o UTG, but 98o on the BTN is playable as an overlimp. Yes, it’s loose, but relative to your opponent’s ranges, it’s pretty tight.
  5. Again, this relates to 1 & 2, virtually everyone will call because it is most likely a min raise. You’re still priced in. If the board shows big, yeah, it’ll probably match up with the raiser’s range and you can check-fold or check-call if the draw price is correct. It’s just as easy to dump a 2BB limp as it is a 1BB limp.

Optimal strategies at high level are not necessarily optimal at a low level. You can play high level poker at a low level table and come out ahead, sure. @love2eattacos experimented with this 2 years ago. However, my point is that you leave a lot of value behind if you do not adjust to your opponents’ style of play. Lots of things do not make any sense at all when up is down and down is up.

I’m certainly not the only person that employs this strategy. It appears to have come naturally to @MekonKing as described in this thread.

4 Likes

Against this type of player pool, you should play fewer hands and raise bigger. If you can raise to 25BB and still get callers, it’s going to be highly profitable to only do so with your best hands. Deciding to limp with hands that aren’t as strong creates a hole that you would be throwing money into.

At which point, it becomes an all-in pre-flop bingo-fest. Been there, done that. In that thread from 2 years ago, I ran shove/fold on 6 tables simultaneously with about a 35% range. Still came out ahead despite a very loose all-in range.

But again, the point I keep coming back to is that it doesn’t matter about the strength of your range when you are playing against people who play any two cards. You can play tighter and more aggressively against these players, but:

  • you will run into more “suckouts” because if 5 players call you with junk, there is a high chance one of them will river you (no shortage of threads on that)
  • you will leave tons of value on the table when those marginal hands do connect and you can stack 3 or 4 people at once (my own experience)

I get it, you counter loose-passive with tight-aggressive and chips rain down from the heavens. That is the standard intuition. I also understand that what I propose is counter-intuitive to this line of thought. I wonder if there’s a way we can look at this empirically?

3 Likes

If Foz is right, isn’t there also a case to be made for countering loose-agressive with tight-passive ?? If we then leave out loose-tight… all you have left is agressive/passive.
The counter to Agressive is Passive and visa-versa. I simply cannot agree that there is never the case to be made for limp’n. That would be like saying there’s never a reason to “trapp”. Then you have those players who mainly only play postflop poker. Some of them are pretty crafty, and I suspect bank profit most of the time.

Do you really wanna be betting into a player who has demonstrated a willingness to limp AA, check and flat when the board hits Axx ?? Basically players who have strength, yet passively wait for others to just donate thier chips, waiting to take it down on the river.

There are a few sports I can think of, where form is alot less important than results.
The point is that poker is also 1 of them. Perhaps in GamePlayStyle A, yes … preflop limp’n is bad 90% of the time. Yet its possible in GamePlayStyle D, no … preflop limp’n if not bad 90% of the time.

1 big reason I say this Wannabe, is that often it seems that 1 or more groups of players expect, almost demand, others play the same style they are. Poker almost demands the Bruce-Lee approach. Don’t limit yourself to 1 playstyle, utilize all playstyles depending on whats required to beat your opponent.

Yes yes yes, I know…most books and top pros say, if you’re comming into the hand raise or fold. Once 1 person has ““opened”” a hand, if you stick with this theory and 3 ppl like thier hand, 100% of the time you have 3 ppl all in, cause none of the 3 fold.
This leaves out being price’d in to call and a few other plays I can think of.

This basically is the “agressive approach”.
All the “math” based approaches and other advanced techniques, just “tell you” when to be agressive, usually also how much to be agressive.

I’m just 1 of those ppl that think … there’s a time and place for everything, and there’s a counter for ALL playstyles, the secret is recognition of what ur up against.
Sassy

5 Likes

Vs a really bad/passive player pool, you can get away with all sorts of nonsense. Yes, you can play fewer hands from tighter range and print EV but that isn’t the only way to profit. For example, say you have 55 UTG in a full-ring game. Vs a table of aggressive competent players, this is not a profitable open. Vs a table of loose passive players, opening to a standard size doesn’t do enough to thin the field so that you can play your range. Opening too large makes it unprofitable because you no may longer get the proper implied odds. 55 is a profitable hand to see flops with at reasonable effective stack depths though. So, what can you do?

Vs a pool that will not punish your limps, go ahead and limp it. Even if there is a player or two who will raise over limpers, you can still see a flop because you will still have the appropriate implied odds. That may not be the case if you open and get 3-bet large.

I agree that limping in a tougher game is bad and will likely be a losing play. Vs players who will not punish your deviations from optimal, seeing as many flops as possible with as many profitable hands as possible is the maximally exploitative line. Don’t pick hands that are easily dominated (like A9o or T9o) but you can do it with small pocket pairs (from anywhere) and suited connectors (with decent position) that would otherwise be folds. Don’t pass up profitable spots just because you sacrifice technically “pretty” play to do so. On the other side of the equation, don’t limp or limp behind with any 2 pieces of garbage just because you’re “getting a good price”. Be smart about it and exploit your opponents’ weaknesses, no matter how ugly you have to play.

7 Likes

limping and over limping can and will be extremely profitable in a player pool such as Replay’s, especially in passive games where no one is 3! and the rake is low. Limp IP as much as you can, limp hands that make very strong hands i.e. 22-88 or suited A’s even some lower SC’s like 65s 76s. Be careful with the higher up ones that when making the bottom end run up into broadways… 87 and 98 specifically bad as they’ll run into KQ and AK a lot. Whenever you’re playing in a relatively low rake environment with passive tables it can be quite good to have a limping strategy for the middling parts of your range.

EDIT: like @1Warlock said you don’t want to be limping hands that will often be dominated by opponents limps and if you do you need to proceed with caution on a lot of board textures post flop.

2 Likes

the strength of your range always matters Foz. Winning poker is nothing more than how your range interacts with V’s range on different board textures with different bet sizes.

3 Likes

yes, this case can be made

correct, there can sometimes be good reason to have a limping strategy. There are also conditions where you should not have a limping strategy. In these two separate circumstances every thing can be exactly the same but the rake alone could turn what was profitable to unprofitable.

This is really to vague/broad to answer matter of fact. It simply comes down to range interaction. The fact that this player can limp AA and flat A high flops when he/she has AA just isn’t enough info to keep you from wanting to c-bet flops. If he only ever limped AA then yeah you’d want to 100% range x but no one really does that.

FACTS

I should read through all of the comments so as to reduce the amount of redundancy in the thread. I’m 100% in on everything you shared in this post. Apparently I have too many reply’s so the only way for me to comment on yours was to wait for someone to reply to me or add it to another post. Cheers

1 Like

True. I was speaking to the effect of playing vs. people who play any two cards; wherein as long as you have a range other than any two cards, you have an advantage. In other words, your range strength isn’t required to be airtight like it would be at higher levels of play.

2 Likes

Dayman,
Obviously Rings and SnG/MTTs are different, but how exactly are players supposed to “read” other players, when they give you no information other than they paid to stay in the hand ? Especially when said players have shown a willingness to play strong hands passively ?

I’ve read in many threads where top players have said, it boils down to “guessing” what they are playing. Usually this is accomplished in an agressive playstyle, but cannot it also be accomplished within a limp/flat playstyle… certainly preflop ???

Cannot a limp also be a way to “pay” for a posistion chg. Preflop, BB, has posistion… but if UTG limps, then they have effectively bought posistion. Each sucessive limp moves the (last to act) posistion around untill someone comes in with the raise.

If the easiest players to play against are the ones that bet when they’re supposed to, and fold when they’re supposed to… doesn’t that make the hardest, those that do neither ?
Sassy

2 Likes

I agree completely with this. I play to win and to win you have to be unpredictable. Sure, I know how I’m supposed to play, but that doesn’t win me as many chips as exploiting players who play the way we all are “supposed” to. In general, a good player, playing the way we are “supposed” to, is not nearly as scary as a bad player that will call or bet with anything. At least with a good “by the book” player, I can usually tell when to fold. When dealing with someone who bets 72o the same as AA, hard to say if you should be in the hand. I know this goes against all advice, but rather than raise every hand you play, I often limp/minimum bet. This allows me the cheapest price to see the flop and successive streets. I guess it depends on what you want. It is rare that anyone will even call a minimum bet from me, because I often show my hands (if I’m at a point where I have this option, my hand was good…even if it didn’t win). My challenge is getting others to bet so I can call or raise when I have the nuts, but scaring the table this way can allow for some bluffs too (I even bluff with minimum bets). IMO poker is all about winning the most chips, so whatever gets you to that goal is the way to go.

6 Likes

tks for the advice, coder. I opened up a bit, LP, and MP. So far it’s been profitable. I’m keeping EP ranges tight, tho, for reasons that relate to this thread. I like to open, when first to bet, for the reasons you spoke of, and to keep the blinds from bringing in junk, and hitting a flop. If i play more combos from EP, I’m raising hands I’m not that comfortable playing from that position.
One good reason I have for raising preflop, is how often people pay to see a flop, and the only chips i end up winning when they miss, are the ones people paid to call my raise preflop.(and blinds and antes, of course)

Yes, raising from EP without a very strong hand is risky, because if someone in a later position picks up a monster, they are probably going to reraise the pot or shove, leaving you in a bad spot and out of position. Occasionally, if the table is tight, or on the bubble, if I have a decent stack, I might put in a raise of 4 or 5BB preflop with the hope of stealing the blinds before going through the blinds, or, if called by the BB, of winning the pot with a bluff when he misses the flop. Even then I prefer to have something with SOME potential to make a hand, like maybe 9 7s.

A good bluffing technique against the BB is often to raises preflop without an ace, then if the BB flat calls and an Ace comes on the flop and he checks back to you, bluff to win the pot. The reasoning here is that if the BB flat calls, if he DOES have an Ace he is most likely going to lead out with a bet, because even if he has Ace + tiddler, he is going to want to know if you perhaps have a better ace. Of course he might be slow playing two pairs with his ace, but that is a chance you have to take.

The odds of any unpaired hand flopping 2 pairs is about 2%, so if you get slammed with this play, you are pretty unlucky. The beauty of it is that if he makes second pair on the flop, he will tend to believe you have an ace since you put in a raise preflop, whereas if you limp, you do not have as much credibility as if you raised, although players will limp with suited aces, which are hard to defend against if they make two pairs on later streets.

Best way to deal with this is to wait in the tall grass until you get the nut, and everyone’s paying too much attention to their own hands to notice, then, as you said, stack a few people. Rinse and repeat, problem solved.
Personally, I’ve been going farther into tournaments when i avoid the silliness, and take the money and run, whenever possible. This means growing your sack slower, but sure cuts down on the suckouts, and keeps you in it, while the field thins.

1 Like

100% agree, I just want players who are learning or not as informed to understand it’s always range vs range… if someone is playing any two cards then they have a 100% range and the range you play reflect that.

1 Like

obviously

if they “paid to stay in the hand” then they gave you information about how they feel about their hand. Absent other reads then we fall back on fundamentally sound poker.

This is contradictory to the statement you made in the previous sentence. This is a player read and we would definitely consider this information when in a hand with them. That however doesn’t mean we don’t play range vs range strategy, it simply means when constructing villains range AA should be included when they limp call, along with every other hand the limp call with. Those who limp call pre have a much wider range than AA.

I would check the date on these threads and then consider who it is posting them. Pros aren’t doing a lot of guessing in todays poker.

Pros today are playing a much more defensive strategy these days Sarah. It’s not that they aren’t aggressive, they’re very aggressive, it just means that they are balancing every part of their range to the best of their individual ability. So even when they bet flop they have bluffs, they have value that can call a raise, they have value that will bet fold. When they x flop they have give ups that fold to a bet, they have x/c that are for value and have strong draws to play the next street with, they have x/r that are strong bluffs on this street and strong value.

Limping pre flop can only be done effectively in the absolute worse games because limp strategies are hard to balance against good thinking players. Also, even in the worst game if it’s a high rake environment the rake can NOT be beat with a limp strategy pre flop. You may beat the players at your table, but when you beat them you pay all the rake and you lose huge to the casino.

Very sorry but I don’t understand what the question is here.

This thinking I don’t understand and seems counterintuitive. It sounds similar to moving up in stakes where they’ll respect your raises or I’d rather play against good players because bad players are reckless and can have anything or good players will fold or I can at least put a good player on a range. This is false thinking.

I’m sorry @bahia7 but I don’t agree with anything you said in this post and it all makes absolutely no sense to me. Change my mind. :slight_smile:

Nice post Dayman, where do I start… So,

I did say “other than they paid to see hand” , also a limp is different than flatcalling a raise. I’m talking about uber-passive players or trappers who just call.

No Dayman, they are raising in a manner that ONLY leaves you guessing. Specifically I was told by more than a few ppl in posts, that top ppl around here do that.

Its simple, if you are L2A ( last to act ) you have posistion on everyone. Being UTG, by limp’n, you are paying to be L2A untill more ppl limp behind. Once the raise comes out, the person left in to the right of the raise has posistion on the raiser. So can’t that be a logical/rational reason to limp even if you personally think its a dumb play ?

Even Warlock1 has talked about playing against players with different rationals.
More than just poker, there are sports where “pro moves” ONLY work on other pros, not amatures or rookies. Not quite sure how this is false thinking…
Sassy

Anyone who reads this and who has any intension of ever playing live or on-line for money should not get in the habit of limping pre flop because bad habits are hard to unlearn and limping pre flop is a bad habit.

Okay, my bad I may have misinterpreted what you were talking about. What I believe you’re talking about is indifference which is different than guessing. So if you’re playing GTO then your goal is to bet in such a manner as to leave villains in positions where it does not matter what they do, all their choices are going to be the same EV or 0. When we deviate from GTO it is calculated for the purpose of exploiting a spot where our villain has already deviated from GTO. Last thing in this thread I'll say about limping is yes you can play a style where you're profitable playing a limping strategy in ZERO raked games. You will NOT be able to maximize your EV, but yeah you can be nominally profitable and win very small amounts. Limping is fine on Replay because we're all uber rich and the rake we pay because of it is very small, in real world for poker limping strategies do not make any money, they lose money. There are however very specific spots where limping preflop can be the highest EV play for you to make but these spots are far and few between.

Sorry but no, this isn’t logical or rational because you don’t know what the players in front of you are going to do and even if you do then you’re doing this with a very small tight range or way too wide and it’s going to be very easy to exploit by a good lag. Also you’re only benefiting pre flop if everything goes perfect for you. What if you limp EP and 3 limp after you and then your aggressive BTN raises to 5 bb’s it folds back to you? You don’t have relative position pre flop because there’s still 3 people to act.

Yes and I agree with 99% of what @1Warlock says in these forums. I have seen where he says limping can sometimes be the most +EV play pre flop and I have also stated this. I haven’t seen however, anywhere where he suggest using limping as part of an holistic approach to pre flop play. It’s simply not profitable in raked environments and even if it is profitable in certain spots it very rarely retains a higher EV than opening with a raise. I would over limp from the BTN because we have absolute position throughout post flop play and from the BB because we get a good price to play and it’s often going to be the highest EV choice when in the BB. In either case though I’m not limping 100% of my range, I will limp a very specific part of my range from the BTN, hands that can flop or make very strong hands like small pairs that don’t benefit from playing huge pots pre flop over a bunch of limpers and suited A’s and from the BB hands that can play post flop OOP profitably on certain boards but I still have an open/3! range and folds. From no other position will I limp. From no position do I have a 100% limp strategy.

What other sports are you referring to where pros play vs amateurs and don’t use “pro moves” because they don’t work on the lesser players. Examples please.

Like I’ve said @Sassy_Sarah, limping on Replay is fine and you can profit nicely. It’s not very often going to yield you the highest EV though. I don’t limp on Replay because I go to the casino to play for $ so I try to play on Replay the way I want to play there. I’m not trying to pick up bad habits here. When I look back at hands I play here I look at them in the same way that I would the ones I play live.

I think there is an argument to be made for limping unpaired hands like AK, AQ, and AJ in the early rounds of tournaments when the blinds are low.

These are powerful hands when they are up against a single opponent who has an unpaired hand, because they dominate other hands and in the event of neither hand making a pair, they will usually win on the river unless opponent hits a straight or flush.

However, even if you bet 5 or 10 BB in the early rounds of a tournament the chances are that no one who has limped before you will fold, and probably the blinds will call if they have any kind of hand at all. So when the flop comes dry, you may still be ahead of all hands, but any pocket pair is beating you and there may be flush and straight draws, so if other players want to play for a large pot, you might as well fold.

On the other hand, if you do make top pair on the flop with a dry board or flush draw, no one is going to put you on AK or AQ and your bets will often be called by inferior aces or by flush draws who will not have the right odds to call. If there looks to be no full house, flush, or straight at the river, your top pair will beat another ace or a pocket pair that may have stayed in, and you may be able to extract more chips on the river.

Recently I have won a number of very large pots in those kind of situations where the player with the missed flush makes a large bluff on the river into my top pair. The significance of these kind of hands is that they can put you on the top of the leaderboard early in the tournament.

Usually, if I have a very strong hand at the river and believe I am ahead, I will size a value bet of a size that I hope opponent will call with second best hand, but many players on RP (for some reason) will overbet on the river with the nuts and force opponents to fold, thus losing potential chips. So when you have top pair and opponent looks to have missed a flush, you need to evaluate what else he may have. The most common flush chasing hand is Ax, so you might want to consider whether he could have paired his lower card on the flop, and then called the flop bet with four to the flush plus a lower pair. If you have AK and the flop is K high with a flush draw, and opponent appears to be on a flush draw, and then an A falls on the river, he may think he is ahead with two pairs, when in fact your two pairs are better.

Later on in the game on the bubble or on the final table AK is an excellent hand to try to take down an opponent who shoves with 2500 chips when you have 12,000 chips and can survive the hit if you don’t win the hand. And of course if you are one of the smallest stacks, this is an automatic shove preflop.

2 Likes