It is usually better to open (raise) with a good hand than it is to limp it, and to fold a hand that is not good enough to open. By raising, you will eliminate a number of players by making them fold, and they will no longer be a risk to hit the flop somehow and end up with a better hand that beats yours. Raising also makes the pot bigger, so that if you do win the hand, you’ll be getting better value for your winning hand.
That’s very simple and easy to understand.
That said, you can limp in certain situations, with certain hands. But until you know what you’re doing (and most importantly, WHY) it’s best not to limp.
An example of a time when it may be good to limp is if you are in early position with a playable hand, say KT or KJ, or QJs or JTs, but not such a strong hand that you want to raise with it from early position. Why?
- Early raisers will tend to either fold the table, losing value from all the limps that you could have gotten if you hadn’t raised.
- Players in late position who have a stronger hand may re-raise you, putting you in an uncomfortable position to see the flop for more chips than it’s worth. Well, if you had limped, they might well have raised you still, but the amount of the raise might have been small enough to be worth seeing the flop for that price. And if not, then you get away from the hand for a relatively low cost.
Another situation when it can be good to limp is with small pocket pairs, early in a tournament. Why?
- At low blind levels, it’s cheap to see a flop, and they might make a set, but it’s 7.5:1 odds that you won’t. It pays off very well when you hit a set, and is cheap to get away from when you don’t and are facing over-pairs after the flop.
- Late in a game, with the blinds high and a short-handed table, small pairs are much more powerful, and should be raised or folded, not limped.
Another situation when it can be good to limp is with weak suited Aces or Kings. You may want to see a flop to find out if you hit a flush or a flush draw, but it’s not worth playing these for value too early (ie, preflop).
Finally, you may want to limp a strong hand at a short-handed table where the players are all playing very tight. The main point of raising, which is to induce folds to isolate a lone opponent who you can beat, is less important when there’s only a few players at the table. When a raise will get the whole table to fold, you only get the blinds, which can be substantial by themselves late in the game, but if you really want value, you want to suck someone in unsuspecting, let them bet up the pot thinking they have a hand, and then crush them with your hidden strength.
Now you know all the secrets and can go on and beat up on all the fish in Las Vegas