A Detailed Guide on Limping Preflop and When to Use it or Avoid it

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Limping in Poker

There is a general assumption in the world of poker that ‘limping’ is not good. Especially, if you are a newbie to poker, you are most likely to form a strategy otherwise or read about the same. But, are you sure if limping preflop or otherwise is not good for you at the poker table? Is there any exception where limping can be useful for you?

Let’s find out during the course of this article.

Basics of Limping Preflop

Consider that you are playing preflop on the poker table and you get a very good hand (say QQ) at an early position. What should you do in such a scenario? The popular opinion is to go for raising in this round because it gives you the opportunity to win the pot without even going for the flop. How? By having all players on the table fold up. Alternatively, you can also take the pot down at the flop, or at the turn or at the river by going for cbets or barrels against 1 or opponents. Similarly, you can even possibly win at showdown after hitting the board.

But, there are some who don’t openly go for a ‘raise’ and instead will ‘limp’ at first before deciding to ‘raise’ based on how other players have acted. Now, this ‘limp’ strategy gets criticized quite a lot. Why is that so? One of the reasons is that this kind of limping (also known as open limping) is considered to be quite a passive play that doesn’t give you enough chances to win the pot. But, is it really that way?

For starters, limping preflop does it make it really difficult for you to win the pot on the flop, as there are other opponents in the pot. It does not allow you to represent a highly premium hand (strong hand) on specific board textures. With limping at the preflop stage, you reduce your chances of winning the pot early and the most likely stage where you can win is at showdown after you hit your hand. Also, it does not confuse the opponents behind with regards to their hand decision, unlike raising in early rounds.

Limping in SB (Small Blind)

Majority of the limps in poker happen at the small blind position. Such limps are referred to as ‘completes’ because you would have already put 0.5 blind bet in the SB and just have to complete the full amount by adding the remaining 0.5 blind bet, after its folded around to you.

You will find many players who still consider SB complete as similar to limping preflop, and regard it as a very bad option. Instead they suggest to raise or fold in the SB. But, if you ask the highly experienced poker players who win consistently, they would agree that ‘SB completing’ can be a good strategy.

Now, why is ‘SB complete’ considered to be a good strategy? Because of the following reasons:

  •  To play more hands vs weaker players

Imagine a scenario where all are folded till you preflop in SB (small blind). Now if you check out your not-so-great- hand to be 97o, your immediate option as per the ‘raise or fold’ method is to fold up. Only exception could be if you know that the Big Blind (BB) is a very weak opponent and he has been failing post flop in last several sessions with a high risk betting approach. In such a scenario, you may find a ‘raise’ to be better than ‘fold’. But, this doesn’t work if the BB is not going to fold.

But, for such a situation, the option of ‘SB completing’ is much better. This is because you manage to initiate the pot against weaker opponents and that too with a low initial investment to complete in the SB.

  • To be stronger against good BB opponents

IT is clear that ‘SB complete’ allows you the possibility of seeing the flop in a 2 BB pot by investing just 0.5 BB to complete in the preflop SB. It is estimated that you can play round about 36% of hands from the Small Blind against a good Big Blind player with the ‘raise / fold’ approach. However, you can possibly play about 70% of hands from the SB using the ‘SB completing’ strategy. If you are up against a BB player who does a ‘raise’, you can try out limp-call or limp-raise or limp-fold.

Limping from Other Positions

Open-limping is considered quite bad, especially from positions other than the Small Blind (SB). It is literally considered like a rule. But, in reality, there is no such rule. The trend that has been seen is that limpers generally make a lot of mistakes after the flop stage bringing them to positions from where they cannot win the pot, and in the process a lot of the chips stack gets reduced for them. This happens because many poker players try limping without a sound technical understanding of the same.

Just because you cannot steal the blinds (or steal the pot) with open-limping, doesn’t make it so bad. You have to find better ways of using it for certain hands so that you start slow and survive till the flop, and then go aggressive at the post flop stages. This could prove to be a winning strategy for certain decent hands where you hit a good set at the flop and then follow it up with a solid post-flop aggressive play.

So, open-limping may not always be so bad as it is made out to be. But, with better options like overlimping available, many poker players do not feel it is worth the risk or effort to master the art of using open-limping selectively. Let us now have a glimpse at what overlimping actual means and how is it better than open-limping.

Overlimping - How and When to Limp Behind Preflop?

The case we have discussed about so far has been about general limping or open limping. This type of limping is when there is no limping action in the earlier rounds. However, if there is some limping action taken by one or more players before you, than your limping action is known as ‘over limping’ and not ‘open limping’.

Overlimping or ‘limping behind’ is the act where you choose to limp after one or more players have limped preflop. Players who do the open-limping are considered to be weak players and you might find it profitable to play more hands against them. A standard approach will be to raise the limpers in order to isolate the pot heads-up, also known as isolation raising. At the same time, there is a certain limit to how much iso-raising can be done (especially how wide you can go). You will come across hands where iso-raising is not possible as you do not want to pass on the chance to play in a profitable spot.

With overlimping, you can choose to limp again after others have limped, thereby playing profitably even without any excess investment (over investment). While you can raise or fold after one or more people have limped before you, there are certain hands in which overlimping can prove more beneficial.

So, going aggressive in the earlier stages is a good approach with your ‘raise or fold’ model. But, you will have certain situations where it makes sense to protect your equity by not contributing big to the pot, and allowing the initial limpers along with other players before you to make some mistakes.

Let us have a look at specific hands with which overlimping can be beneficial. One thing to take note of is that you require big chips stack to play overlimping effectively in poker tournaments.

You won’t be able to do much with small chips stack.

  • With Small Pocket Pairs

Hands like 22 to 66 or so are known as small pocket pairs. These are not those premium pairs that give you the confidence of getting a win. When you get such pairs in preflop, and if there are one or more players who have limped from early position before you, then, you continue to ‘limp’ (overlimping) as an ideal strategy. Why limp? What happens when you raise here? If you raise, you are increasing the pot size with a hand that is not the strongest under any stretch of imagination.

In games like these where you already have a few limpers, there is a high chance they may not fold even after you raise, and you will see the flop multi-way. And by raising limpers with a small pocket pair, you risk the possibility of a 3-bet from a player in later positions. The 3bet is likely to force you to fold up to avoid putting big stakes into the hand.

Here, you are not going to consider making a ‘fold’ as it would mean losing an edge that you might have over the limpers. It is worth to take the risk in such games with overlimping as you are likely to get paid off on numerous occasions while flopping a set.

At the same time, you have to be cautious in not becoming over ambitious with pots where you are not able to get your set on the flop. The reason is you cannot be sure how it turns out at further streets especially with you having a small pocket pair.

  • With Suited Connectors

Over-limping at all times with suited connectors is not advisable. You need to have a mixed strategy here of using limp raise or limp fold or over-limp. This is because over-limping with suited connectors makes it very difficult to continue play post flop. These suited connectors are lesser hands as compared to even small pocket pairs, and you will not even realise spending a major portion of your stack just in the hope of getting good value hands at the three streets, and still failing at the final hurdle.

  • From the Small Blind Position

When you are in the SB position and there are limpers before you, it can sometimes be a good strategy to go limping further in the preflop. But, you have to remember that it will be a challenge to play post the flop from this position. So, the best method is to play ‘overlimping’ from the SB when you have a decent playable hand so that you get to see the flop. Once you reach the flop, you can think of continuing only if you manage to hit two pair or higher, or even a playable draw. Avoid playing further with any other average strength hands.

One more thing you have to take care of while overlimping from the SB position is checking the kind of player in BB. If the BB player is an aggressive one, you will do well to avoid limping.

The Verdict

Limping in poker has not been looked upon as a good strategic move for a long time by many poker players. However, when we deep dive, we realize there are certain scenarios and certain hands as well as positions for which this strategy can work out well (especially in comparison to the other options of ‘raise’ or ‘fold’). Limping when one or more opponents before you have already limped in preflop (over limping) has more benefits as compared to limping when no one has limped before you in preflop (open limping).

If you have large stacks of chips at the poker table, you can try out few of the limping strategies discussed in this article. Remember that the best players will adopt to limping and use the various strategic applications it opens up at the preflop stage. If you want to be one of the expert poker players in future, you would do well to learn the nuances associated to limping and implement its preflop strategy when necessary as well as avoid it when it is not necessary! But, make sure you master it as you do not want to miss out on a concept that not many poker players understand well and which could potentially give you the edge on different occasions, right at the earlier stages.

Start out now by downloading the Spartan Poker online application and playing a few real money poker games to explore these concepts.


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