Limping – Unprofitable & profitable scenarios

Limping

Unprofitable limping

Limping in Texas holdem is often a bad idea – it can often be an unprofitable play, and even if it is profitable there is usually a much better play you can use. Of course there are some exceptions where limping is a good idea, but the majority of limping plays in low stakes live poker are usually losing plays. In online poker, above the micro stakes you won’t see much of the limping you see in low stakes live poker – which should be a massive hint that limping isn’t good.

There are many reasons why limping is poor. Here are just 5:

  1. Limping can cap your range
    If you would have raised your strong hands in a certain position where you just limped, your thinking opponents can remove these from your range. Instead you are capped at just weak or medium strength speculative hands preflop. This means they can attack you at will on certain runnouts, when there is a reasonable amount of money behind, and you will often have no choice but to fold.
  2. Limping can fork your range
    If you have a strategy of limping speculative hands, and raising strong hands (such as premium pairs, and high broadway hands), your range is forked. For example, when you raise your thinking opponents know you must have a premium hand.
  3. Limping doesn’t give you the initiative
    Having the initiative, usually increases your chances of winning any given pot (this applies even more, the more money behind), all other things being equal. Being able to represent a stronger range as a preflop raiser, means your opponents are more likely to fold.
  4. Limping puts no pressure on the big blind
    If no one raises, the big blind gets to come along for free with all sorts of trash or weak hands that almost always will have equity. These trash or weak hands, may well fold to an open or isolation raise, allowing you to clean up equity.
  5. Limping, even if profitable, isn’t necessarily the highest EV play
    There are times, especially among weaker opposition, where limping in various spots will be profitable even when it wouldn’t be so against stronger opponents. However, just because something is profitable isn’t a good enough reason to continue doing so. You have to consider all the other lines you could have taken – you should find in many scenarios even if limping is profitable, a more conventional raise first in or isolating limpers strategy is much better.

Profitable Limping

Exceptions – When limping might be the best play:

  1. From late position or the small blind: If SEVERAL players have already limped, and you are in one of the late positions or the small blind, and you don’t believe raising or folding is the best play with your hand.
  2. From the small blind: If it is folded to you in the small blind, it is a perfectly acceptable strategy to start off by limping every hand, and then reacting to the big blind’s action by folding/calling/3-betting. If you do all this in a balanced way, then this strategy in no way caps you range nor forks your range. 
  3. From the big blind: If you are in the big blind, facing 1 or more limpers, and you decide checking your option is the best play. Technically you haven’t limped, but have decided to allow the pot to be a limped pot.

How to deal with limpers?

For each limper already in the pot, you need to consider whether you believe they are likely to fold, call, or raise if you isolate the pot by raising. You also have to think about the elasticity or inelasticity of their folding / calling / raising to your isolation raise size, i.e. will the size of your isolation raise impact how often they perform these actions.

If you are playing live poker, the main way you get this information is through observation of previous actions, as well as general profiling and player pool information – this detailed post about ranging opponents here at UnfairPoker.com can help you with this. If you are playing online, you might be able to deduce this information from your tracking software/hud numbers.

One thing to watch out for is if a player has suddenly limped who doesn’t generally limp, and especially if they have done so in early position, it is possible they intend to limp-3bet any isolation (especially if they have good reason to believe an isolation is coming). Of course once you have seen a few showdowns, you can remember which players use this strategy.