Limping Tactics

As a rule, limping is a bad idea. By just calling the big blind, you can never have initiative, and post- flop pots become exceedingly tricky with marginal holdings. There is a lot of truth to the adage that any hand worth limping is better off being raised. Even so, there are particular instances where limping is preferable to raising. These include AK in early position and situational implied odds hands in late position, many of which benefit from multi-way pots.

The most common position that you will be limping in is from the small blind. Beyond what is listed in my charts, I suggest that you complete with any suited ace, any pair that is not profitable to shove, and most anything connected that can make a disguised straight. A suited and connected hand is especially profitable in these situations.

One thing you should never do is complete the small blind when it folds to you. In that situation, you will always either be raising or folding. There is way too much value in playing aggressively when blind versus blind. Only when there are one or more limpers already in the pot do you want to consider completing.

Playing Ace King

When you raise Ace King and get called, 70% of the time you will whiff the flop. This problem is heightened if you raise from UTG or the HJ, because you will almost always be out of position for the duration of the hand. And at the micro stakes, you can expect to be playing a multi-way pot quite often, which further constricts your ability to make profitable c-bets.

So, the easy solution is to limp from the first two positions and then shove all-in if someone raises. That way, you are guaranteed to see all five cards if you get all-in. Additionally, in the event that no one raises, you have a well-disguised hand which plays very nicely post-flop and dominates many weak hands that may have limped behind you.

Some of you may be thinking that early position limp-raising only with Ace King is easily exploitable. While a few regulars may notice what you are doing and adjust, for the most part, no one will have a clue and will repeatedly fall prey to this tactic. Once you start playing mid-stakes games, you will need to mix up your play when limping from early position. But at the micros, very few people are capable of both noticing what you are doing and adjusting correctly.

My win-rate for limping Ace King in the first two positions is 252bb/100 over a sample size of 450 instances. Interestingly, my win-rate for open raising is virtually the same, but when you factor in how much more easily the hand plays by limping, doing so is a slam dunk.

Limping In Late Position

The only time you should be limping a hand besides Ace King is when you have reasonable implied odds in late position. Here are some general rules for limping. You need all of them going for you in order to consider a limp:

1. Your hand has reasonable implied odds and cannot profitably shove or isolate. 2. There is at least one limper already in the pot.
3. You are in the cutoff, button, or small blind.

Hands To Consider Limping

CO/Btn: 22-55, Axs, JT+, J9+
SB: 22-55, Any unsuited or suited connectors 65+, Any unsuited or suited one-gappers 97+, Axs

I put strong emphasis on the word “consider” and want to stress that limping should be your last resort. You should always be looking for profitable situations, but do not necessarily always want to limp the above ranges. If raising or shoving is not profitable but your hand is likely +EV to limp, only then do you want to consider just calling the big blind. Limping from the cutoff should be a rare occurrence, with limping from the button a bit more frequent due to the guarantee of absolute position. Most of the time, your limps will be from the small blind.

When unsure about whether to isolate a player or limp behind, I often look at how my opponent plays post-flop. If he folds to C-bets out of position greater than 50% of the time, I lean toward isolating. If he limp-raises often, is a station, or does not fold to c-bets with great frequency, I lean toward limping.

Situations To Avoid Limping

You must also remain mindful of negative factors that diminish the profitability of limping. The only time you want to limp is when your hand is too strong to fold but not good enough to shove or isolate, which should make limping a fairly rare occurrence for you. You almost never want to open limp, and you generally want to have passive players seated behind you.

Here is a list of undesirable circumstances with regard to limping:

  • There are loose aggressive players behind you that will raise often.
  • Your hand suffers from reverse implied odds.
  • There is a short stack in the blinds behind you.
  • The limper(s) ahead of you are non-fish.

As a side note, if you find yourself in a situation that is undesirable for limping marginal hands for any of the above reasons, you might want to instead limp a trapping range sometimes for balance. This is particularly effective with aggressive players or short stacks behind you. Limping a hand like AK on the cutoff or button and going for a limp-raise can be especially profitable in late position. Take the following example:

Example #10.1: Trapping a maniac

No-Limit Hold’em, $0.50 BB (5 handed)

HJ ($97.63)
CO ($54.21)
Hero (Button) ($13.70)
SB ($21.25)
BB ($28.80) 70/60/44 5% 3-bet

Preflop: Hero is Button with K♣, A♥
1 fold, CO calls $0.50, Hero calls $0.50,1 fold, BB bets $2,1 fold,Hero raises to $13.70 (All-In), BB calls $11.20

Flop: ($27.15) 5♥, 8♦, 8♠ (2 players, 1 all-in) Turn: ($27.15) 6♦ (2 players, 1 all-in) River: ($27.15) 3♣ (2 players, 1 all-in) Total pot: $27.15 | Rake: $0.35

Re sults:

Hero had K♣, A♥ (one pair, eights).

BB had J♦, K♦ (one pair, eights).
Outcome: Hero won $26.80.

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You want to be sure you do not overdo setting traps like this. If the big blind was a wide 3-bettor, then raising would be a much better option. Paying attention to game flow is crucial to mixing in unorthodox plays.

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