Have you considered limping as a strategy? Yes, that’s right, I said limping! Everything else you read about poker tells you that raising is the best strategy to use. If you are starting out in poker, then that is the best advice to follow. When limping is used as a strategy it will take what you know about ranges and turn it upside down. This is not the kind of poker strategy where you look for ranges to memorize. It’s not a common strategy or a simple one. It provokes unconventional thoughts about poker as a game. It will take you down a path where you are challenged to think about your philosophy on poker strategy. Your pursuit of understanding the game mechanics and how to think will be challenged. If you disagree with my opinions, great! I welcome it! Leave a comment telling me how horrible I am at poker and that I should get a life or whatever else the poker chat pros say.
When you sit down at a game of poker, it is important to quickly identify who the passive players are and who the aggressive players are. Take note of who is raising and if there is 3 or 4 betting happening in the game. Next you want to make a mental note of where these players are in relation to where you are seated. As you get comfortable and settle into the game you will want to deploy a strategy that is conducive to extracting the maximum value.
The first thing to look out for is the elasticity of the players at your table. There are two general categories of players if they limp. The first are players who will limp but fold to any significant raise and the second are those who call. If you find that your table is full of players that will call any raise after they have limped, they are inelastic. This means that they are indifferent to prices and its very probable that they are there to gamble. It is not always in your best interest to raise preflop when you have these types of players who have limped into the pot. This does not mean that you should never raise. What it does mean is that you can now be more selective about your raising range.
This is an opportunity to expand your range with an over limp. After watching the hands played and making note of what gets to showdown you can now start to use the cusp of your range to limp in and accept the odds that are being laid. Of course, you do need to protect your range with stronger combinations, but the point is that your strategy is shifting towards a post flop strategy. The weaker combos in your range are now able to realize some of their equity because they benefit from the protection of the stronger combos in your limping range. The same holds true when you open raise, the difference being that you just must fold your weaker combos when re-raised. Just don’t overdo it, because if any of your opponents are observant, they might realize what you are up to.
If you find yourself at an aggressive table. One where there is a lot of raising happening and those players happen to be sitting to your left. You can let them do the work for you. Instead of open raising, open limp with the intention of back raising. Don’t expect to get a lot of action from this move all the time. Not all your opponents will understand the dynamic of what is happening. Even a studied player will think that you are making a fishy move. The most difficult part about making a play like this is that you will have different ranges to manage. You still have a raising range because you won’t always depend on your opponents to do the raising for you. Some of your opponents may even pivot their entire strategy. This is incorrect but they don’t know that. Just know that if you do observe some changes in the game flow, you will want to adjust and play a robust strategy.
Using the limp when you are under the gun can be a powerful option. Depending on where you get your ranges from you will see the recommendation for an open raise under the gun fall someplace between 10% to 15% of the deck. When you limp from the under the gun you are doing so with the understanding that you will be out of position to everyone except the blinds. A lot of players will not realize how strong your range should be from this position and not credit you with strong hands. When you get raised you can re-raise more confidently because your range is so much more stronger. Your goal with limping from under the gun is to control the size of the pot and the bets that can be made. The act of limping from this position restricts how much your opponent can raise. You are deceptively in control of how much goes in and can choose to accept the price or raise it.
Completing from the small blind is not something you will see in a live game because live players like to chop. Online you may see this but more often than not a player will attempt to steal the blinds instead of just completing. The objective here is similar to under the gun in that you want to have an uncapped range. The difference is that your range will not be as strong. Be prepared to 3-bet with hands that you would normally just fold. Its important to let the big blind know that you are willing to fight for the pot. This however can create some problems if the big blind begins to just check behind. Now both your ranges are uncapped. The good news about this situation is that you can still steal the pot if the big blind realizes that you range is uncapped. The bad news is that their range is also uncapped, and you must proceed with caution. Playing blind versus blind can be tricky because the ranges are so big. There are a lot of combinations to manage. Put in some work into understanding how ranges can interact with other ranges before attempting to try a limping strategy from the small blind. This is a section of the game tree that many are not familiar with. Guiding them into this part of the game is why limping can be superior. Their assumptions are that you will raise your better hands giving them the chance to fold their garbage and raise their premiums. Instead, you have them forced to play all their hands, while still exposing their premium hands when they raise.
The next time you see someone limp take the time to think about what it could mean. There are many strategies you can choose to play. Observe the game dynamics and be aware of what your opponents are doing. Remember that the solution is not always going to be a raise. Sometimes you should consider limping.