The Tsunami

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Why Open-Limping is Generally a Bad Idea

It’s been quite a week since my last blog post. I’ve been doing quite a bit of programming for three different things I’ve been working on. The hours have been long, I haven’t played any poker, and I’m a bit tired, but I’ve really enjoyed this past week. Improving one’s skills at something is always a rewarding experience!

Aside from programming, I’ve also had some poker coaching sessions (I guess I don’t need to play much when I can live vicariously through others). One topic came up repeatedly in those sessions, so I thought I’d talk a bit about it today: open-limping. Open-limping is when action folds to you in the first round of betting and you enter by calling. In no-limit hold’em games with extremely passive opponents who don’t do much raising preflop and who are willing to give away lots of chips postflop, there’s an argument to be made for open-limping with hands like small-medium pocket pairs. However, other than making such an exploitative adjustment, open-limping accomplishes very little if your goal at the poker tables is to win money.

One big problem with the open-limp is what do you do with your big hands? If you’re going to open-limp your mediocre hands and raise your very good hands, you might as well play with your cards face-up. Open-limping could become correct if you’re also willing to open-limp your big hands. However, what are you hoping to accomplish by open-limping your big hands? Are you trying to present a balanced range and threaten a limp-reraise often enough so that you can enter pots with speculative holdings? If so, how many chips can you really expect to extract in future betting rounds when the pot going into those future betting rounds is small? Are you looking to induce raises from your opponents so that you can limp-reraise the top part of your range? If so, how often are your opponents really going to be raising (in other words, you’re allowing the blinds to make way more than they should by allowing them ample opportunities to see free flops).

Instead of open-limping, consider presenting a raising range that’s tough for your opponents to play again. Your open-raising ranges in each position should be wide enough to include hands that:

1.) Effectively serve as a bluffing part of your preflop range

2.) Allow you to threaten big hands on a wide range of boards when deeply stacked

At the same time, your open-raising ranges should be tight enough so that when your raises are called, you’re not stuck playing a large number of pots with holdings that you’d rather not be playing with. Such a preflop attack makes it much easier to induce opponents into making mistakes that you can profit from.

Reciprocally, you should give open-limpers hell. When deeply stacked and not in the blinds, you should raise limped pots with a range a little bit tighter that the range you’d open raise with from the same position (since you’re not guaranteed to get folds from all the open limpers, it makes no sense to raise the entire bluffing part of your open-raising range). When deeply stacked and in the blinds, raise only your good hands for value. If you’re in the small blind and only one player has voluntarily entered the pot, consider limping with a decent range of speculative hands with the intention of playing takeaway with a half-pot bet given a flop with a good bluffing texture (i.e. a flop that doesn’t figure to hit much of the open-limper’s range).

When short-stacked, you should shove all-in with a range that’s dependent on your opponent’s open-limping tendencies (if you’re using player tracking software, then make sure you include a limp first in stat). If the stat non-zero but small (like around 5%), shove all-in with big aces, medium-big pocket pairs, and KQs (against a player with a small limp first in percentage, there’s a very good chance that your shove will be called and that it will be called by a small-medium pocket pair). If the stat is non-zero and quite large (greater than 10%…especially if the player also has a decent preflop raise percentage), then jam with a range that’s a little bit tighter than the non-exploitable open jamming range for your position and effective stack. Finally, if you’re in the big blind and the small blind open limps, you should (at the minimum) jam with all hands that you’d be willing to call a jam with.

I’ll be covering open-limping on today’s edition of Killer Poker Analysis, my weekly podcast on Rounder’s Radio which airs live on Fridays at 5:00PM PT (past podcasts are available here). I’ll also be covering the following topics:

1.) Playing 3-bet pots in no-limit hold’em out of position when an ace falls on the flop

2.) Individual utility and honestly assessing both your motivations for playing poker and how well you perform

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

The Tsunami


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One Response to “Why Open-Limping is Generally a Bad Idea”

  1. dreambox says:

    Its superb as your other articles : D, regards for putting up.

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