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Beware Early Position Limpers

Blinds are T1000-T2000. You’re in the fifth hour of a no-limit hold’em tournament that’s down to 40 of its 500 original entrants. You have 7 opponents at your table. A new hand is dealt. The under-the-gun player (UTG) limps with a T25,000 stack. The T8,000 stack two to his left shoves all-in. Action folds to you, and you’re in the big blind with T30,000. You have 99.

Accumulate Chips, But Don’t Be Reckless

To do well in tournaments, you need to accumulate chips. And accumulating chips means getting your chips in when you’re ahead of your opponents’ distributions. With your 99, you’re almost certainly ahead of the all-in player’s distribution. Unfortunately, the UTG limper is still in the hand, and he completely changes the dynamics of the hand. Before making any decisions, you need to consider his hand distribution.

In the absence of any other evidence, you have to assume that the UTG limper has a huge hand. Players who limp from early position when the blinds are high typically have big hands. This is especially true of players with very short stacks, but it’s pretty much true regardless of the limper’s stack size. Early position limpers in high blind tournament play are looking to get value from their premium hole cards, and they assume that they won’t get any action if they raise from early position, figuring that an early position raise would betray the strength of their hand.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

If you’re new to the table and know nothing about the UTG limper, you need to lay your 99 down. The only way you can justify putting any chips in this pot is if the UTG limper has been a habitual limper…a player who has been limping a few times per orbit. If you’re playing online, you should be using player tracking software, and you should have your player tracking software configured to display limp first in (LFI) percentages broken down with respect to position.

This article is specifically about early position limpers in high blind tournament play, but as usual, there’s a more generalized lesson to be learned. Whenever you’re in a hand, one seemingly tiny change to a scenario can have a huge effect on your optimal course of action. A player who typically opens to 5 big blinds changes things up and opens to 3.5 big blinds. What’s the significance? Pay attention to every possible detail, and separate the meaningful information from the random smoke that means nothing. Eat properly, stay hydrated, and get enough rest, so you can play as alertly and effectively as possible!


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