Open limping before the flop in no-limit hold’em cash games is almost always the sign of a loose/passive, weak player. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, and you can definitely add open limping to your game in the right circumstances if you plan things out well. What we want to do here is look at some of the advantages of open limping in a vacuum, how to counter some of the disadvantages and what some of the math looks like for specific scenarios to get you to thinking about your play.

If you work through this and really think about how you would do it, even if you decide not to, then it will help your game and your understanding of poker.

We’re going to start by looking at the typical disadvantages and what you want to avoid doing in terms of general play style.

Avoiding Passive Play

The one thing you have to avoid if you’re going to limp is being super passive. The reason that open limping is such a typically bad thing is that it’s done in a particularly passive way that allows you to just run all over the people who do it. You want to avoid being one of those people who get ran over, and we’re going to cover a few quick ideas on how you can do that here.

Don’t Limp/Fold Much

You shouldn’t be limp/folding all that often. There are obvious times to do it, like when there’s a raise and a 3-bet before the action is back around to you, but for the most part, you should be calling or 3-betting when facing a single raise. Limp/folding much at all is a good way to destroy your win-rate.

Leading Flops After Check/Calling

You’re on the flop out of position in a heads-up pot. You have a range, and your opponent has a range. This is no different in principle than the type of situation you would be in if you had raised pre-flop and gotten called once from a player who had position on you. Leading this flop will follow the same types of basic principles of forming your range well. The only difference is the content of your range.

Limp/3-Bet Pre-flop

When you limp and face a raise, you should be 3-betting some percentage of the time. The bet sizes will be a little larger, but the same principles remain. You’ll need to have some bluffs and some value bets in your range, and you’ll probably be balanced when you have something like 60-65 percent bluffs in your 3-betting range on average with 100bb starting stacks.

Check/Raising Flops After Check/Calling

Along similar lines, you want to be attacking on the flop in a similar way. What’s really interesting is that a lot of robotic players will probably continuation bet entirely too often on flops against you at first since you’ve limp/called pre-flop, so you can exploit them by check/raising on the flop a bit more. This diverges into several different scenarios involving 3-bets/4-bet on the flop and what happens when you’re called on the flop and see a turn with double barreling and similar.

The 3-Betting Game

To give you an idea of the math involved, we’re going to take a brief look at the 3-betting game that happens after open limping pre-flop. You limp and a Villain in late position raises to 4x. It folds around to you, and you 3-bet to a total of 12bb.

The Immediate Fold Percentages

Immediately in a vacuum, you’re betting 11bb to win 6.5bb that is already in the pot, so you need Villain to fold 11/17.5 = 62.9 percent of the time to break even assuming that you never win the hand if he doesn’t fold. It’s important to realize that robotic tags are going to probably fold a lot here, so it’s a fun exploitative move at first.

It’s also important to realize that all of the strong hands you limp are going to be taken out of your open raising range. However, your opponents aren’t necessarily going to know this, so they’ll think your open raising ranges are stronger than they really are. It’s something to thing about.

Of course you want to be able to show up with strong hands when you limp/3-bet some percentage of the time, but you’ll have to work out the appropriate percentages to limp nut hands based on what range you decide to open limp in the first place.

Your Actual 3-Betting Range

You need to know what your actual 3-betting range looks like if you want to have a good idea of what your bluffing frequencies are. To be able to do this, you have to know what your limping range looks like and what you have available to 3-bet in the first place.

For the sake of example, suppose you decide to open limp {QQ+, AK} a total of 20 percent of the time in some position in some game. Normally this would be a total of 34 starting hand combinations. However, since you’ll only have them 20 percent of the time, they’re really going to show up with the same frequency that 35 * 0.20 = 6.8 normal hand combinations would show up.

Now suppose that you decide you want to be bluffing 60 percent of the time. You can use a shortcut I’ve posted about before to see how many bluffing combinations you need in your range:

Our desired bluff percentage is 40 percent, our desired value betting percentage is 40 percent (since that’s 100% – 60%), and we have 6.8 value betting combinations. That gives us 10.2 combinations of bluffs that we need to have in our range.

Learn More

This should be enough to get you started thinking about this stuff. If you’re ready to learn more, then check out the forum thread on this topic.

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Exploring Open-Limping Pre-flop
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