Grinderschool: Why limping is an unproftable play

Grinderschool coach The Definite Article examines what hands you should raise with preflop and why limping is bad

Why not limp?

You’re playing a six-max NLHE cash game online and it’s folded to you in middle position with 8-6. Why don’t you just limp in? You have a fairly decent speculative hand and you don’t mind calling a raise from someone behind you, but don’t want to risk too much money if you face a three-bet. It makes limping seem reasonable – but it won’t be profitable to do so.

If you have a limping range that is exactly these type of hands – suited connectors, one gappers and maybe small pairs – your range is capped and well defined so that competent players can raise very wide and play extremely well against you postflop. You will have a very weak range on a lot of flops, such as ones with high cards on them.

Plus, the idea that you will get to see a flop for just 1BB is inaccurate. If you are in MP let’s say the button is raising 70% and the cutoff will also raise around 25% – you won’t see a lot of cheap flops! You will also be out of position a lot of the time if you limp. Position is very important but especially so when you have hands like suited connectors, as a lot of their value comes from being able to bluff with equity.

What about limping on the button?

When you play poker you don’t want to settle for making a little bit of money – you want to make the maximum amount of money. Raising allows you to do this. If you raise and the blinds fold then you immediately pick up 1.5BBs uncontested. It’s going to be very tough to make that much money in a limped pot, especially three-way.

It may occur to you that you can solve the problem of having a capped limping range by sometimes limping with big pairs too, but the problem with this is that you are losing so much value by not raising with them. It’s a real waste to play your Aces and Kings in this way.

But are there times when you can get away with limping? Yes, if you are over-limping after a few limpers before you. You are much more likely to end up in a multi-way pot in this situation and it will be harder for players to isolate versus multiple players.

How do I know what to raise with?

Some people rely on hand charts when they start playing poker, which tell them what hands to raise from what position. This isn’t a good idea…

  1. Most hand charts that you will see online or in poker books were designed in 2005 when the poker boom was just breaking out. They aren’t up to date with the modern game and will give you bad information.
  2. You will often misunderstand them. You won’t know why certain hands are raised from certain positions and it means that you will lack the ability to deviate from that set strategy when you need to.

It’s always necessary to consider why you do things in poker. The fundamental point is that anything you do is because you expect it to be profitable.

There are two main factors which affect the EV of a hand from a specific position. The first one is how your opponents play and the second is how good you are postflop relative to them. The two are obviously linked. The former means you can open wider at nittier tables, the latter means you can open wider when your postflop edge is bigger.

Here’s a six-max hand chart anyway…

Now I know I said that hand charts are useless, but if you really want one here’s a decent set of open-raising ranges for new players (you will want to expand these ranges as you get better because this teaches a very tight strategy):

  • Under The Gun (UTG): 66+, ATs+, AJo+, KQs
  • Middle Position (MP): 22+, ATs+, ATo+, KJs+, QJs, JTs
  • Cutoff: 22+, A2s+, ATo+, KT+, QT+, JTs-87s
  • Button: 22+, A2+, K2s+, Q8s+, KT+, QT+, JTo, JTs-54s, J9s-86s, J8s
  • Small Blind: see cutoff

A key thing to notice is that I haven’t included pairs 22-55 when under the gun. If you do get called then on every flop that you don’t hit a set you will have little equity and can’t really continuation bet effectively – so you will just have to check-fold.

I’ve only included ATs+ for UTG and MP, and the reason for this is that new players will struggle to play these hands. They will often be dominated and won’t have the knowledge to barrel gutshot straight draws and so on that would make those hands profitable to raise with. It’s important to avoid situations where you may make yourself liable to lose a lot of money, such as when you have top pair but are outkicked.

I also really like to play K-Qs from any position as, if you flop top pair, you can effectively treat it as though you have top pair, top kicker. This is because you have to expect anyone that has A-K or A-Q would three-bet you preflop. Therefore, you can get multiple streets of value if you hit top pair. K-Qo on the other hand is just a little too weak for new players to raise from under the gun.


This article is an extract from Intro To Poker Theory Ep 1 by The Definite Article. For the best low-stakes strategy videos go to www.grinderschool.com now.

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