Sofia Lövgren: Why you should stop limping

Philipp Gruissem is one of the toughest players on the tournament circuit and plays an ultra-aggressive style

Walking with a limp

I haven’t been playing poker for too long and I still like to limp in a lot and see flops. But every bit of strategy I read tells me this is wrong without explaining why. So Sofia, why should I stop limping in?
George Stuart

Hi ‘Limping George’! Stop limping straight away! The reason is that when you just call you must hit a hand to win the pot. If you raise you have two ways to win the pot, either when you hit the best hand or if your opponent folds.

Worst of all is open limping since you miss your opportunity to take the initiative entering the pot. Instead you will often have to call a raise from a player behind you and then play out of position postflop, which is a big disadvantage.

There are also several situations when it is fine to limp. One example is if the pot has already been raised or if there are three limpers before you and you have a small pocket pair. Another example is in a tournament on the button when the blinds are very short and raising will make you committed to calling an all-in.

But overall I agree with what you have heard – that you should enter pots with raises rather than limping in. You should also definitely consider three-betting more often to take the initiative in pots. Good luck with a more aggressive game George!

Big and small

I was watching coverage of EPT Barcelona and a lot of players were saying that they couldn’t miss it as all the tournaments had so many players. But if a tournament has thousands of players doesn’t it make it harder to win? In my mind it makes more sense to play tournaments that have less players because you will win more often. What do you think?
Harry Fitzgerald

You are absolutely right that it’s easier to final table, and eventually win, a tournament with less entrants. However, 10-15% of players win money in all tournaments, meaning you’ll have the same probability of finishing in the cash however big the field is. In general, the big-field events also have more recreational players, which means they are usually softer and offer better value.

EPT Barcelona was impressive with almost 1,500 entrants, while the Estrellas main event that same week had 2,559 entrants. That’s a good reason for me to  come back and play next year!

The comeback trail

I’ve been on a bad run recently online and have dropped stakes to try and recover. I usually play six-max cash games at $100 or $200 buy-ins. When I drop down do you think I’ll have to change my strategy? I usually play very aggressively but I’m worried that none of my bluffs will get through with all the calling stations!
Rob Sansom

I’m sorry to hear about your bad run but you’re totally on the right track by stepping down a level and getting your confidence back.

One warning is that nowadays you’ll often find surprisingly good players at lower stakes, many playing with a HUD, so don’t underestimate the regulars.

The best strategy when you step down is to play quite straightforward. Most importantly, when you spot the fishy calling stations make sure you value bet large with your good hands and never ever bluff them – they won’t understand what you’re doing and will just call!

Four rings

Do you think poker is a sport and will we ever see it in the Olympics?
Mark Jones

I wouldn’t say that poker is a sport – it’s more a game like chess and backgammon. In my opinion a sport includes a certain amount of physical challenges so poker would definitely not qualify for the Olympics.

Best of the best

Now you’ve played a ton of EPTs you must have come up against some brilliant players. Who is the toughest you have played against and what did they do that made them so good?
Michelle Walker

I’ve played against lots of good players over the last few years. Philip Gruissem was playing very loose, crazy poker in the EPT London High Roller. He can lose a big part of his stack in one hand on a big bluff and then suddenly come back as the chip leader. What makes it tough to play him is that he doesn’t care too much about pot control and never hesitates to build big pots with a marginal hand. When you play back versus these kind of players you know you will have to play for your tournament life. Luckily I picked up J-J in a pot where he went all-in with a bluff so I actually knocked him out. 

Another really tough player is Vanessa Selbst, who is aggressive and very good at reading other players.

These kind of ultra-aggressive players are extremely unpredictable and you always feel they have total air, even when they have a very strong hand.

Minimal pain

I play online two or three times a week and one play I can never work out is when my opponents check-raise me the minimum. It’s usually weak players that do it, but I’m never sure if they have a monster hand or are just trying to find out if they are ahead. Do you have any answers?
Russell Carmine

As you say, this play is usually made by inexperienced players. Some do this with really strong hands. They check the flop and quickly min-check-raise because they are so excited about their hand. They can also do it with marginal hands because they are not sure if they are ahead and don’t want to put too much money into the pot. This is often followed by a check on the turn. Since it’s a min-raise you get a good price to float on the flop and see how your opponent acts on the turn. If he bombs he often has a really strong hand and you have an easy fold. If he checks he is usually weak or was bluffing, and you can take over the initiative in the pot.


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