Overlimping, or limping behind, is the act of choosing to limp AFTER one (or more) players have already limped preflop. Not to be confused with open-limping (being the first person to enter a pot preflop by limping in), overlimping can have some serious advantages when done properly.
And while aggression in poker has increased exponentially over the years which has led many players to think that raising/isolating limpers is always better – there are plenty of spots where overlimping proves to be a MORE profitable approach.
The overall ethos most studied players follow is that if there are a couple of people limping in front of you, you should either be folding or raising to punish the limpers and take control Well, for the most part, this is correct and overlimping definitely isn’t the most impressive part of the overall gameplay plan. However, it still has its place in the grand scheme of things and there are situations where you’re simply better off limping along with certain poker hands.
General Reasons for Overlimping
While being aggressive and driving the action before the flop is a good general strategy, there are times where you’ll want to protect your equity by not building a huge pot and giving opponents behind you, or even the initial limpers, a chance to make sizable mistakes.
Sometimes, you’ll also find yourself in a game where there is a lot of limping going on and people hate to fold to raises. This can often be found in low stakes live games. While this is a great scenario for when you have good hands, raising with your marginal hands achieves nothing more than bloating the pot and often reducing your postflop edge by making the effective stack to pot ratio (SPR) very small.
So, while the general rule of thumb suggests an aggressive approach is usually better, there are definitely certain scenarios and situations where overlimping can be a correct and more profitable way to go. In the rest of this guide, we’ll look into some of these spots.
Limping Behind With Small Pocket Pairs
Small pocket pairs, 22–66, are great overlimping candidates in most situations. For example, If there are two people limping in from early position and you find yourself sitting in hijack with 33, limping along is simply the best way to play the hand if you have a fairly deep stack, which we’ll take as a given for the purposes of this guide. Though it should be noted that playing these hands with a short stack in a tournament is a completely different story.
Of all three options you have, overlimping is simply the best one. If you make a standard-sized raise, you’re bloating a pot with what doesn’t stand to be the best hand at all. In fishy poker games where players limp often & never fold, you can’t realistically expect they’ll fold if you raise it up, so you’ll likely have to see the flop multi-way anyways. On top of that, if you raise limpers while holding a small pocket pair, you risk facing a 3bet from later positions (or even a limp/raise) and will be forced to fold most of the time, which is not your desired outcome.
On the other hand, you could just fold instead, but that just seems like sacrificing value, especially in a game where you feel you have an edge. In these games, you will get paid off a lot of the time when flopping a set, so the risk is totally worth it. (& study this hand if you aren’t sure if you should ever fold a set postflop)
One important piece of advice here though is that you’ll absolutely need to avoid getting involved in pots where you don’t flop really big. If you don’t hit your set on the flop, you’re best off giving up to further aggression. In these limped multiway pots, it is hard to put people on realistic ranges so even if the board seems solid for your small pair, you really can’t know for sure and if you get involved, you’ll basically be in the dark and hoping your hand is somehow good.
You’ll often hear that this isn’t a good strategy because good players will be able to take advantage of these tendencies. While this statement is true in general, in most games where there is a lot of limping going on, you won’t have to worry about dealing with constant squeezes or huge raises behind you and this strategy is more of an exploitative play, so you should not be looking to balance it off, you simply doing it to exploit other players.
Suited Connectors: To Limp Or Raise?
Small to medium suited connectors seem to be another category of hands that people love to overlimp with. While there is some merit to doing so on occasion, you should be very careful here as these hands are much harder to play postflop than small pocket pairs. Many inexperienced players seem to treat these hands almost the same but they are almost worlds apart.
With small pairs, you’re looking to hit your set – that’s it. If you make it, you need to be ready to go broke with it in most spots unless there is really a super good reason to think your hand is no good. However, with suited connectors, what is it exactly that you’re looking for?
If you limp with a hand like 7♥6♥ and the flop comes 8♥ 5♠ 4♦, you have the nuts, but you will not be flopping such monsters very often and when you do, you will not always get as much action as you wish. Then, there are some really bad turn/river runouts that can kill your action or even turn your winning hand into a loser. So, even when you flop the nuts in a pot against two or three other players, it might be hard to get three streets of value on these kinds of boards.
More often than not, though, these hands will produce a draw of some kind and, often, this won’t even be the draw to the nuts, and that could be a big problem. You limp along with a hand like 6♠5♠ and the flop comes with two spades. There is a bet and a call in front of you. What do you do? Of course, you have to call to try and make your flush, but how often that flush will cost you your entire stack when someone else makes a bigger flush?
Unlike small pairs, which you can overlimp with almost 100% of the time, I’d say suited connectors make much better material for a mixed strategy, where you’ll sometimes fold, sometimes limp, and sometimes raise to try and thin the field and give yourself some more ways to win the hand. Your decisions on how to play them should be based on the particular table you’re seated at and how people, in general, tend to treat raises. If you are playing online, you can easily get that info from one of many poker tools, but for live games, you simply have to observe your opponents and make decisions based on that.
Also, if you’re going to be limping with suited connectors, you’ll need to have some tricks up your sleeve after the flop, such as check-raising with weaker draws and backdoors to try and win by representing a big hand like a set, which is realistically in your limping range. This is a higher variance approach but if you’re not willing to mix it up, overlimping with suited connectors is probably not worth it.
Calling From The Small Blind
One position where limping along is fine with many holdings is when you’re seated in the small blind. While you’ll be in the worst possible position after the flop, you’ll always be getting great pot odds in these multi-way limped pots so it would be mathematically incorrect not to try and see the flop when you have a playable hand. Obviously, this does not mean you should start completing unplayable hands like J6 and other garbage, but you should be looking to play ones that can connect with the board.
That said, you have to keep in mind what kind of player is sitting in the big blind and how likely he is to raise all the limpers. If you have an aggressive opponent sitting there, you should not be playing much, because you will be punished for it.
On top of that, keep in mind that you’ll need to be very careful after the flop. Without much information about what other players might do, you should play it conservatively with your mediocre hands and only get involved when you flop big, i.e. two pair or better, or have a playable draw. In these kinds of limped multiway pots, flopping second pair will not help you win much, so do not overplay your medium-strength hands.
So…Should I Keep Limping?
Clearly, there are some situations where overlimping can be the correct strategy. There will also be particular game setups where joining the crowd and limping along with them with a speculative hands might be a good idea but these scenarios are a few and far between.
When all things are considered, it seems that the aggressive approach really is the correct one and overlimping really works for a rather narrow range of hands. In most other scenarios, you’ll be better off simply letting your hand go or raising to try and take control. Limping with too wide of a range will lead you to many difficult and even impossible spots where you’ll just be guessing about where you’re at, which is pretty much the last thing you want at the tables.