When should you limp behind preflop? When should you isolate? If you do decide to raise and isolate the limper(s), how large should you go? Let’s dissect this question and answer once and for all how to think ahead, create a +EV plan, and maximize our profits when there are a number of limpers in front of us.
I recently got this question from Jim who asks “You’re on the button from the cut-off with a playable hand. Something like Jack-Ten suited,Ten-Nine suited, Ace-Six suited, Deuces to Sixes really a hand you’re not going to fold. There are multiple limper’s in front of you. Can you describe what table and player dynamic’s you would consider under the following conditions.
A. Limp behind
B. Raise to $15, in a $1-$2 game(where expect it might take it down 0-2 callers, no guarantees)
C.Raise to $20 (where you expect no caller’s or maybe just one)”
So this is definitely a very-very fair question and one that live players especially need to contend with. You see this a lot in micro-limit online games too. Essentially games where there is a lot of pre-flop limping and you need to figure out how to navigate through that mind field.
Now you presented 3 different options: First, is limp behind because we’re not going to fold these hands anyway. Second, raise to what we’re functionally considering a normal raise size. Third, raising to a much larger than normal raise size and we need to figure out which play is going to be best. Now, I am going to look at it in these terms, limping behind is what I would consider my default option if no other option is going to be more profitable.
Since folding is not an option and I only have 3 options to began with, fold, limp-behind or raise. If I am not going to fold, and I am not going to raise, then limping is the obvious option – assuming we can’t find a more profitable option through either raising at a normal or much larger than normal raise size.
Whenever you are in this situation you really want think about what your goal is and what you’re trying to accomplish. Now of course there are a few of things to consider.
What is your goal and what are you trying to accomplish?
Position! If you’re on the button you know you going to have position going post-flop that’s great. If you’re in the cut-off being very aware of who the button is (and if you are in MP then consider who all the players between yourself and the button are). Of course who is left to act that hasn’t already limped. So who’s in the blinds, are they 3-betty, are they normal, are they fishy people who are always going to call your raise regardless of size. Make sure you are keeping these things in mind.
Here is an episode from RedChip Poker’s free podcast “5 Questions To Answer Before You Play A Hand”
So the biggest consideration for me is essentially where are the fish? Now you’ve already presented a situation where there is a bunch of limpers. Automatically I am going to assume at least some of those players are probably not all that great. Sometimes they might be, typically I am not going to assume that’s the case. So it is just a situation of which one of these players are weak, vs very-very weak, vs maybe they’re nitty but they limped behind with a small pocket pair, or whatever it is.
Depending on who those bad players are, how bad they are, and what we are trying to accomplish with your raise. If you have a really strong hand here something that obviously you’re not going to fold. Maybe it is Aces or Kings, maybe it is whatever really strong hand. Then it’s a spot where you probably want to go to the larger raise size because the fish are going to be more in elastic and you just raise as large as they can handle.
The exact raise size you choose is going to be very-very dependent on the table and the history of what you have been noticing so far. What you are suggesting here is a normal size raise of $15 after a bunch of limper’s or going $20+. Now $20+ , I am just going to assume this is a number that you deem large and a little A-typical for the table. If that’s the case understanding what that large number actually is, in some tables that could be $20, at some tables that could be $25, at certain tables it could be $40. Now obviously $40 being a bit egregious at $1-$2 but you get the idea. Make sure you are paying attention that what have others people used before and how did those raise sizes get through.
Which sizes have you used & did they generate many folds?
A lot of players won’t try the larger pre-flop raise size and they make hypothesis that “oh, I don’t think that will work”, but often times it is just simply they have never tried it so they’ve never gotten information and feed back from how that is actually working. Sure it is going to raise a couple of eyebrows if you haven’t raised in a while and all of a sudden you raise over a couple of limper’s to $25 but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Again think about what you’re trying to accomplish in these situations.
Lets play it out this way, there are a bunch of fish in this kind of situation and I have a hand that I deem is pretty valuable. A hand that is definitely on the strong side of my spectrum maybe it is AK, AQ or Tens+ whatever it is. And, I want to raise and I want to punish and I only really want to get one or two . I am going to usually choose the really large number in this situation because I am trying to accomplish a heads up or maybe 3-way to it but I don’t really want to go nine-way to it. That is part of the issue here a lot of players will say “my default raise here is $15, so, I’m just gonna go $15.” Yeah, that is okay, but is it optimal? Probably not. They’re not that great of players, they’re likely going to continue with 2nd best hands and you can punish that with a larger raise size. Not to mention your hand is going to perform better with fewer players and it’ll be much more profitable when you choose the larger number.
You get them involved with their second best hand and you punish it from there post-flop it is really easy in that situation. When you have really weak players and you have that really strong hand choose the larger raise size. I’m usually not going to do that with things like 22 or 33, A5 suited, or 67 suited those kind of things. Those kind of hands if I raise do I really want to get one or two caller’s, then all of a sudden I have to play that out, its a smaller SPR, and not as great a situation – so I’m probably not going to do that. In that situation I don’t think a large size does a ton, a normal raise size just bloats the pot and gives me little flexibility in the SPR, so my only real option is to just limp behind instead.
Another situation that comes up a lot here is when there are a bunch of nits that are limping in or maybe they’re nitty people but people that aren’t ultra fishy. The kind of people that want to limp a lot or just want to see the flop a lot but pretty much go away the second you hit them with any decent raise raise size. In that spot I am going to be raising larger a lot of the time. Sure, I’m still probably going to limp behind with things I deem as playable like deuces, or small pairs or suited connectors you know things that I want to get involved in that multi-way pot. Where I can stack people post flop, but when it comes to things like Ace-Ten, K-Jack all that kind of stuff. Now all of a sudden you’re going to find me using a larger raise size because I am not worried if they go away pre-flop. In fact I’d actually prefer that, I am okay if I pick up a few limps pre-flop with something like King-Jack if I go to a larger raise size.
If someone happens to call me, I think their range is more likely to be face up but I don’t expect to get a slew of callers, it would be more like 0-1 callers a large chunk of the time. I am happy going to a large raise size with that, especially with against those kind of people that are going to going to fold when you throw out a larger raise. The issue with the normal raise size here is these people are going to continue some percentage of the time. Once one of them continues a lot of them continue, so if you don’t have the looser guy till the end of the limpers chain that might work. But if he is at the beginning, you raise he calls, and every one else calls behind him, now you’re in a really bizarre spot. I don’t particularly love that really with any hand type that you want to do that with.
Some people will say “well, why don’t I bloat the pot, or sweeten the pot with something like 3’s that way the pot is bigger when I catch my set?” That is really bad logic and doesn’t really play, so you are better off just limping behind in that scenario or raising and trying to get everyone to fold with a larger raise size. Rather then going with this pot sweetener non-sense.
Then the final situation is think about spots where there is a mixture of limpers. Say there are some decent players in there and there is some fishy players in there, and you are trying to figure out what you want to do. In that scenario you have to stay very aware of whats going on, the composition and placement of these players is going to be crucial. If it is a spot where the first limper is fishy and you raise and you know, regardless of whether you go large or small its more likely they continue. You have to understand that, that first caller is going to create a larger avalanche of callers behind then normal. If the first person goes away, the next person might say “well I didn’t have pot-odds or implied odds” or whatever excuse they give themselves, you are in a situation where you are loosing that person and you’re not creating the multi-way pot. Remember this all about knowing what you’re trying to accomplish with your raise.
But, if it is a situation where your have some weaker nitty guys up front and at the end of that chain of limpers is one really bad player and you could go to a normal raise size, the original weak people go away and now your heads up against the fish, that could be fine. Again, if you’re in that situation think about the kinds of hands you’re going to be using, you’re probably going to limp behind with the small pairs and suited connectors and that kind of stuff. If you’re raising you are probably raising with a hand you deem as valuable because you know you’re going post-flop so you would be less likely to raise with totally garbage. So in that situation again because you’re on the value size of the raising spectrum you might as well go large and punish the fish the times they do continue.
Curious About What People Are Calling Your Preflop Raises With? check out this article for more!
In discussing all of these raise sizes you notice that a large chunk of the time the larger raise size is going to be more profitable than the typical normal size. If there are a couple limpers one-two okay fine, the normal raise size is fine, but once there is 3, 4-5 limpers in front of me now all of a sudden you’re going to see a much larger raise size come through when I do decide to play. Either because one, I am trying to blow everyone else away and trying to pick up the pot pre-flop which I am totally okay with. Or two, there is some fishy player or there is some sort of value I can get in there and all of a sudden then I deem the larger raise size as more beneficial. By now you notice this goes counter to what a lot of players do. A lot of players are going to choose that normal typical $10, $12, $15 raise size, the table average, the table standard and that is typically just not going to be optimal. All that is doing is playing into other peoples comfort zones. If I am raising large and everyone is going away, I am okay with that because what is going to happen. I am either going to pick up a lot of uncontested pots pre-flop and those add up in a big way over the long run.
Otherwise they are going to adjust by starting to call me more, very few people are going to start trying to limp re-raise you. So we are creating a situation where we are forcing them to limp-call us with things like, Ace-9 suited, 7-6 suited, pocket 5’s that they don’t know what the heck to do with. Then they find themselves in a lot of complicated situations going post-flop. We as we have position, we have edge, we have initiative, and all these are in our favor. It creates an great situation for you and it takes people way out of their comfort zone, and you’re in your comfort zone, you can generates some huge edge in a big-big way.
Now just a last note, you may be sitting here reading this and thinking about this and saying “Don’t I turn my ranges a little face up? If I am not using the smaller raise size, then I am just limping behind with things that are semi-playable, that I need to see a flop with but they aren’t valuable enough to raise. And, I am raising large with my good hands, and maybe some bluffs and all that kind of stuff.” That’s true! It is a better fork, then going “Okay, I am going to raise $12 dollars when I have Ace-Jack. I’m going to raise $20 when I have Aces, and I’m going to limp behind when something like 7-6 suited.” Remember though, it is easier to throw more hands into your raising range when it’s large and you’re applying a lot of pressure. Rather then going small and all of a sudden your creating 3, 4, 5 way pots to the flop and you’re not really doing to much pre-flop. Getting people to relinquish their equity pre-flop is really valuable for us. If we can create situations where they relinquish or they start limp-calling with ranges that they don’t really know how to contend with post-flop you can start doing some real damage.
Hopefully this helps you get started when it comes to figuring out which strategy you want to choose pre-flop. I really love the large raise size, so few people try it, and if you haven’t tried it yet give it a whirl in your next session.
1. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your raise
2. Understand the limper’s mindset
3. Remember if they’re inelastic that larger raise size can be tricky because you’re going to shrink up SPR’s very quickly *hint just make sure to pick a range that performs well in a smaller SPR (not 44, but things like AK, AQ, TT and all that fun stuff!)
Have your own question? Ask your poker questions today and I’ll do my best to answer them in future articles, podcasts, or videos!