Is Open-Limping Ever A Good Play?

Today’s question comes from Justin V. He says:

“Generally, it seems bad to open-limp and limp weak hands like suited kings and suited queens, especially small suited aces, in a very early position. What about extremely passive 1/2 NLHE live games with calling stations? Should one adjust, ‘making a mistake’ to exploit the tendencies of bad players? Thanks.”

Justin, that’s a great question. One of the big things we need to keep in mind, is why we generally don’t open-limp. Once we understand that, then we can understand situations where open-limping makes more sense and could actually be a better play.

We normally don’t open-limp, because it’s a very weak, passive thing and normally we want to be very aggressive. One of the other things that open-limping does is it opens you up for people to isolate you. You limp, someone raises, smashes you, and puts you in a very uncomfortable situation.

If you’re open-limping with a very, very predictable range, say suited connectors, small pairs, that sort of thing, it’s really, really easy for someone to isolate and beat you because your ranges are very, very, very face up. It’s very difficult to balance that appropriately.

It’s even difficult to balance it if you’re going to try to do a limp re-raising strategy or if you’re going to try to limp aces to be tricky. Typically, it’s very, very difficult to balance that. Typically it’s not going to be something that we want to be doing a lot of the time, because we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we’re making a predictable action with a predictable range and allowing players to aggress us very, very easily. This is something we definitely want to avoid in our game.

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To answer your question, when would be an appropriate time to consider doing this and would a 1/2 passive live game be that appropriate situation, I might start open-limping in games where my raising isn’t really doing anything. Say I would raise with pocket 44 and still end up getting five or six callers and wouldn’t really be able to bluff continuation bet in that pot.

I also thought that if I were to limp, that I wouldn’t get isolated. Like a really, really passive game where people are only really pre-flop raising with super big hands, limping everything else behind or just generally not fighting and contending for that isolation situation. If that’s what’s going on in your game and that’s the exact dynamic, I don’t mind open-limping things like small pairs and suited connectors that I really need to get involved with, even from early position.

It’s still not something that I want to be doing a ton of, and often times I don’t find this dynamic is always present, even in 1/2 games. If it is there and you know that you can limp and you know you’re not going to get punished for it and you still need to be able to see the pot and you know that raising isn’t really going to do what you want it to do, this could easily be a way to get involved in pots and get involved with weak players without raising and putting yourself in a situation where you really have to smash the board anyway to do anything.

One last little thing that I want to throw in here just to make sure I’m clarifying and answering as best as possible, is you mention early position specifically in your question. Now, when I’m doing it from here, even if I do deem this a good situation to start doing some open-limping, traditionally small pairs, suited connectors that I need to get involved with, those will be considered part of my open-limping range, but I’m usually not going to go crazy here. I’m still not going to throw things like K4s and Q8s typically into this range. Even things like A6s, I’m typically not going to, unless there’s like a tremendous amount of stack depth or like a super, super real reason that I need to do it.

Typically I still don’t want to because I’m going to be out of position going post-flop and oftentimes you assume that in a game like this you’re going to be out of position in a very multi-way pot and that can be very tricky, so keep that in mind. You don’t want to be just open-limping anything that’s suited and looks to be sort of playable, like 56o or anything like that, you still want to be pretty damned selective here. But there are some situations, and again, in some dynamics where this can be okay.

So Justin, thanks for the great question.

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