Why Open Limping Is Bad In NLHE

As a general rule, if you are first in the pot in a no limit hold'em game, it's preferable to enter in with a raise than just calling the blinds, or limping. This tactic isn't called limping for nothing, and while you never just want to adapt an inflexible rule like this without considering its implications, as you will see, we most often want to avoid making this often weak play.

So I will start out by explaining why open limping is generally weak, then we will look at some situations where it may be worth considering anyway. The thing to keep in mind here throughout though is that all poker tactics and strategies aren't just in a vacuum, in other words, just looking at your own play, or against a number of random opponents. The play and tendencies of your opponents factors into all decisions, and usually factors into things pretty significantly, so we need to always keep that in mind.

One of the main reasons that open limping doesn't work so well is that players often use it as a means to see a flop cheaply, with a hand that perhaps does not merit a raise. So it will have these players playing more loosely, and in a lot of cases, opponents will pick up on this and end up raising the limp.

So you didn't want to put in a raise, but now you have to call one just to keep from having to toss it. So you didn't want to commit that much to this hand, so you are forced to choose between two options, calling or folding.

If you call, well this is all presumably a mistake since you didn't want to commit that much money to the hand anyway, and although the pot odds may have changed, this is simply a wishy washy way to play poker.

If you end up throwing the hand away to a raise, then you've just wasted money here, as you put money into the pot for nothing. Solid players may consider the risk of being raised and in cases where the table is pretty passive pre-flop, they may think that the risk is worth it, but they are almost always just deceiving themselves.

Given that these hands are marginal at best, when you factor in the money lost by limp folding, you don't have to be doing this very often at all to make the play unprofitable overall, and often extremely unprofitable.

When we have a real hand, we generally want to play it aggressively, which means opening with a raise. This is the case as well if people have limped behind you, and given that this is a mistake for them generally, you want to make them pay for it if you have the means to do so. At some smaller stake tables you may see someone limp and then several players follow, but playing follow the leader isn't something we want to do ourselves.

Open limping can occasionally be used as a weapon though if you have a hand which is good enough for a raise, and you want to build the pot, and you feel that by limping you can build it more. For instance, if you have a premium hand, and you are confident that your limp will be attacked, this can work to your advantage.

It's important not to overuse this play though, to the extent that opponents will be wise to it and lay off it, whereby you end up with smaller pots, the opposite of what you intended. Other than that, it's generally wise to play your cards aggressively and stay away from open limping pre-flop unless you have a genuine good reason to do so.



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