A common strategy that many beginner poker players use is to call a lot preflop. Their thought is that by calling a lot preflop, they increase their chances of hitting the flop. But by simply calling (as opposed to raising), it’s cheap for them to do so. So they don’t lose much when they miss the flop and have to fold.
However great an idea that is to you, I’m here to tell you that being the first to enter the pot and just calling or limping in is a bad strategy. In the long run it’s a losing one.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Open-Limp
Note: Just to be clear, my focus is on open limping — being the first to act and just calling preflop instead of raising it. This is a much worse strategy compared to over limping, which is calling after several players have already limped in front of you.
Lose Big, Win Small
Open limping sets you up for mediocrity right out the gate. If not out-right failure.
Beginners that open limp aren’t doing it to hit the flop and fold. They do it to try to see flops cheap and when they flop, win a pot.
The problem with this approach is hitting the flop, but not with a strong hand. Like having J9o on a 9-8-2 two-suit flop. Yeah, you have top pair — but it’s not that great of a top pair. A beginner will go broke here. They won’t fold, so they lose a big pot. Or they call one or two bets only to fold on the river. Whatever the reason, they lose a lot of chips.
On the other hand, if you limp in with a big hand like KK, the pot you stand to win is small. It’s difficult to build a pot when you don’t raise preflop, let alone build it to the point that enables you to get stacks in should it make sense too.
Either way, you don’t get started on the right foot. If you’re hand is not good enough to raise preflop, you should question whether it’s worth playing. If you’re not sure, ask yourself if you’re willing to go broke with it. Aces – yes. J9o – no.
Out of Position
Limping in preflop is going to lead to you playing out of position more often than not. Even limping in the hi-jack or cutoff will, just because the button will realize how profitable it is to isolate you and play you in position.
I’ve covered the importance of table position in another article. Being out of position is such a huge disadvantage because…
- You have less information than your opponent on all betting rounds.
- You have no idea what your opponent will do after you act.
- You lose more money out of position.
- The best hands can still be awkward to play.
- Bluffing is more difficult to pull off.
- You have no control over the size of the pot.
Ultimately, playing out of position is a bad idea. But you’ll be in those positions often if you limp preflop.
Limping in preflop is a bad idea because it starts to build the pot, but keeps it super cheap for other players to come along. For example, if there is 30 chips in the pot and 5 people limp in for 20, the pot is 130 and only 20 chips to call for the 6th guy. He’s getting crazy odds and can come along with pretty much any two cards.
This is bad for you, especially if you limp in with any sort of hand that is vulnerable to being out flopped. For example, if you open limp pocket 99s and you get 5 callers, you have to hit a set to continue after the flop. Chances are that you’ll be outdrawn and have to fold otherwise.
The more players that are in a pot the weaker your hand is. It doesn’t matter what it is. For example, if you have pocket aces versus another player with a wide hand range, say 38% – pocket pairs, most suited aces, kings and suited connectors, you’re 85% to win preflop. However, add another player with that exact hand range and you’re chances to win drop to 66%. In a 5-way pot (assuming all players have a 38% range), your chances to win are nearly 50%.
That’s not that extreme of an example either. If you limp in and start creating a profitable situation for the other players to limp in too, do you not think they’ll come along with hands like T8s, JT or a pair of 22s?
It’d be dumb for them not to. If you raise it would be smart for them to fold. So make it easy for them to decide.
Another problem that comes with open-limping preflop is that you have no initiative postflop. In other words, you’ve shown no strength, so it would be out of character to show a lot of strength postflop without the other players becoming suspicious.
This creates a problem if you miss the flop and want to c-bet. Your opponent is going to have a difficult time believing a continuation bet when your hand was apparently not good enough to raise with preflop.
A lack of initiative makes it hard to c-bet. That means you’re missing out on a lot of (relatively) easy money.