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Limping In - Poker

The term ‘limping in’ (adj – to limp) in poker terms refers to when a player places the minimum bet to continue with the hand. Generally speaking, slow playing a hand shows weakness. The expected play for players with strong hands is to raise. I say expected as this isn’t necessarily how best to play the hand – however betting shows strength, calling / limping / slow playing shows perceived weakness. A player limping in or slow playing is showing that he doesn’t want to commit a lot of chips to see the flop, or the next card - .i.e. the player doesn’t yet have a made hand and wants to make his hand before betting it up. Either that or it’s a bluff and that is what he wants you to think.

 

Limping in advertises a no confidence vote in a hand and encourages players to counteract with a raise. It is such a blatant tell that you can use it to your advantage, both when you have a big hand and also when you' have a drawing hand and want to see a cheap flop. Used at the right time, and it is a very effective way of getting more out of your opponent, than would otherwise have been possible had you initially raised and advertised your strength from the word go.


Trapping an Opponent

Limping into a pot can be used to trap an opponent into making a bet and is particularly useful when playing against aggressive players. If you were dealt a premium hand and there is a player or two at the table that raise at every opportunity, it might be a good strategy to show weakness to induce play. Aggressive opponents will be very aware that you know they are aggressive. When you open raise, they are less likely to come over the top of you without a strong hand. Limping in will almost certainly attract the attention of an aggressive player, who will also likely post a continuation bet on the flop.

 

Also available is the option to limp raise in an effort to isolate the two of you in the current hand (if you have a strong hand, you don’t want more than 2-3 in the pot). There is a small downside in that you may lose value from your hand if the opponent folds to your re-raise after the limp or you scare players out of the pot before they hit a piece of the board. It largely depends on the players you are up against.

A common trap is to limp in with one of the top 3 starting hands (AA, KK or QQ) and then either shove after the initial raise or just give them the rope and let them hang themselves. This can be particularly effective if there are players going all in frequently, possibly in the later stages of a tournament, where players are playing for the blinds.


The Dangers of Limping in

Sometimes limping in with a monster will work and sometimes it won't. You sometimes need to speculate to accumulate and limping does just that. When it works, it was the right move, and when it doesn’t, it wasn’t. The danger however in limping in and not raising the pot initially is that players will enter the pot that might have otherwise folded, as it's cheap to do so and they might be getting a good price to see a flop with any two cards. As a result, players will limp in with rag cards and out-flop you, which can be painful. If you want to take down bigger pots, this is the risk you take. There is a trade off here. The question is, do you accept a little more risk for greater reward, or do you play it safe? If you are up against a passive table, limping isn't a good play. There is no right or wrong however often slow playing can induce action, which against aggressive players ultimately means greater rewards.

 

Another danger in limping in is that it doesn't do your image any favors, unless of course, that's the intention. If you have a big hand, the only way to get paid is to build the pot. You build the pot by betting into it.

 

The Calling Stations

Calling station is the term branded to players who have to call everything. The slightest sniff and they’re in there. These players don’t last long however we do need to factor them into our plays. If your table has a number of calling stations, there isn’t much point in slow playing your hand. After all, there is an increased chance that they will call your bet, so give them something to chase.


Dealing with Players who have a tendency to limp

All players like to slow play at some time or another, some more than others. Keep a mental note of players and their playing habits. There will be a significant amount of information on offer, if you are playing for a sustained period of time. Using this information can be beneficial – it will tell you which players tend to disguise their hands. You should take extra care trying to bluff these players as you will know that they like to slow play big hands.

 

You should soon be able to tell whether players like to limp in all the time, whether they limp with marginal hands or whether they are mixing it up and limping with a mix of big hands and weak hands. How often do they defend against the 3-bet? If they tend not to defend (.i.e. they seem to be limping with weak hands), keep the pressure up and make them pay to see cards.


Buying a look

If you are on the cut-off or the button, you are in prime position to limp more than most. The more flops you see the better, as long as your cards are within your pre flop starting range. If you always enter the hand when it is expensive, your stack is going to dwindle. The cheaper you can get to see the flop, the more opportunity you are going to have to make your hand and take down the pot. This is more relevant when there are multiple players who have all limped in. When you hit, players with top pair or draws will find it very difficult to get away from the hand without committing more to the pot. This is a time to raise it up and make them pay to play.

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