Open limping is never good at any limit, but it is even more transparent in the micro stakes. An open limp is when a player enters the pot for nothing more than the big blind. If there is a raise ahead and a player makes a call, it is not considered an open limp. There are many arguments against open limping, and few arguments in support of open limping. The players who think that open limping is a profitable play, however, are almost certainly losing players. There are so many reasons to adapt an aggressive playing style instead of a lazy, passive, open limping playing style. No Limit games are built for unrelented aggression; by limping into a pot, you are sacrificing your ability to make plays and put pressure on your opponents.
As bad as open limping is, there are some situations where limping behind other players will make perfect sense. There is a significant difference between limping behind other callers and being the first to enter the pot with a limp, though. If you are in late position with a small pocket pair, for example, limping in will be the most viable move when there are other players already in the pot for the minimum. Raising in this spot will seldom garner folds from everyone, and it will reduce the inherent value that your hand has when it is able to flop a set. In addition to small pocket pairs, suited connector type hands are also great candidates for late position limps. This is just about where the limping range ends, though, so don’t be looking to enter a ton of pots in late position just because it would be cheap. If you start to play too many pots simply because it will cost you a relatively small amount, eventually you will be chipping away at a significant amount of your bankroll. One limp here and one limp there is a perfect recipe for a decreased or eliminated win rate.
Why Open Limping is Bad
Open limping is bad for many reasons, with some being more obvious than others. The first reason that an open limp is bad is because it makes your hand very see-through. Unless you are trying to get tricky with a big hand (which, by the way, is a bad idea in micro stakes games), the best plan of action is to make a raise with any hand that is truly worth playing. Pretend that you have JQ off suit in early position while sitting in a 50NL full ring game. This is the type of hand that a lot of weak 50NL players would look to limp in with. Instead of limping in, though, you should simply toss it into the muck. You might think that you are sacrificing a fair amount of value by mucking your hand without even seeing the flop, but this just isn’t the case. The truth is that a hand like JQ, JK, QT etc. is just not that strong in position, let alone out of position.
If you have a hand like 66, 77, 88 etc. as opposed to JQ or JK, however, you should be looking to see the flop. The best play with these hands in early position is to make an open raise to get the action started. When you raise, you will either get folds around the table, or you will get a few callers. In either situation, there is a lot of room for profitability. On the occasions where you happen to face some opposition, it will be easy to let go of your hand and move onto the next one. This is another reason that making open raises with mid range to decent hands is beneficial. Instead of limping in and being faced with a tough decision, you are putting the pressure on your opponents. Plus, when you end up getting re-raise, you will have lost a minimal amount. It is much better to raise and have a good shot at winning than it is to limp in and reduce your chances of success significantly. An open limp says, “Hey, I don’t have much, so I will enter for the minimum.” A good opponent will see this and pounce on your weakness. Don’t be weak and don’t play scared, unless you hate money, of course.
Arguments for Open Limping
There are plenty of players who will argue to the death that open limping is a smart play. More than 9 times out of 10, however, these players are not turning a legitimate profit. Some of the most common arguments for open limping include, but are not limited to:
“Open limping is a cheap way to see the flop.”
-Is open limping a cheap way to see the flop? Yes, of course it is. Now, think about how many times a small, miniscule, weak investment has paid off for you in life, let alone at the poker table. A cheap way to see the flop also means a cheap way to try and get paid off. If you aren’t willing to let your cards (and more importantly, money) do the talking, you should skip out on the hand altogether.
“If I hit I will get paid off.”
-While it is true that your hand will be deceptive, it is hardly a guarantee that you will get paid off. Say that you limp into the pot in early position with a hand like JQ off suit. If it limps around and the flop comes JQ7, how many hands do you really think are going to pay you off? It is very unlikely that someone is going to have AQ if they limped in, any random jack will be able to find a fold, and draws have a lot of equity against your two pair. In other words, your hand is deceptive, but it isn’t going to matter. Sure there will be some rare occasions where you get all of your money in the middle, but don’t expect to have your opponent(s) crushed.
“If I miss I can give up and lose the minimum.”
-Yes! That is correct, but wait a second, you did say “lose,” right? Since when is the goal of poker to lose? If you are entering a pot with the mindset that you are positioned to lose the least, you are already setting yourself up for failure. One of the many benefits to making an open raise is the assumed strength that you will be able to utilize in an attempt to push opponents off their hands. When you open limp, few players are going to give you credit for a strong holding, especially when you wind up bricking the flop. Continuation bets and general post-flop aggression are huge money makers for winning players, just as a passive open limp is a huge money waster for losing players.