Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2009.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 146: Limping
I once again visited Mike’s forum, called simply Mike Caro Poker, at www.DoyleBrunson.com/forum. You can receive answers to questions from Doyle or Mike.
A question was raised concerning appropriate times to limp with a hand. For those of you just entering the poker arena, limp (often “limp-in”) is a term used when you choose to call instead of raise, sometimes with an inspiring hand.
Mike says that it is acceptable to occasionally limp-in with an impressive hand instead of barging in with a raise. The drawback to this strategy is that you take the risk of more players challenging the pot, increasing the chances of you losing to a competitor. But, the upside is that you can frequently win bigger pots and average more profit in the long run. Short term it’s a bigger risk.
An added advantage is that opponents are often confused, because you didn’t raise before the flop. Mike says that your pot odds increase when you merely limp into a pot, as you’re involving less of your money to see if the flop meets your needs. If the flop is agreeable, then you proceed having less invested, but with a better chance of others having contributed to the pot.
Many hold ’em players have testified that limping can be a profitable strategy. If they have a hand they like, for example, AQ or AJ in a middle position, it may not merit raising. So, they often choose to be cautious and merely call instead. This action allows them to view the pot inexpensively with hands that aren’t the most ideal. As you know, those cards can occasionally be a bitter disillusionment. So, if the flop doesn’t help, they can lay down without suffering further damage to their bankroll. If the flop does help, they’ve invested less for the chance to attain a larger reward. However, keep in mind that the most profitable way to play a hand like AJ is often to fold.
Yes, Mike says that it’s even acceptable to limp-in with AK for a cheap peek at the flop, just to see if you’ll connect. You shouldn’t do that very often, but it’s okay as an alternative. The act of raising risks being costly — costly in that you might chase out the very players that you want participating and donating money to your cause. There are times that you don’t want to discourage opponents from joining in the pot. “When are those times?” you ask. Well, one of the lessons that Mike teaches is that you want weak players in the pot. If a lot of weak players remain to act after you raise, then you’ve probably frightened your most-profitable players out of the pot. Limping is ideal with a quality hand when weak players haven’t had a chance to act.
But, there are players who think limping is a weak move and can damage an aggressive image. Furthermore, they believe that you should be endeavoring to discourage others from joining in the pot. Mike disagrees with this reasoning. Often you shouldn’t want to keep players out of the pot, since you’ll gain monetarily when there are more players, especially weak ones involved.
Sometimes, strangely, limping is a choice that conveys the right image. If you want weak players in the pot, you’ll often wish to limp-in to prevent intimidating them. In general, Mike says an intimidating, but friendly, image is best. But you don’t want to scare weak opponents out of the pot, either, so tone down your aggression when weak players wait. Even if faced with an aggressive opponent, you may choose to merely limp-in and let him do the betting and raising, disguising the strength of your hand in the process.
Just remember, limping is a tactic for occasional use; don’t overdo it. — DM