How To Deal With (And Profit From!) Serial Limpers
Whenever I find an opponent who tries to see every flop in a tournament or SNG with a limp, or maybe a flat call of a small raise I remember Jim. Jim was a successful business owner who used to play in the same loose homegame crowd as I did and would limp every damn time. When queried he would laugh and say that the flop could hit any hand, and you would never know whether he hit or missed!
Actually we did know, since he bet big when strong and checked then folded when he missed. Fortunately Jim was enjoying himself and the stakes we played were unlikely to ever make a dent on his fortune.
Back to the present day, you will find a lot of limpers in online poker tournaments. Some may know about starting hands and just not really care, others may be new to the game and just wanting to play and get involved. While experienced players know that limping is rarely a great play, it can sometimes be a puzzle to work out the best response to other people always limping-in in different situations.
This article will start with early game limpers, looking at isolating bad players. Next I’ll look at how to deal with limpers in the mid to late game, when stack sizes have a big influence on your decision making. Finally, a note about my favorite type of limper – those who only ever do this with monster hands!
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Limpers In Online Poker Tournaments – Early Game Limpers
When someone calls every time pre-flop, limps even from late position and has no idea about hand selection or the advantages of taking the lead in a hand, you should quickly color-code them and add a note. These are the kind of players you want to play against as often as possible, especially when you combine other tendencies – such as making oversized raises then they are strong.
What will often happen is one limper will cause a string of other calls behind them. Some people will call with their connectors, suited aces, broadway card combos and so on. As there are more limps in the pot the odds get better and better, causing people with even weaker holdings to flick in that extra cash.
You can win a lot more chips by raising, causing players after you to fold their speculative hands and playing a pot with the weak limper alone. By raising 3x or 4x the blinds you are likely to get an exclusive shot at the weak player’s chips. If they are predictable have the added advantage of being able to tell when they do hit the flop (they will often check-raise) and get out of the way. Because they miss most of the time you can easily take control post-flop and often win a big pot.
Risks Of Isolating
The biggest risk when isolating a weak player is that someone still to act in the hand figures out what you are doing and re-raises the hand. Since you will often be weak in these situations you’ll lose your bets when this happens. In the smallest games ($11 and under especially) there are very few players capable of this – and a re-raise is usually with the top 5% of hands. Isolating from late position, where there are only a couple of players still to act, will further reduce the probability of you being ‘squeezed’.
Another risk is that the weak player has a little piece of the flop and is not capable of folding, not being experienced to notice your ‘obvious’ strength. You can somewhat counter this by isolating with the best of the hands you might have usually just called or folded pre-flop. Hands with a little showdown value or card removal work well in these spots as a defense against the weak player calling bets on a thin draw (for example a gutshot straight draw).
Limpers In Online Poker Tournaments – Mid To Late Game Limps
When someone constantly limps (or makes small raises) in the later part of poker tournaments then stack sizes should be the first thing you consider. Since a re-raise can often commit you – mathematically – to calling off the rest of your stack.
For example, if you have 15 times the big blind, a limper comes in and you decide to isolate by raising to 3 times the blind with a good but not fantastic hand. The limper now shoves his remaining 14 blind stack into the pot. Taking into account blinds and antes we have 20 blinds in total in the pot and it costs you 12 more to see a showdown. Those are usually good enough odds to call with any hand you used for isolating – however you would have preferred not to get those chips committed in this situation.
There are two remedies to these situations. The first is to shove all-in with those hands you would have used to isolate. While this can be effective, there is a risk of someone behind you waking up with a real hand, plus extra big or extra short stacked opponents will often call you wide in these spots. The second is to make a smaller raise, 2.3x the blind for example. Here you might isolate someone cheaply, however you might also encourage other players to enter the hand – putting you in a nasty ‘sandwich’ between the initial limper and a couple of callers after the flop.
Of course, you can use the fact that other players will isolate limpers (or generally bad players) in this way to your advantage. If you see someone making this ‘move’ then take a note and squeeze them both out of the pot with a timely 4-bet! This is a great way of boosting your stack, try it near the bubble and watch all but the strongest hands fold!
Limpers In Online Poker Tournaments – The ‘Out Of The Blue’ Limp
So far I have been talking about those players who limp into pots all the time. Another type of player to look out for will normally raise if they play a hand, then will suddenly limp in when they have aces or kings (maybe queens / ace-king too) – either looking to reraise with them pre-flop or to slowplay their hand for several streets.
This is my favorite type of player for one reason. When they do raise you know they have not got a strong hand… Depending on their calling tendencies you can use this information to re-raise them off of their weaker hands. You can also use this information for hand-reading after the flop. If your stack size allows for it, you can call with a wide range of speculative hands when a 'premium hand limper' comes in, small pairs, suited connectors and suited aces can all hit hidden monsters - and these same players are rarely good enough to fold their aces after the flop, even when it is obvious that their hand is in trouble.
If keep your eyes open there are plenty of players who do this. Misguided souls who believe that poker is all about appearing smarter than your opponents to the rest of the table – rather than about making money!
Limpers In Online Poker Tournaments – The Most Profitable Tournaments, With The Worst Players!
My advice as always is to seek out ‘networks’ of poker sites which include big sports-betting or casino brands in addition to their poker rooms. This will ensure that there is a lot of cross-over traffic, much of it having little or no poker experience… this keeps the games ultra soft and often includes the ‘every hand limpers’ I described in this article.