passive poker tables strategy

2 Strategies You Need to Crush Passive Tables

Playing against passive opposition might be easier than you think. It’s very easy to realize equity against these players because of how rarely they bet, and that incentivizes you to use more aggressive strategies both preflop and postflop.

In this article, we’ll discuss those aggressive strategies, and how to play against one move in particular that is characteristic of most live poker players — namely, limping. We’ll also touch on how to approach multiway pot situations, which are very common in live poker.

Preflop adjustments versus limpers

When playing live, the most important aspect of our strategy is how we play against limpers. This is due to how often players limp in live games.

When a player limps, there is a very good chance that he a recreational player. However, that doesn’t mean you should iso-raise him with any two cards.

Iso-raising is when you raise preflop after a player limps. The goal of this play is to isolate the limper in a heads-up pot postflop.

A professional boxer wouldn’t swing wildly against an average non-fighter. Instead, he would carefully outmaneuver and out-punch his opponent until he knocked him out. There’s no reason for the boxer to allow for unnecessary risk.

Likewise, you shouldn’t let down your guard despite very probably being the better player. Your edge comes from knowing how to maneuver through the hand, and how to extract more value with good hands and lose less with bad ones.

Without any prior information, a limp doesn’t mean an opponent has a weak range. His limping range might very well be made of QQ+ and AK for all you know. Or maybe it’s only suited connectors and small pocket pairs.

Whatever the case may be, you need to begin from a conservative position and pay attention to the hands he shows down and to how often he limps. Only then can you make big adjustments.

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There are many factors that should impact your iso-raising strategy, such as how often your opponent limp-folds — that is, folds to a raise after limping. For example, if he limp-folds a decent amount, you can loosen your requirements for iso-raising since you have added fold equity preflop, which allows you to profit with a wider range of hands.

Here’s a list of 7 factors and how they should impact your iso-raising strategy against an opponent who limps (feel free to save this infographic to reference later):

versus limp at passive tables

As you can see, there are a lot of variables that influence an iso-raising strategy. Unfortunately, there are no fixed ranges that I or anyone can give you to play in these spots. You really just have to adjust and re-adjust as you play and learn more about your opponents.

Here are a few “vs Limp” ranges from the live poker section of the Upswing Lab to help you get started:

passive tables

Keep in mind these ranges assume there is exactly one limper. You should play slightly tighter and raise to a larger size versus multiple limpers.

The red hands are easy: just raise with them every time. The light blue hands should be raised, limped, or folded depending on the factors above.

For example, let’s say you’re in middle position and a player limps from early position. You know the limper is a weak player who often limp-folds. Additionally, none of the players behind are particularly aggressive. So, you should play loose and iso-raise with all of the light blue hands (A9s, A5s, KTs, QTs, J9s, 98s, 87s, 76s, 66, 55). 

When should you limp behind?

Limping behind (or over-limping) is rarely the correct move theoretically, but that doesn’t mean you should never do it. There are some hands that are not quite strong enough to iso-raise with but are too strong to just throw into the muck. These borderline hands are what you want to limp behind with.

Before I show you some specific hands, you need to know a couple of factors that should make you avoid limping like the plague:

  • If you have one or more aggressive players behind, avoid over-limping. These players will iso-raise too often which renders your limp -EV.
  • If you are not in late position or in the small blind, avoid over-limping. Limping in earlier positions is usually too risky because one of the many players behind can wake up with a strong hand and iso-raise.

Here is what an over-limping range from the button might look like:

passive tables from btn

Green = Over-limp, Blue = Not in Range

And here is what an over-limping range from the SB might look like:

Green = Over-limp, Blue = Not in Range

The small blind range is much wider because your pot odds are insanely good. You only need to invest half a big blind more in order to win the 2.5 already in the pot (5-to-1).

Learn more about playing vs. limpers in my guide How to Destroy an Open-Limper.

How to play multiway pots

The other important facet of playing live poker, and especially against passive tables, is your strategy in multiway pots. In most low-to-mid stakes live games, almost every pot goes multiway to the flop, and so it’s important to understand how it impacts your strategy.

Unlike heads-up pots, we do not have software that can generate strong GTO solutions for multiway pots (meaning we can’t discover and prove what the best approach is). The best we have is PokerSnowie. I suggest any serious live grinder invest in this software as its multiway solutions are likely at least somewhat close to optimal.

Probably the most important aspect to understand about playing against multiple players is that they essentially act as an enemy unit. That is to say, you shouldn’t see them as individual players. Rather, treat them as a single unit which is much stronger than any single player. This will help you understand just how much your range suffers versus multiple players.

For this reason, it seems like the best strategy is a very tight and passive one, consisting of mostly checking and folding. Exciting stuff! When betting, as a general guideline, I suggest playing a very value-heavy strategy with very little bluffing.

To give you some more insight on multiway pots, including which bet size works best, here’s a clip featuring Upswing Lab coaches Mike Finstein and Ryan Fee:

(Lab members can watch the full video here.)

And here are a couple of quick reads that will bolster your understanding of multiway pots:


Playing at passive tables can be a relaxing way of printing money with the correct strategy. Make sure you stay disciplined and humble enough and not start spewing chips away just because you are playing against weaker players.

That’s all for this article! I hope you’ve enjoyed it and that you found it useful. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback don’t hesitate to use the comment section down below.

Till next time. Good luck, grinders!

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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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