‘‘Never go broke in a limped pot.’’
That’s a popular saying you’ve probably have heard around the tables, usually uttered by an old timer.
It’s become common wisdom, and like a lot of the common wisdom in poker, it’s misinformed and antiquated.
It’s easy to see how this idea became popular. After all, a limped pot is the smallest pot possible to see a flop. Some would argue that there is no point in trying to figure out how to win such a small reward.
But there is the secret to limped pots in No Limit Hold’em that many never realize: they’re still pots.
You still want to win limped pots. They’re not as good as raised pots, but they’re definitely better than no pot at all. Easily giving them up to your opponents opens yourself to be exploited in a spot where you could have the advantage.
Basically, you should always be trying to win every pot (within reason), even if it’s a small one. At the end of the day winning a limped pot means more chips in your stack.
When to Play a Limped Pot
This one is simple, save for a few strategic exceptions, you should never limp in No Limit HoldEm.
You should pretty much only play limped pots when your opponent(s) decided to limp and your hand is not good enough to raise from the big blind.
As for those strategic exceptions, here are the 2 common ones:
- You decide it’s best to limp your entire continue range as the Small Blind in Blind vs Blind confrontations. This is a complex strategy that is very difficult to balance, but can be good against certain opponents.
- 3+ players limp in front of you. You’re in late position or the Small Blind and have a hand that isn’t strong enough to raise, but is also too strong to fold.
The first scenario is one not recommended unless you are an experienced player with a solid understanding of that spot. The second scenario is only prevalent in live games and is quite easy to understand, so I won’t dive into it too much.
In most situations however, limping from any position is a clear sign of weakness, allowing other players to exploit you. It just gives more loose aggressive players extra incentive to try to bully you out.
It’s more profitable if you let the limped pots come to you rather than creating them yourself.
This means that, when you do find yourself in a limped pot, you will usually be out of position. Let’s look at the best course of action with each hand type in that situation.
Big hands in Limped Pots
Let’s say your opponent limps and you check the big blind with
The Flop comes giving you top two pair.
What should you do?
Well first let’s start with what you shouldn’t do.
Don’t Lead the Flop
Think of what your opponent is getting out of your actions. If you start leading with good hands, what does that says about your checks? Now your checks are mostly going to be a lot of weak to middling hands, and you are giving away that information for very cheap.
A smart opponent will figure this out after a single showdown and be more aggressive against your checks.
If you want to move up in stakes and be successful, you have to learn to balance your range a lot better than that. Balancing is easy if you just check all of your hands on the flop and wait for your opponent’s bet before putting money in the limped pot.
Note: Always assume that your opponents are watching and judging your actions, even in low stakes games. Unless you want to stay where you are forever, your game has to be ready for stronger opponents.
Always remember, poker is poker, your A-game should know no stakes.
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When Facing a Bet
If your opponent bets, it’s fine to either call or raise. Consider your opponent’s aggression factor and the board texture when deciding which line to take.
- Strong and/or aggressive opponents are likely to continue betting on later streets, so it’s better to call and allow for your opponents to hang themselves later. After all if they’re bluffing and you raise, they’ll probably just fold and you’ll miss out on their potential turn and river bluff.
- Weak and/or passive opponents are going to have much lower turn and river bet frequency. Against these players it’s often better to raise now and have a chance to build the pot with a good hand. Tight players are much more apt to make big folds on later streets, so getting that flop value is key.
If you encounter aggression after raising you will have to continue. In our example above, your top two pair only gets beat by a set. Don’t be afraid to raise for value when necessary and don’t ever feel bad if you play a big pot with a good hand and run into a bigger one. It happens and it’s unavoidable, just move on.
When raising, make sure the board texture makes sense to raise. Remember you checked out of the Big Blind, so you can’t go for check/raises if the board isn’t favorable for a Big Blind check range. A couple examples of bad boards to check/raise any hand are:
To summarize: When playing big hands in limped pots:
- Don’t lead bet out of position
- Don’t be afraid to raise the flop if it’s the right spot.
- Consider your opponent’s aggression factor and the EV of later streets when deciding what line to take.
Playing Draws in Limped Pots
Its easy to want to risk some chips in a limped pot when you know you’re ahead, but what about when you need to catch up? Let’s look at draws in limped pots.
Like with big hands, you should play your draws in limped pots as you would in normal pots. Small stakes poker is still poker, and a limped pot is still a pot, remember that.
It’s important to not play all your draws in a single fashion. Remember to keep a balanced range with a mix of aggressive and passive play.
Weak Draws in Limped Pots
For example, you take a flop in a limped pot from the big blind with
Hands like this will usually flop the weakest possible draws such as:
- Gutshot Straight Draws on
- Weak One Card Flush Draws on
You are going to deal with low flush draws, gutshots and hands with little/no showdown value. These hands will usually be best to check/fold on both the flop and the turn.
They can be decent hands to use as a bluff if the flop checks around against particularly tight opponents or if you turn extra equity, but be very careful to not overdo it.
Strong 8 Out+ Draws in Limped Pots
This time your 84o gets a flop of:
Play hands like these in a similar fashion to how we play our big hands in limped pots.
Against weak opponents who are likely to fold on later streets playing these draws aggressively is a reasonable move. It’s a chance to build a pot and get more value out of your draw if completed, but you’ll more than likely just force a lot of folds.
Against a strong opponent who might bet on later streets, it’s better to call and get a relatively cheap turn. If you hit your straight on the turn they’ll have the opportunity to hang themselves with their misplaced confidence.
Once again, you must always be conscious of what your opponent could be thinking about your game. If you play strong draws as aggressively as strong made hands, you have a better shot at balancing your range.
Now when playing aggressively, you could either have a strong hand or a good draw, not one or the other.
Playing aggressively doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a free card when presented to you. You still shouldn’t lead on the flop with strong draws in limped pots.
Bluffing With Draws
This is a sore subject, as it’s not uncommon for people to get stacked in small pots while holding a draw. However, it is ok to sometimes try to bluff in small pots..
- Be careful with the hands you choose to bluff. Even if it was just a limp, your opponent did voluntarily put money in the pot and you are out of position, giving them a fundamental advantage in the hand. Remember that when selecting which hands to use as bluffs and be careful not to go overboard.
- Use your better draws. If you will bluff, make sure it’s with something that has a good chance to improve, just in case you run into trouble. It’s much better to make a move with an open ender than 92s against a billionaire.
- Don’t play every draw aggressively, trying to bluff. This is the natural conclusion we should’ve arrived at from the previous two. Never be aggressive just to be aggressive, always have a solid reason for each decision.
Now you know not to limp, but there are 6 other common preflop mistakes and it’s incredibly important to make sure you are not making any of them.
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I’m a professional poker player and one of the pros here on UpswingPoker.com.
I’m a WSOP Bracelet winner, LAPT (Latin American Poker Tour) tournament winner and a multi-million dollar winner of live & online tournaments.