QuickFact #12: You Can Isolate One Limper Light, But Never Two
In many cases, limping behind is markedly better than raising over limpers. First, it keeps the pot small, which on the surface may seem like a bad thing because, after all, don’t we want to build big pots in position as often as possible? Building pots in position can make you a lot of money, but not when you’re doing it with marginal hands that risk being dominated in multi-way pots. Keeping the pot smaller works well because it encourages opponents to play more straightforwardly, thereby allowing more steal opportunities.
Raising over limpers causes the pot to be bigger post-flop, which means that player’s are more willing to fight for the pot and stack off lighter. In limped pots, players tend to check-fold more easily because there is less money in the pot to fight for. What this means is that many times the action checks through, you can steal four or five big blinds without facing much resistance.
Next, raising over limpers won’t get you HU or even 3-way nearly as often as in NLHE, simply because most players understand that people rarely limp with the intention of limp-folding, which means that players behind you can count on getting a good price on calling a raise since there will be more money put into the pot behind them.
THE RETURN OF “THE BIG THREE”
As always, pre-flop decisions must be centered on what type of post-flop situation is generated based on the Big Three. Before we get into what kinds of hands are good to limp behind with, let’s take a look at what kind of scenario is created when we limp behind.
When we choose to limp behind, the post-flop scenario will usually be a deep-stacked, multi-way pot in position. So what kind of hands should we play then? The best hands to limp behind with are nutty, polarized, bare single-component hands. In general, nutty and polarized hands such as 9♦8♥7♠5♣, A♥9♣6♠4♥ and weak Aces and Kings like multi-way pots because they hit a few select flops very hard, but raising over limpers and building pots with hands like these won’t do you much good in the long run. Raising over limpers with hands like these instead of limping behind builds the pot with hands that don’t flop strong often enough.
Remember, the more players there are in the pot, the less poker that is played. When pots are 4-way or more, the action resorts to a “who flopped the nuts and who didn’t contest”. More often than not these hands won’t flop very strong, which means you are raising pre-flop for the sake of sweetening the pot for someone else. Plus, since hands like these are so polarized, having the option to check behind and realize some equity doesn’t matter very much since they don’t pick up equity on very many turns.
HANDS TO OPEN, BUT NOT ISOLATE
There are mainly three categories of hands that can be opened profitably in late position, but that you should avoid isolating with.
The first types of hands are the disconnected double-suited hands, like Q♣8♦4♣2♦. The second are the single-suited weak three card hands, like T♦9♥7♣4♦, and the last group is the semi-connected low-mid pocket pairs, like 8♣8♥7♣3♠.
It makes sense that these hands play terribly in a multi-way single raised pot, because the one characteristic they all share is low nuttiness, which is undesirable in a multi-way pot. The difference between being the first to open the pot in late position from limping behind or isolating limpers, is that when you open raise, there is a reasonable chance of getting the pot heads-up in position. If you limp behind or isolate a limper with these hands, you’ll usually find yourself battling several other players with a hand that plays poorly in multi-way pots.
Choosing whether to open, isolate, or limp behind obviously depends on what cards you’re dealt, but it definitely isn’t the only indicator available. Paying attention to table dynamics provides a big edge if you know what to look for. More specifically, it’s especially important to pay attention to the player types in the blinds, because how loose or tight they’re playing has a big impact on how aggressively you can attack the weaker players.
If there are nits in the blinds and a fish limps, you can widen your isolating range because the likelihood of getting heads-up in position against the fish is higher. If there are very loose players in the blinds or on the button behind you, isolating the limper doesn’t work as well because too often you’ll get called by someone in the blinds, which makes playing post-flop more difficult with marginal hands.
It’s good to get in the habit of constantly asking yourself questions during a session, and it’s something I’ve noticed most successful players do. Questions like: “What are the stack sizes? What kinds of player types are behind me? Where’s the value in my hand going to come from?” Asking questions is so important, that if I notice myself not asking questions anytime during a session, it’s a reliable indicator that I should quit because I’m too tired or unfocused.
Last, it’s best to avoid isolating short stacks light, because their small stack size diminishes the positional advantage. Not only can they check-raise you post-flop and get stacks in quick, but it’s also tough to barrel profitably against them as well.
Open limping is an interesting topic because when most players see a player open limp at a 6-max table, they automatically label them as a fish. Does that mean open limping is unequivocally bad? Put more simply, can open limping be profitable?
I don’t recommend open limping as a default move in EP by any means, but there are a couple of scenarios where open limping can be a viable option. The profitability of open limping depends entirely on table dynamics and hand strength. More specifically, it’s fine at a soft table where the players will let you get away with it. For example, the ideal scenarios for nutty and polarized hands like weak Aces or Kings are the deep-stacked multi-way pots, right? Well, if you find yourself at a passive table where the players aren’t punishing the limpers, then feel free to open limp the hands that play well in these types of scenarios.
I usually prefer min-raising instead of open limping from early position. When you min-raise with the hands listed above, it widens player’s calling ranges and keeps in all kinds of trashy pocket pairs and suited hands that you dominate post-flop that otherwise might have folded had you opened for full pot UTG. Moreover, the problem with limping is that you induce players to isolate light, which hurts because it can deter other players from entering the pot. If you min-raise instead, they’ll more often just call your open, which is good because it encourages multi-way action.