Common wisdom in Texas Hold’em suggests that you should raise before the flop if you’re planning to play a hand. The saying goes, “Raise or fold,” but is that correct? Well, it’s not the worst advice but limiting yourself to one of these two options would be a mistake.
Limping in — entering a pot by calling rather than raising — is more complicated than raise-or-fold poker because you’ll end up playing more hands. Also, it’s difficult to put players on a hand when they’re in the pot without making a pre-flop raise. The big blind, for example, could have any two cards. Trying to determine his hand can be very tricky.
In certain situations, the best players in the world will limp in rather than raise to disguise the strength of their hands. Follow these guidelines to add this deceptive tactic to your game, too.
Limp to Set a Trap in Aggressive Games
Trap plays work best when there’s lots of raising before the flop and other players have already limped in.
You’ll need to have a premium hand to set the trap, something like pocket aces or kings, or maybe A-K. Then, call rather than raise, and hope that an overly aggressive player behind you will interpret your limp as a sign of weakness. If the trap works and he does try to bully you with a raise, go ahead and re-raise when the action returns to you.
If the trap fails and no one raises before the flop, proceed cautiously because you’ll have no idea what cards your opponents might have. Any flop could give any player two pair or better. You’d even have to consider folding your pocket aces if the action gets too heavy after the flop.
When setting a trap, be careful not to get trapped yourself.
Limp from the Small Blind
The small blind is the worst position to play from after the flop. At the same time, since you already have half the bet in the pot, it’s usually correct to call the other half of the bet.
An interesting situation occurs, though, when you find yourself in the small blind versus the big blind, with everyone else out of the hand. Too many players in this scenario make the mistake of thinking, “Only one blind left, this should be an easy blind to steal.”
In fact, this is probably the toughest blind to steal because the big blind will suspect larceny. Even more important, you’ll be out of position throughout the entire hand. Playing from the small blind, your goal should be to minimize losses rather than to try to bully a player who has the power of position.
Limp in First to Change the Pace of the Game
Sometimes you’ll feel that the game is too aggressive pre-flop, making it difficult for you to outplay your opponents post-flop. In these situations, you can slow the pace of the game by limping in first, hoping that other players will adopt your style of play. This tactic works particularly well if you’re a solid player with strong hand reading skills.
Limp Behind Other Limpers
Your choices are definitely not limited to raising or folding after other players have limped into the pot. Say that two players have already limped in and you’re holding pocket threes. In this case, limping in to see a cheap flop is the best approach.
While limping in isn’t a tactic for everyone, the play definitely enhances poker deception. That’s because the more willing you are to shift gears, the tougher it will be for your opponents to get an accurate read on you.
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