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Raising Behind Limpers

I’m going to try to tie this in as much as possible the points I made in my post on blind stealing, Blind Stealing 101. I think that for the people who don’t already raise behind limpers often, it will be best if they think of it as an extension of blind stealing at first.

In this post, I’d like to address a few basic topics dealing with playing marginal hands in late position (button, cutoff, and highjack) after one or more people have already limped into the pot, or there is a dead blind. These topics include advantages to raising behind limpers, figuring out the ranges of the limpers, when to raise and when to limp along, and how to integrate a more aggressive treatment of open limpers into your game.

Note: Assume effective stacks of 70-100bb. Once you get the idea down, it’s not hard to figure out how to adjust to smaller stacks or larger stacks, but since this is where most of our play will reside, I’m just going to address these scenarios.

An Example of the Concepts at Work

At a 9-handed table, a player limps in middle position, and you have KDiamond 9Spade on the button. You have a fairly tight/aggressive image. This limper is 22/5/1.2 and folds to a c-bet 82% of the time. You raise to 5x, and everyone folds but the limper who calls. The pot is 11.5bb, and the flop comes QClub 8Diamond 7Club. The limper checks, and you c-bet for 9bb.

What is the purpose of this play, and why would you make it? The concepts at work here are position, initiative, and exploiting opponent tendencies. Obviously we have position, but we take the initiative preflop with our raise. This either takes the pot down immediately, or sets up a profitable c-bet against a player that we know probably won’t play at you without a hand. This is where exploiting our opponents comes into play.

Advantages of Raising Behind Limpers

The first advantage of incorporating this play into your arsenal is that it makes you money. Anytime you can add things to your game that add to your advantage, you gain money. Essentially, we’re getting more value out of hands that we wouldn’t be getting value of before. In our above example, we were getting some value out of K9o that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

The second advantage of making this play is that it adds more things into the mix to make it harder to put you on hands. If you get caught making a play now and again, people loosen up their hand requirements to play against you. This translates into more money for your big hands, and more money for your marginal hands if you play them well.

When to Raise It Up

Like in our example above, we would really like to isolate against players who are very passive post-flop, or who limp/fold a lot preflop. Even with a hand as bad as Q5s, if there is an open limper that I know folds preflop too often after limping and folds post-flop to a c-bet too often, I’ll raise it up because taking advantage of our opponent’s tendencies can make this a +EV play.

Often it can be +EV to raise after two or three limpers as well, as long as you have some sort of reads or stats that indicate it’s profitable. However, you would prefer to be isolating against one limper who is weak, and two at the most. After three limpers, you should probably just muck hands like K8o and limp hands like T9o.

When to Just Limp Behind

Suppose there are two aggressive middle position limpers, and we have 76s on the button. Here it’s probably best to limp behind, since we’ve got a hand that plays great multi-way, and we’re going to see a flop in position with a lot of money behind with at least four players. Note that this is often the case when there are 3 or more limpers whenever you have suited connectors, suited one-gappers, ace-small suited, small pairs, and other hands that get a lot of value from implied odds.

Suppose that at a 9-handed table, an UTG player that you know nothing about limps, and it’s folded to you on the cutoff with A8s. Quite often you would like to make a raise with this hand in late position against a limper, but you should beware. Be very, very cautious about raising early position limpers if you don’t know anything about them. At micro and low stakes, players absolutely love to limp/raise and limp/call preflop with big pairs and big premium unpaired hands, and this can cost you big. Now, since we don’t know anything about this guy, we can still limp behind and own him with our implied odds. Also note that it would be preferable to fold hands like K9o that have no real implied odds only 100bb deep.

How This Relates to Blind Stealing

Suppose in our original example with K9o, the limper had really posted a dead big blind, and checked preflop. Then a raise seems almost obvious as a routine blind steal, except the limper has already said he doesn’t like his hand enough to bet it (when he checked), so we’ll probably take that extra big blind down with our 5x raise anyway. This new scenario is only different from the original example by a small detail: when the limper voluntarily limps, we have a better idea of his range when he calls our raise.

The same principles are at play when you raise behind limpers as when you raise on a pure blind steal: position, initiative, and exploiting opponent tendencies. For the most part, you’re going to be playing most of the same hands as pure blind steals as well. The difference comes when you decide to just limp behind with hands that have a lot of implied odds (yes, I keep repeating this, but it’s worth repeating).

Putting Limpers on Ranges

If the number one point I relay here is that you should just limp behind when there are a bunch of limpers and you have a good implied-odds hand, then the number two point is that you shouldn’t just start raising behind limpers every time you have a marginal hand.

You really want to be targeting guys who have stats with the VP$IP and PFR% really spread out, like 20/8 or something. You also want to be targeting weak guys who fold to c-bets a lot, raise c-bets a low amount, and who don’t have a turn aggression a lot higher than their flop aggression (which is typical of people who float a lot). If you do this, then you’ll be hitting the fish that will roll over for you as you plow through the dead money they’re putting into the pot over and over.

Edit: When you’re targeting these guys who open limp a lot, you need to be making notes about what they’re limping with. Some guys will open limp with small-medium pairs, and sometimes suited connectors. Other guys will limp every single time with any two suited cards. I’ve done two 50nl videos in the past week, and both times I’ve run into multiple guys who are limping any two suited cards.

Conclusion

I’ve been staring at the TV now for like 10 or 15 minutes, and UFC 81 comes on in like 20 minutes. I haven’t cooked food yet, and my girlfriend is on the couch waiting on me very impatiently. I’ll come back and tie up any loose ends here tomorrow.

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