Category: Preflop

A critical skill in poker is being able to adjust to your opponents.

You want to do this to maximize your earnings from their mistakes and minimize your own mistakes that they can take advantage of.

If you have information that will  help you predict how your opponents are going to react you should use this to your advantage.


Adjusting opening ranges to table average

In general, if a table is playing tighter than normal, you should play looser. If a table is playing looser than normal you should play tighter. You get a fairly good idea for what average play is by the Preflop Strategy. This is pretty average except on Microstakes which are much looser most of the time.

On top of this you might play looser than normal if you have a high skill edge against your competitors and you might play tighter than normal if your opponents are more skilled than you (but normally select a different table).

Many poker players are overdoing these adjustments. Be careful when you stray from the default strategy since it can make you very exploitable when someone notices this. If there isn’t a huge skill difference or if you are not very sure of what you are doing you should only make small adjustments, for example:

  • If table is very tight play 25 % more hands from all positions.
  • If table is very loose play 25 % fewer hands from all positions.

This may be a reasonable starting point at a cash game table. However, in a tournament people can sometimes become so tight when it is getting close to the money so you can play more or less every hand. These situations will mostly require experience, feel for the table dynamics and knowledge about the bubble factors and how that influences the game.

Adjusting to the game flow

If someone has 3-bet you four times in the last 20 minutes you will be tempted to fight back next time, right? This goes for most people.

Exactly how to adjust to game flow, table dynamics, mental game etc is something that mainly must be learned with experience. One thing to consider though, is that many people are overadjusting and doing it too quickly.

For example, if you are 3-bet twice in a row by an average player who has 3-bet of 5% over several thousand hands and if you have an average image both at the table and over long run at the site. Should you automatically assume that he is full of it and assign him a range of 15%? Or is it more likely that he happened to get good hands twice in a row? Most of the time it is actually the latter. And it can be a more costly mistake to 4-bet light in the wrong situation than to fold a marginal hand.

So general advice is:

  • If your image is normal, assume that opponents are playing their normal game until something has deviated more than 3 times

For example, if someone with a normal image has 3-bet you 3 times, you should still assume he is playing his normal game (unless you have other reasons to think he is out of line). However, the fourth time he does it in a short period of time you can start assigning him a wider range than normal.

But be careful how far you take your adjustments also. Most players don’t start playing completely differently all of a sudden (unless they are drunk or on tilt). And, when someone knows he has been overdoing something, he may well have decided to shift gears, by the time you start adjusting.

This goes both ways of course, pay attention to how your opponents are likely to perceive you. And if you have done something 3 times in a short time span you might consider changing gears if your opponent is likely to catch up on this and do something about it.

Adjusting to the blinds

If you are playing multiple tables of cash games online at low stakes or higher, you usually don’t have to adjust too much to the tables. Most tables will have some decent opponents so the table average will not be that far from normal most of the time. And when it is, it will most of the time only be for a short period.

Here is a guideline to help you get started. As usual it is important to not overdo it.

Small blind

  • If  big blind fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10% decrease opening range to 30 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 50 %.

You should also keep an eye on if the big blind loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if he does. If he overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Button

  • If either of the blinds fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10% decrease opening range to 30 %.
  • If either of the blinds have a fold-to-steal between 70- 80 % use normal opening range.
  • If both blinds have fold-to-steal between 80-90 % increase opening range to 40 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 50 %.

You should also keep an eye on blinds who loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if they do. If they overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Cut-off

  • If either of the blinds fold-to-steal < 70% or raise-steal-attempt > 10%  or button 3-bets > 10% or cold-call > 10% decrease opening range to 20 %.
  • If both of the blinds have a fold-to-steal between 70- 80 % use normal opening range.
  • If both blinds have fold-to-steal between 80-90 % increase opening range to 30 %.
  • If big blind has a fold-to steal of > 90 % increase opening range to 35 %.

You should also keep an eye on blinds and button who loves to squeeze or raise limpers and tighten up limps and cold-calls if they do. If they overdo it a lot it is an opportunity to trap with premium hands.

Why adjusting in steal position is important

Some people think that it is not worth putting much attention to blind stealing since the blinds are so small. Just use the default opening range and everything will be fine. But that will be a big opportunity lost. Consider this:

A really good winrate is 2 BB / 100 Hands (BB is Big Bets).

That’s 0,02 BB / Hand = 0,04 Big Blinds / Hand

You are on the button or the cut-off 2/6 of the time if you play 6-Max. If you are a zero-sum player, you can reach a 2 BB / 100 level just by increasing your winrate at the button and cut-off by 0,12 Big Blinds / Hand.

Let’s imagine you are always raising 20 % of your hands from the  cut-off and 30 % of your hands from the button no matter who plays the button and the blinds. Let’s also imagine you play with buttons and blinds that are folding too much 25 % of the time. You can increase your winrate to 0,12 Big Blinds / Hand in total average if you can steal successfully 30 % extra the times when you have weak opponents. This is just a complicated way of saying that adjusting your opening ranges on the cut-off and the button can have a significant  impact on your winrate!

When someone has 3-Bet you should normally first consider raising or folding. Sometimes it can be more profitable to call the 3-Bet, see 3-Betting for more information about circumstances.

With the light 3-Betting that is going on in modern online poker you need a strategy to counter that. The best way to do this is normally to introduce some light 4-betting.

First of all, if someone is 3-Betting you with a wide range of hands, you can add more hands to your 4-Betting for value hands. If someone is 3-Betting you with a 14% range you can 4-Bet with a 7% range since that range will be ahead of your opponents in average.

4-Betting light

I use a similar strategy for 4-Betting light as I do for 3-Betting light. First of all, estimate the percentage of times opponent will fold to a 4-Bet in the particular situtation (calling rarely  happens unless the stacks are deep). Since opponent is almost always shoving or folding you do not need to consider position when 4-Betting.

I will not 4-Bet light if opponent is folding less than 75%. This means that an opponent who shoves with AA, KK and AK needs to be 3-Betting more  than 8 % for me to add any bluffs at all (since AA, KK, AK is 2 % of all hands).

  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet < 75 % – only bet for value
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 75% – 80% – add 25 % of bluffs
  • Opponents folds to 3-Bet  80-85 % – add 50 % of bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 85-90% – add 100% bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet > 90 % – bluff with any two

When 4-Betting light you do not need to consider the playability of the hand so it won’t matter what hands you include as bluffs – since you will always fold your bluffs to a shove (unless the effective stack size is short).

To keep things simple I use the same hands as when 3-Betting light:

I will add bluffs starting with JTs-54s (2%), then J9s-64s (2%) and then JTo-54o (6%).

Regardless of what hands you choose to add to your light 4-betting I recommend having predefined hands since there is otherwise a risk you start overdoing it when you get excited seeing someone who folds 85% of the time. If you start 4-Betting too much it will soon be noticed by either the player you are attacking or by other players and they can start exploiting this. Occasionally you can of course do it with other hands because of game dynamics, but be careful not to overdo it.

Raise size

The raise size of your 4-Bets should be 2,25 – 2,5 times the size of the 3-Bet AND your target should be that the money you have put in the pot after the 4-bet is about 25%  – 30 % of the effective stack size.

If you 4-Bet to a smaller amount, let’s say 2 times the size of the 3-Bet, opponent will get good odds to call:

Example: You play $0,5 – 1 and raise to 3. Opponent on the button 3-Bets to 9 and you min-raise to 18. The pot is now 28,5 and opponent has 9 to call. This will give odds of over 3:1 on the call which can make calling profitable with most cards (depending your range and tendencies of course).

If you 4-Bet to higher percentage of the effective stack size you will be unable to fold any of the hands you are 4-Betting with. This takes away the opportunity for opponent to shove with weaker hands since he will have no fold equity.

Example: Same as above with effective stack size of 100 big blinds. In this case you decide to raise to 35 instead of 18. If opponent decides to shove you will be getting odds of 2:1 on calling. In this scenario you would be getting correct odds to call with 65s if opponent raises with AA-QQ, AK and AQ – but you would not be happy.

All-in

Calling all-ins

When you are considering calling an all-in you mainly consider what your opponents range is and what your pot odds are. Sometimes you also need to consider game dynamics (for example putting people on tilt – or keeping a fish in the game). In tournaments you should also consider your skill advantage and bubble effect (you want to avoid getting broke when there are bubble effects in the play). And of course if there is players left to act – in which case you should normally only call a normal stack all-in with AA, KK and possibly AK and QQ.

Here’s how to decide whether to call an all-in or fold based on opponents range of hands and the pot odds:

Pot odds Part of opponents range you can call with

6:5                  Half their range

3:2                  2/3 of their range

2:1                  Double their range

3:1                 Any two against any range

Please note that this table assumes there is no bubble effects into play – if there is you need to tighten up your calling ranges  (and open up your raising ranges). Bubble effects are always present in Sit and Go’s and become noticeable in MTT’s when you are getting close to the money.

With 6:5 odds you need to win the hand > 45 % to make a call profitable.

With 3:2 odds you need to win the hand > 40 % to make a call profitable.

With 2:1 odds you need to win the hand > 33 % to make a call profitable.

With 3:1 odds you need to win the hand > 25 % to make a call profitable.

Moving all-in

When someone has raised before you, you should normally raise or fold. Under some circumstances you can consider cold calling.

You should normally raise if you believe your hand will be better than your opponents in average. This means that your hand should be within the range of the upper half of your opponents range. For example, if you believe opponent is raising with  top 10% of hands your hand should be in the top 5% range. Or if you believe opponents hand is in top 20% range your should be in top 10%.

The size of the raise should normally be 3 times the size of opponents raise. For example, if you are playing $1-2 and opponent has raised to 6 you should 3-Bet to 18.

There are a couple of exceptions:

  • There is a high risk of a 4-Bet and you can not profitably move all-in with your hand. Then it is better to fold.
  • If raiser frequently folds to a 3-Bet, you have the option to 3-Bet light.

If there is a very aggressive 4-Bettor acting behind you or if original raiser is an aggressive 4-Better and your hand is not good enough for all-in you should probably just fold. Let’s say fold if there is someone behind who is 4-Betting > 25% or if original raiser is 4-Betting > 10 %.

3-Betting light

You have a good opportunity to 3-Bet light if opponent is folding a lot to 3-Bets. 3-Betting light means to include bluffs or semi-bluffs to the range you are raising with. There is a lot of debate in the poker community on whether to 3-Bet light with a merged or polarized range. A merged range means just adding more hands from top of range. For example 3-Betting a top 15% range against someone who has raised with a top 20% range.  A polarized range means adding weaker hands as bluffs. My view on this is that I prefer a polarized range. Why?

Let’s take an example. Opponent raises with a top 20% range. He’s calling 3-Bets 20 % of the time and 4-Betting 3%. Would you prefer adding KJs to your range or 98s? I prefer 98s for two reasons:

  • KJs will often be dominated by hands like AK or AJ. You are risking winning small pots and lose bigger pots. There will be no hands in opponents calling range that are dominated by your hand (unless he calls 3-Bet a lot – in which case I don’t recommend 3-Betting light).
  • If you are making this move rarely the 98s hand will not be totally expected by opponent which means you can win a big pot.

However, I guess it is also a matter of personal taste since KJs has 43% equity against opponents range in this example and 98s has only 34%.

When opponent 4-Bets it doesn’t matter which of these hands you are holding since both are clear folds of course.

Here is my default strategy for 3-Betting light:

  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet < 75 % – only bet for value
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 75% – 80% – add 25 % of bluffs
  • Opponents folds to 3-Bet  80-85 % – add 50 % of bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet 85-90% – add 100% bluffs
  • Opponent folds to 3-Bet > 90 % – bluff with any two

If I am in the blinds I take it down two notches since I will be out of position if opponent calls – and they call much more often in this situation. Meaning for example, if opponent folds to 3-Bet 85% – 90% I will add 25% bluffs.

If it is a squeeze situation (one or more callers before you) it take it up one notch since it is tougher for original raiser to call and the callers usually don’t have a top notch hand. Meaning for example if raiser folds to 3-Bet 75%-80% I add 50% bluffs.

The fold to 3-Bet percentages above should be taken as the likelihood that opponent will fold in this hand – not his general stats. For example if you have 3-Bet an 80-85 % folder three times in a session and once shown 87s he will be much more likely to fight back the next time you raise him. In this scenario you should consider tightening your value range rather than thinking about more bluffs.

I will add bluffs starting with JTs-54s (2%), then J9s-64s (2%) and then JTo-54o (6%).

Examples of 3-betting light

1. Opponent raises with 20% and you expect him to fold 80% – 85%.

3-Bet for value 10% and add 5% bluffs (50 % of the 10% range). In this case I would add JTs-54s + J9s-64s.

2. Opponent raises with 30% and you expect him to fold 75% – 80%.

3-Bet for value 15% and add 4% bluffs (25 % of the 15% range). In this case I would also add JTs-54s + J9s-64s.

Calling 3-Bets

If out-of-position, you should almost always 4-Bet or fold. Only exceptions are:

  • Opponent is very bad
  • The 3-bet is small enough or opponent bad enough to give you correct implied odds
  • Occasionally with AA or KK against an opponent who 3-bets wide, is aggressive postflop and folds a lot to 4-bets. If he is good and your are playing each other often you need to balance with some other hand(s) as well.

If in-position you should 4-Bet or fold most of the time also. The exceptions above still applies and some additional ones:

  • Sometimes call with AA-99 and JTs-87s if opponent is predictable and folds too much on the flop or on the turn. If you call with these hands you need to bluff fairly often on good boards in order to not lose money on this

What hands should you be playing and how should you play them when someone has raised the pot?

Most of the time you either decide to fold or to reraise (3-Bet). Normally you base this decision on whether you believe you have a stronger hand in average than your opponent. If you for example believe your opponent is raising with a 10% range you will have a better hand in average if your hand is within a 5% range and you should normally raise. If you have a hand that is better than opponents worse hands, but worse than his average, for example a hand that is at the bottom of 7 % range you should normally fold.

But sometimes it can be more profitable to call or 3-Bet light.

No callers in pot yet

You will rarely be able to call based on implied odds alone, but here is are two scenarios when that can be profitable:

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against one likely opponent based on implied odds:

  • call if opponent is a TAG on a very narrow range (max 5 %) and is likely to be willing to stack off with overpair or top-pair and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount or
  • call if opponent is a maniac and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount.

Sometimes the combined implied odds, having a winning hand without hitting a set and the opportunity to win the hand by bluffing can make it profitable to call also.

Rule-of-thumb: Call on the button with pocket pair and suited connectors JTs-56s:

  • Opponent is passive, afraid postflop and has at least 20% range and unlikely to fold to a 3-Bet

If not all of this is true it is generally better to fold or to raise.

Some ideas on how to read opponent stats to decide this:

  • Passive if Aggression Factor is below 2
  • Afraid postflop if WTSD (Went-to-Showdown) is max 23 % over at least 300 hands
  • Unlikely to fold to 3-Bet if fold to 3-Bet is less than 70%.

One or several players have called ahead of you

In this case you should make the call based on Implied Odds alone since you will have limited opportunity to win by having a pair or bluffing. Here you will also normally consider 3-Betting first rather than calling. But if a 3-Bet does not seem like a good idea you can consider calling under the following circumstances.

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against several likely opponents based on implied odds:

  • call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least one person has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10% or
  • call if at least one of the other callers is a fish willing to commit a lot with a weak holding or
  • call if at least two persons has called before you and risk of squeeze is max 10 %

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with suited connectors or suited aces against several opponents based on implied odds:

  • call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least two persons has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10%

When you are thinking about calling a raise with a hand that is not likely to be ahead of your opponents in average you need to think about your implied odds. This means that you should think about how much you will likely win in average when you hit a good hand.

You can of course sometimes also win with these hands without hitting a monster. Most of the time either by having a pair when your opponent has nothing or by bluffing. More on that in Preflop Strategy – Someone has raised where we look at scenarios were you have addition equity on top of the Implied Odds.

There is an old rule-of-thumb for this situation called the rule of 5-10. This might have worked in the less competent poker games a couple of years ago, but that needs an update.

The rule of 5-10 say that if the effective stack sizes are less than 10 times the amount for the call you should fold. If it is more than 20 times the amount for the call you should call. If it is somewhere in between you should think. Simple enough, but not good enough unfortunately, as people are getting better and better at poker – and few players nowadays will stack off with an overpair or a TPTK (top-pair, top kicker).

So here are my suggestions:

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against one likely opponent based on implied odds:

  • call if opponent is a TAG on a very narrow range (max 5 %) and is likely to be willing to stack off with overpair or top-pair and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount or
  • call if opponent is a maniac and effective stack size is at least 20 times the call amount.

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with pocket pair against several likely opponents based on implied odds:

  • call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least one person has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10% or
  • call if at least one of the other callers is a fish willing to commit a lot with a weak holding or
  • call if at least two persons has called before you and risk of squeeze is max 10 %

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with suited connectors against one likely opponent based on implied odds:

  • don’t

Rule-of-thumb: Calling with suited connectors or suited aces against several opponents based on implied odds:

  • call if raiser is TAG on narrow range (max 10 %) and at least two persons has called before you and effective stack size between raiser and you is at least 20 times the call amount and risk of squeeze is max 10%

Important note: here I talk about calls made more or less only based on Implied Odds. The decision might be different when you consider winning by bluffing or by hitting a mediocre hand. See Preflop Strategy – Someone has raised for more discussion about that.

Examples with Implied Odds Preflop

You hold a pocket pair – Set Mining. Your chance of hitting a set on the flop is 7,5 – 1.

This means that you need to be able to win 7,5 times the amount called in average when you hit a set (for the moment simplifying by assuming you don’t win unless you hit the set and you always win when you hit, see below).

Let’s take a deeper look at what that means with an example.

Let’s say you are playing $0,5 / 1 and someone has raised to 3. You call. The pot is now 7,5. Opponent bets 5 on the flop. You call. The pot is now 17,5. Opponent bets 13 on the turn and you call. The pot is now 43,5. On the river opponent checks and fold to your bet. In this example you win slightly less than 7,5 – 1. The situation will be similar if you raise on the flop instead of calling and opponent checks on the turn and folds to a bet. Sometimes opponent will call bet of half the pot on the river in which case it has netted you $43. But this will surely not happen the times they don’t even have a pair.

It is easy to see that it is rarely correct to call with a pocket pair against a single opponent unless he is particularly willing to put a lot of money in the pot with a semi-strong hand (based on implied odds for hitting a set alone).

Assume his 5 % range is AA-99, AK, AQ. Exactly what a 5 % range consists of varies from opponent to opponent, but this is a common top-5% range. This opponent will have an overpair or a strong pair by the turn about 40% of the time. But some boards will be so scary that he will not commit. Let’s assume he is willing to commit 30% of the time and the rest of the time will only bet one barrel and fold to resistance:

0,3*60 + 0,7*9,5) -  = 25

This is slightly more than the 7,5*3 which is needed for call to be profitable on implied odds alone. This scenario would be similar if he has 3-bet and you call. Let’s assume you bet 3 and he raises to 9. If he misses he is only willing to pay one barrel – let’s assume he bets 14 on the flop. In this scenario you consider calling 6 big blinds and you need to win in average $48 the times you hit your set.

0,3*120 + 0,7*26,5 = 54

Which makes it profitable to call. If the same opponent only has 100 big blinds (less than 20 times the call amount of 6) the call is 0 in EV – meaning it doesn’t matter if you fold or call.

Let’s assume the same opponent on a 10 % range consisting of AA-22, AK, AQ, AJ, KQs. Now he will have an overpair or a strong pair by the turn about 15 % of the time. Sometimes he will have a fairly strong pair and be willing to commit 2 bets. For simplicity let’s assume he commits about 15% of the time and only pays one barrel  85% of the time.

0,15*100 + 0,85*9,5 = 23

This is almost enough, but not quite – even assuming he will commit 100 big blinds. And you rarely know for sure what an opponents range will be in a certain situation AND that he really will be willing to commit with a semi-strong hand. So to compensate for this uncertainty the guidance recommends a 5 % range as max.

Let’s take a look at another opponent, a competent but aggressive TAG who is often willing to double-barrel bluff. But not willing to stack off with only a pair. Let’s assume he bets 3 preflop, 5 on the flop, 10 on the turn and calls 12 on the river with TPTK or overpair. Let’s assume he C-bets on the turn 75 % of the times when he has a weakish hand and folds to a bet the other 25 %.  Let’s assume he calls the river bet with TPTK or overpair 100% of the time (reasonable since the bet is only 1/3 of the pot).

5 % range:

0,3*31,5 + 0,7(0,75*19,5 + 0,25 * 9,5) = 9 + 10 + 2 = 21

This is not enough to make a call profitable. So advice is to not try set mining against a lone, competent TAG based on implied odds alone, even if he’s very aggressive. The scenario is even worse if he is on a wider range (which he normally is).

There are some exceptions when the stacks are shorter, if the raiser is willing to often stack off when missing the flop. For example if effective stack size is 30 big blinds and opponent will be stacking off most of the time with AK and AQ on missed flops it can be profitable to call if opponent is playing a 5 % range and is willing to stack off 80 % of the time.

The second scenario is much more complicated. There is a risk of losing to flushes and straights, there is a risk that opponent will not C-bet at all etc. But examine one scenario to support the rule-of-thumb:

Opponent is TAG and raise to 3, there is one caller ahead of you. In this scenario opponent has range of 10%, will fire 2 barrels after missing the flop 30% of the time and with TPTK or overpair will call a bet of slightly more than 1/3 of the pot on the river 100% of the time. The other opponent folds on the flop.

0,15*49,5 + 0,85(0,3*29,5 + 0,7*14,5) = 24,5

If we assume that there is a raise behind and you have to fold, it is still (barely) enough to make set mining profitable.

For some years there has been a heated debate in the poker community – including the top names – about whether it is good to limp in an unopened pot or if it is better to put in a raise.

A couple of years ago the poker community was probably split in half with strong advocates on both sides. But the last year I believe there is more and more consensus that raising is better than limping.

One of the last big names advocating limping unopened pots was Dan Harrington who as late as 2008 advocated it in: Cash Games (How to Win at No-Limit Hold’em Money Games) Vol. 1.

In his last book however, he is not recommending limping unopened pots (not mentioning he was all for it just a year or so ago;-): Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold ‘em.

I personally stopped limping a couple of years ago after analyzing how the greatest winners in a massive database with many millions of hands played by hundreds of thousands of players played. They pretty much didn’t limp in unopened pots at all – so I stopped doing it to.
In 2010 it is even rarer to see a winning player limping first in.

So why is it not a good thing then? I believe limping in unopened pots is bad for the following reasons:

  • It signals the strength of your hand (not so strong – normally)
  • It makes it easy for people to play against you – their decisions are made easier which is the complete opposite of what you want
  • It invites people to limp behind or raise you – in both cases often with position on you – so you will end up playing pots out of position with a mediocre hand against opponents who will know more about your hand than you do about theirs!
  • You give away the initiative to someone else
  • It makes it extremely difficult to play in an unexploitable way

Sure, some super expert players might be capable of limping unopened pots with a balanced range of hands so they are difficult to exploit by limping behind or raising. But this is extremely difficult, because how you play will have to be very strongly adapted to how the table and the players play. The balance of strong hands versus not so strong will have to be adapted to likelihood of players limping behind, likelihood of raises, implied odds and such. And I believe very few players are capable of doing this in a way that makes it more profitable than just simply raising or folding.

That being said, it is understandable why there was many advocates for limping a couple of years ago when the average poker player was much, much weaker than they are today and much less likely to raise the limpers and much more likely to pay a lot of money with a top-pair against a flush then they are today. If you are lucky to find a table with that bad players at decent stakes today, please let me know!

One or several players have called the big blind (limped).

If your hand is good enough so that you would have opened according to Preflop Strategy, you should normally raise. Raise to 3-3,5 times the big blind plus one big blind for each limper. For example, if there are two limpers and you normally raise to 3 times the big blind, you should raise to 5 times the big blind. A couple of years ago it was a good strategy to raise with a wider range of hands than you would open with since you would often win the hand immediately, or be likely to get heads-up with position on a poor player. However, in today’s poker most other players at the table will be very much aware of what range you are raising with and might take advantage of you if you overdo it.

If your hand is not good enough to open with you should almost always fold.

If your hand is good enough to open but plays well in in multiway pots (pair or suited connectors) you can consider calling (limping behind) instead of raising sometimes. Most of the time it is better to raise, but you should consider the circumstances:

It is usually better to raise if:

  • A raise is likely to win the pot immediately
  • A raise will likely isolate (play heads up) a poor player who either is likely to fold to a continuation bet or who is likely to stack off with a semi-strong hand like top-pair or overpair.

It is sometimes better to call behind if:

  • You are in late position (button or cut-off) or in the small blind and there is a reasonable chance you win a big pot if you hit a strong hand
  • There are several limpers and raising will likely chase some of them away but is unlikely to win the pot immediately
  • Is is somewhat likely that one or several of the limpers actually have a strong hand, for example someone limping in early position who seems to be positionally aware or someone who is normally raising unopened pots or someone who loves to limp with aces
  • It is likely to be a multiway pot or
  • You will have good implied odds if someone decides to raise (it is usually not profitable to 4-Bet when you have first limped behind someone)

The reason to only do this in late position is that you otherwise have an increased risk that someone will raise with a good hand and that you invite players to limp behind with similar hands as your – in which case they will have position on you.

It is likely to become a multiway pot if it is unlikely that someone will raise (uncommon situation in most online games today) or that if someone raise one or several of the limpers will call the raise.

You might get good enough implied odds against a raiser if he/she is likely to be willing to pay a lot with a semi-strong hand like top-pair or overpair. Read Preflop Implied Odds for guidance on how to judge if the implied odds are good enough.

In summary, you should raise or fold most of the time when there are limpers in the pot unless the conditions are unfavorable for raising but favorable for an overlimp. Also keep in mind that you give away more information about your hand when you are overlimping, since you raise with your strong hands most of the time (same balancing issues as for limping in unopened pots).


This is a Preflop Strategy for Full Ring and 6-Max No Limit Texas Hold’em cash games.

It is a modern strategy based mainly on the aggressive and fairly competent online low to midstakes game 2010.

Watch out for many poker books and sites with a couple of years old guidance as following those guidelines makes you a losing player in 2013 – even books by the some of the greatest players!

This preflop strategy is mainly based on how the greatest winners in a database with over 100 000 players are playing, poker training videos, 10 years of experience and Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold ‘em