Attacking limpers is a fundamental aspect of playing power poker. Instead of being a passive player trying to smash a cheap flop, we want to be aggressive and apply maximum pressure when our opponents show weakness. James “SplitSuit” Sweeney and Doug Hull discuss the specifics around how to size bets, manage table image, and more regarding raising a string of limpers.
This episode was inspired, as many are, by a question from a listener:
“You’re on the button with a playable hand, something like JTs, T9s, A6s, whatever. Something that you’re really not going to fold. There are multiple limpers in front of you. Can you describe what table and player dynamics you would consider under the following conditions: (a) limp behind; (b) raise to $15 in a $1/$2 game (you might expect 0-2 callers, no guarantees) or (c) raise to $20 where you expect no callers or just one.” – Jim
Hull is most likely raising for isolation here. SplitSuit says number of limpers is a big part of the decision. He says more limpers might narrow your raising range a bit, Hull suggests how sticky the original raiser is, in addition to how sticky the limpers are, is also a big factor in the decision.
This is a place where table image and balance come into play, says Hull. If the table finds you too aggro, you might want to limp behind. SplitSuit agrees that if raising does not accomplish your goal, this is a viable strategy.
In relation to raise sizing, SplitSuit mentions Christian Soto’s pain threshold concept. It’s critical that you understand the sizing you can make that gets callers versus getting no callers (or a single caller).
In reasoning out his bet sizing in these situations, Hull defaults to “go bigger”.
“All the tools of aggression we have are seriously dulled in multiway pots,” he says. “If an extra $5 is going to be the difference between a 5-way $100 pot and a take-it-down pot immediately for the $10 that’s in there, or take it down with only one player left, and it’s a $50 heads-up pot in position with initiative pot. I’m going to take those latter two any time.”
SplitSuit talks about modifying his own strategy over time to be less default/balanced in terms of raise sizing. He embraced the “pain threshold” concept to accomplish many more profitable situations that maximize the power of maximum aggression.
“These larger pre-flop raises sizes are really a gateway to good 3-betting,” Hull says. “If there’s 3 limpers and you make it $20, and it starts working… suddenly, when a guy opens to $7, and you’re going to 3-bet him to $25, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.”
Hull presents a the limpfest paradox: Players who join a multiway limped pot by limping behind will tend both to fold too often to a late-position raise, or to call too often.
They’re folding too much because they’re in the pot with a hand they shouldn’t be in there with. Eventually, though, they call too much because they get sick of being “bullied” at the table. Different players have different levels of “I’m done with this guy” and you have to remember who’s who, says Doug.
SplitSuit concurs. Keep tabs on each limper’s pain threshold and current “I’ve had enough” status and you will know exactly what to do to punish the limpers.
There’s no simple, clear-cut formula to know when to push the pain threshold or when to dial it back. Awareness of player profiles and your own table image are key.
Understand that a lot of players will look at your huge raise of their limp as a foolish behavior. “Why bet so much with a hand that’s likely to be less than premium?”
Hull says when he has a hand that’s less than premium, he’s delighted to pick up the pot pre-flop, and that is the goal of bombing the limpers.
The risk/reward ratio is not off if you make a huge bet with a sub-premium hand and that will get everyone at the table to fold.
What to Look for in Limpers
“I love it when they start complaining,” says Hull. This is an indication that they have no tools to beat him, and must resort to social pressure.
Typically, you get very little strategic response. They’re not limping all that less. They might call a few more bets, but they don’t know about applying aggression, isolating, etc. Social pressure is easy enough to ignore.
This becomes important post-flop. If your opponents are similarly unsophisticated, you can open raise wider pre-flop.