We’ve all played in this game. The kind of game where every pot has a number of limpers and pots are going very multi-way. This dynamic is most common in micro limit games online and $1/$2 live games, but in reality this dynamic can occur at any stake. It’s just more common to see weaker/passive opponents in the smallest stakes, so if you play these games, these spots arise more often.
One question I get constantly about games like this is “What should I raise with against multiple limpers?” It’s a fair question, as choosing a range in a multi-way pot can be tough, so let’s do our best to answer this question and increase our profitability in this dynamic.
What should I raise with against multiple limpers?
Let’s start with a situation. You are playing $1/$2 live poker and are in the cutoff. There are 4 limps to you and it’s your action. What do your ranges look like here?
If you’ve never thought about it, this may seem daunting given the sheer number of starting hands possible. But many hands can be clumped together. T♣3♣ and 8♦4♠ can be clumped together as trash. AA and KK can be clumped together as monsters. And 6♠5♠ and 9♥8♥ can be clumped together as suited connectors. Given that, what clumps are you raising, limping, and where are the cusp hands?
Before we can give a precise answer we need to think about will happen if we raise. If we raise to $14 are we getting 1, 2, 4, or 0 callers? If we expect everyone will fold a ton of the time then does our hand matter very much? Not really, and thus we want to be attacking that situation often.
More realistically, if we raise we are probably getting 1 or more callers. And the most vital part of this is who the first limper is. Someone who is bad enough to open-limp is likely bad enough to limp/call liberally. Once one person calls your raise the players behind are going to call more often. They see a big pot brewing and they want to see if they can get lucky and smash the flop…correctly or incorrectly.
So chances are you won’t get a heads up pot when you raise here, and thus you will see many of these pots multi-way. This means the pot will be larger on the flop, the SPR will be small, and that bluff continuation betting is tougher. Whenever you enter a pot with this knowledge it implies that you want to use a strong range (barring other information). I’ll usually raise these pots with TT+/AQ+ as a pure default, and hands like AJ/KQ/99 when appropriate. This keeps my range nice and strong-weighted, which will perform best in a multi-way small SPR pot.
But as always, if you change any information the range could change very quickly. For instance, what about your raise size? If raising to $14 would get you 3 callers, what would raising to $20 do? What about $25? Don’t get lazy with your bet sizes and ONLY use default sizes…consider a wider range of sizing strategies and deduce which one will be best in your exact situation.
As a general rule, a good raising size in live games is 5x+1x/limper. So if there are 4 limpers, you’d raise 9x, or to $18. This may seem like a large size, but it’s very reasonable given the number of limpers. And if we are raising a strong range of TT+/AQ+, then we want to generate lots of value and a large size will do that. We also don’t want to go so small that everyone calls our raise. By doing that, our equity shrinks for each extra caller and we increase the chance of getting screwed…even with AA.
a good raising size in live games is 5x+1x/limper
That being said, we don’t want to go so large with a monster hand, say to $40, if we’ll never get even 1 caller. And we don’t want to go so small with a monster hand, say to $10, that everyone calls us. So with many limpers something between $20-$30 at $1/$2 is usually going to be the best size. But the exact size you choose will be based upon the exact situation. Your hand, your opponents, your position, etc.
Other influential variables include the number of limpers. The fewer limpers there are, the more hands I’m going to raise. The more limper there are, the less hands I’m going to raise. This is simply a function of how many players I can get to fold preflop, and if they don’t fold preflop, how many players would realistically see the flop. I don’t want to take K♣J♣ to war in a 5-way bloated pot with a small SPR if I can avoid it. But if I would only get a maximum of 2 callers, that K♣J♣ starts to look much better.
Another consideration is position. When I’m in-position, especially from the cutoff or button, I’m going to raise with many more hands than from the blinds. This same concept applies if I’m in MP1 and 2 players in early position limp. If I raise to say $14 in that situation will a bunch of players behind me call, thus putting me OOP in a bloated multi-way pot? If so, do I really want to find myself here with A♠T♠ or 6♣6♦? In general I want to enter pots by raising…but there are many times in multi-way pots where limping behind is a more attractive option.
These are spots where “it depends” is often times the answer, and I rarely have an exact range of hands here. I have a starting range, but as variables change (number of limpers, position, elasticity levels of my opponents, etc.), so does my range. The best poker advice is almost never to give an exact range of hands to use in each spot, rather to understand what goes into choosing a +EV range. That’s what this article gives you, now it’s up to you make sure you pay attention to other inputs during your session!