Dealing with Limps in the Early Stages

Although we have recommended a raise or fold strategy from the BU, we must be prepared to face limps from weaker players who are not aware of the advantages of min-raising at 25BB stack sizes. The limp strategy is inferior on the BU as raising to 2BB with 25BB stacks creates a very favourable stack to pot ratio for the in-position player, where, as we have seen, there is no desirable 3-bet size available for the blinds. We shall begin with a simplified strategy for dealing with both a BU limp. The SB might complete, but this will be a capped wide range and will not change our strategy in a significant way. We shall then move on to recommend an exploitative polarized raising strategy when facing just the SB limp.

When BU Limps

There are four main choices here at 20-25bb stack depth. We can:

  • Raise not all in and fold to a jam
  • Raise not all in and call a jam
  • Raise all-in
  • Check

It is worth pointing out that when the SB is in the pot, we are incentivized to jam a wider range than normal due to the inflated pot size and improved risk to reward ratio. Generally, both BU limpers and SB completers will have capped ranges and will fold far too much of their range to a shove. The shoving ranges below are therefore tailored for this situation and not for the practically non-existent one where there is a lot of trap limping going on. We should, however, keep our eyes peeled for very passive players who basically only enter the pot by limping. We should restrain ourselves against players who like to trap.

Here is my recommendation:

This strategy does a few things:

Firstly, we would like to encourage action with our premium holdings. This is a concept that we should be familiar with by now from earlier parts of the series. We expect to get shoved on very infrequently here in the population due to most limpers being passive by nature, but it is worth drawing the line as to where we should feel comfortable continuing to a limp/3-bet.

Secondly, we are shoving with a very distinct group of hands, namely, those with decent all-in equity if called by something like KJs, which is a good example of a hand that weaker players are most likely to limp in with and then decide to call a shove. Small pairs have around 50% equity against such holdings and Ax is comfortably ahead. Ax also blocks the hands that have it in the worst shape such as AA and AK. Occasionally, players will get trappy with such holdings and it is good to shove cards that reduce the combinatoric likelihood of our opponents holding monsters. Don’t worry about the huge risk that shoving entails. Of course, risking 24BB to win 3BB is not a great ratio, but we will be called so infrequently, and will have enough equity with this shoving range when it does happen, that we need not worry about this. Picking up dead money at a very reliable frequency is well worth it in such a fast format where every chip is vital for survival. The suited connectors in the shoving range can be very live when called by a typical ‘limp and shrug-call it off’ hand like KQo. 76s and company are also very likely to fold out hands that dominate then, for example, T7s.

Finally, our checking hands make up the vast majority of our range. This is normal because we are being given the luxury of seeing the flop for free and then deciding whether to make a further investment, all courtesy of the BU and his placid pre-flop behaviour. Hands like JTs might look like attractive raises, but they can be dominated in a bloated pot and function very well in a scenario where Villain’s J8s and T6s have not been blown out of the pot.

When SB Limps

Being limp-raised by the SB is a more realistic threat and some players base their SB strategy around such a play, but for the most part, we are very likely to see a limp/fold or a limp/call instead. The two types of hand we like to raise with here, but not all-in are as follows:

  • Value hands that need to build the pot.
  • Bluffs with some potential that can fold out better hands.

The former group consists of premium hands – not much to add here. The bluffing group will consist of suited trash, low suited gappers and a few low off-suit connectors that are behind a hand like Q5o which might complete the SB and fold to a raise.

Hands we might want to go all-in with will again be an assortment of higher equity, but lower playability hands like small pairs and Ax.

Hands we will check will therefore be what’s left over:

  • Mediocre hands that can dominate SB’s limping range but do not want to build the pot and cause SB to narrow his range.
  • Utter trash, that, if we were to raise, we would be overdoing it and building pots with very low equity hands.

Our strategy should be as follows. Note below that we have dropped our sizing down to 3BB due to being in position. This helps dissuade Villain from shoving due to worsening his risk to reward ratio and this can only be a good thing when we have position.

This strategy is about as polarized as can be. We narrow Villain’s range with the two types of hand that want to: those that are crushing a narrowed range, and those which can make better hands fold and still have potential if called. Everything else is happy to take a flop against a wider range. It’s all very logical stuff.


Next time we shall finish up the early stages segment of the series by examining small blind play after a BU raise. It is then onto post-flop for three episodes, before we finish up with some heads up advise for the different effective stack-sizes you are likely to encounter in that crucial part of the Spin & Go.