Dara O’Kearney shares how to identify why a player has limped and the correct strategy to adjust to them.

Dara O Kearney
Dara O’Kearney 

One area where poker players struggle is how they deal with limpers. Limping is often seen as a sign of weakness that should be attacked, but if you attack limpers too liberally they can exploit you by trapping you or limp/reraising you.

Broadly speaking I would say there are four types of limpers:

  1. Weak passive players who just like to see flops as cheaply as possible
  2. Calling stations
  3. Maniacs who limp reraise super wide
  4. Trappers who limp monsters hoping to limp reraise

The first type will fold a lot preflop when you attack them, or they will call but fold easily on the flop because they have such a wide range. The best way to exploit these players is the traditional strategy of isolating them with a wide range, then if they call preflop you continuation bet every flop.

Your opponents may notice you doing this and adjust by 3-betting you wide, as they should, which in turn should lead you to tighten your isolation range and 4-bet them more often. If the players behind you are flatting a lot instead then you should adjust your iso range to hands which play well in multi-way pots like small pairs and suited Ax/connectors. Dump the weak offsuit Ax and broadway hands.

Your strategy is based on your reads

Dara O Kearney
With no other reads, assume the limper is weak passive

Against the calling stations they will not fold to your isolation raises so adjust your range to be more value heavy. Raise with high card hands that make good top pairs and value bet when you hit. Avoid bluffing post flop unless it is semi bluffing, and do not bluff rivers.

When the limper is a maniac who limp/raises wide you can also expect them to play aggressively post flop with donk leads and check/raises. Do no isolate these players too wide, stick to value hands. Pot control the medium strength hands but be prepared to stack off wider with the good top pair type hands.

Finally, against the limpers who are trapping with big hands, do not exploit yourself by isolating wide. Your raising range should be polarised (hands that are strong enough to continue versus a limp reraise, and weak hands with blockers that don’t play well as calls and don’t mind folding to reraises). Limp behind with hands that can crack big pairs (suited connectors, lower pairs, Axs).

Obviously the four different strategies are based on understanding which type of limper you are dealing with. Until you get further reads on your opponents it is probably best to assume the limper is like the first example, weak passive, and proceed accordingly. Most limps can be taken at face value, as long as you are prepared to adjust, and note, them when they prove otherwise.

Dara O’Kearney’s new book Endgame Poker Strategy: The ICM Book is out now.

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