When I recently asked for topics to write about on Twitter, the topic of button limping was brought up. Button limping is something that is becoming more common from strong players. It is a strategy that is often frowned upon by many because it portrays weakness, but in the right spots, open limping can increase the EV of your overall strategy. Today we will look at why you want to use an open limping strategy, when to use it and how to implement. For simplicity, every situation I bring up here will assume it is folding to you on the button.
The Main Reason
The main reason for using a button limping strategy is the profitability of re-jamming from the SB or BB versus a wide button open raising range. When stacks become shallow, let’s talk 15-20bb, it is often correct to re-jam upwards of 30% of hands from the blinds versus a wide 40-50% opening range from the button. As an example, if the button raises to 2.2x with a 45% opening range, it is profitable to go all-in with a hand as weak as K6s from the SB. You will either generate a ton of folds, or have enough equity when called to make this play very profitable. The counter strategy to this is to tighten up your opening range on the button when the blinds have re-jam stacks in the 15-25bb range. If you do not tighten up your opening range, you simply provide too many profitable re-jam spots to the blinds. To the point, you can either tighten up your range, or start to implement an open limping strategy to make it less profitable for your opponent to re-jam.
The open limp strategy is most commonly used on the button because you have position throughout the hand. It becomes less profitable to open limp the CO or HJ because now the CO and button can simply limp behind and force you to play OOP versus them. This strategy will only really be implemented when stacks are around 20bb or less. When stacks are greater than this, your opponents have to risk much more in order to make a preflop all-in versus your button steal so open raising is still the best option. When choosing to implement this strategy, you want to make sure the right type of opponents are in the blinds. The most common situation would be to start open limping when the blind players after you are very aggressive re-jammers (going all-in over your raise) forcing you to tighten up. If your blinds are playing too tight, you benefit from still open raising your range because they will over fold. Another common situation where limping becomes beneficial is against players who are not aggressive enough versus the limp. They simply check back and don’t 4-5x raise your limp enough to make you decide otherwise. Against the passive opponents, limping can allow you to play even more hands profitably.
Striking A Balance
Implementing a balanced open limping strategy is rather difficult. If you are unbalanced in this, a wise opponent can quickly determine your limping range is too weak, or if your raising range is too weak you can easily be exploited by the blinds. There are a lot of different complex strategies that involve a ton of randomization in order to remain balanced with the ranges. First thing is that when you get to the 15bb range, any hand that is a super profitable shove should be shoved. We always want to maximize EV. The exception to this rule is that hands that are too good to open shove. We do not want to be open shoving our AA type hands because they are simply too strong. With 20bb on the button, the easiest strategy to implement is to be polar with your raising, and linear with your limping. By this I mean you will raise a lot of your strong hands, and very weak hands. Your best raises to balance your strong hands are hands that block your opponents re-jam range. So, hands with an A or K are preferred. In the chart below you will see hands like A-X and K-X make our best steal hands on the button. We trap limp our best pairs (Minus AA, it blocks the hands we want them to raise with), as well as a lot of hands that can easily call a big isolate range. This is one way to build a limping strategy. As I mentioned, it is complicated and difficult to implement, that is why a standard raise first strategy is often preferred, but if done correctly, a limping strategy can allow you to play more hands versus weak players and strong player in the blinds.
In this chart, red is raise and call shove, green is open limp and blue is raise and fold to a shove. As you can see, we have a very polar raising range, and simply limp our middle hands that can still call shoves and raises in position.
In summary, learn to recognize the correct situations where you would want to consider implementing an open-raise strategy. Your best raises as bluffs are ones that block the re-jamming range of your opponent, so A and K high hands. For many players, I would just recommend tightening up when shorter stacked on the button instead of using a limping strategy, but having this in your arsenal when needed can help you deep in tournaments.