When it comes to working on Texas Hold’em strategy, the best place to start is with your pre-flop game. Any leaks in your pre-flop game spill over into all of your post-flop play, and similarly any upgrades you can make to this strategy will pay huge dividends when you make it to the turn and river.
The easiest way to start working on this part of your strategy is by implementing this one easy rule: never limp.
Ok, sometimes it may be right to limp, and limping can become a part of a well-defined strategy, but before you get to that point, try to play a session or two in which you never limp. You’ll see the difference.
Now, some of you may be wondering: what is limping? This refers to a pre-flop call in an unraised pot. For instance, if the big blind is 20 chips and the player under the gun calls that 20 chips, we say that they are limping into the pot.
So why shouldn’t limping be a part of our strategy?
Aggressive vs Passive Play
One of the main ways to get better at poker is to switch from a passive to an aggressive style. Instead of letting other people control the action, instead of calling their bets, be the bettor. Not only does this give you the initiative, but it gives you two ways of winning the pot.
You can win the pot at showdown, just like you could if you had called, or you can win if everyone else folds. This gives you what is known as fold equity.
Being aggressive means that other people will have to make hard decisions and gives them a chance to mess up.
Limping is a hallmark of passive play. You’re not putting anybody under any pressure, and instead you are exposing yourself to the aggression of others. If you limp and somebody else raises, you’re going to have a much harder time figuring out what to do than if you had raised or even folded.
Defining Your Ranges
Let’s say you’re dealt a good hand. That’s great. What do you do with it?
Well, you probably want to raise pre-flop so that you start building a pot. If you limp in with those pocket aces, you’re not setting yourself up to win as many chips as you potentially could.
As you start moving down to lower-quality hands, however, what do you do then? Are you going to raise 56 suited? How about A5 off?
These are the kind of hands that people usually limp with because they aren’t “good” enough to raise, but they also don’t want to fold. When you play like this, you’re telling your opponents that you have this type of marginal holding.
Limping gives your opponents an easy way to read your cards.
Instead of limping, try folding sometimes and raising sometimes with those type of hands. This makes it harder for people to play against you because it disguises your hand.