Why is Limping Bad in Poker?

Poker players sitting around a poker table with their cards face-down.

Limping is a low-risk, low-effort way to see the flop for cheap in online poker, which is probably why so many beginner players do it. At the same time, one of the most common pieces of advice that beginners receive is not to limp into the pot under any circumstances. But is it really so bad to limp in poker? We look at what limping is all about and why it’s generally considered such a lousy idea, as well as a couple of specific situations when it actually makes sense to limp.

What is limping in poker?

Limping in poker means calling the big blind instead of raising so as to enter the pot for the lowest possible cost. The reason novice players often open limp in this way is that it helps them to get to see more flops cheaply, which (they hope) increases their chances of getting lucky. This beginner’s logic isn’t exactly untrue, but it prevents players from accomplishing goals such as thinning the field and defining what opponents are holding. Typically, limpers lack control of the pot and allow their opponents to see flops without paying, too. As a result, limping is typically a losing approach in the long run. That’s not to say that limping doesn’t have its place, as we shall see.

Why you should not limp in poker

A person holding up a royal flush in hearts in front of some chips on a poker table.

For many players, open limping into the pot is one of the biggest sins that you can commit in poker. It’s widely seen to be a weak, passive approach that eliminates more dynamic opportunities to win the pot.

Think about all the different ways you can win if you raise preflop. If all the other players have junk hands, they could simply fold. If one or two opponents come along, you could c-bet and barrel them into submission on the flop, turn, or river. Or you could hit the board and come out on top at showdown. Limping excludes all these possibilities. What’s more, it can put a target on your back, because other players will assume that you’re weak, passive, and liable to fold to aggression.

Even if you do hit the flop, your chances of winning the pot are reduced because you’ve allowed several other players to see the flop, too. As a result, the chances of an opponent having a stronger hand increase. But that’s not all. Not only does limping allow your opponents to see new cards without paying, but it lets them off having to make difficult decisions about their hands. In turn, they make fewer mistakes, which means less information for you to use against them.

When to limp in poker

Nothing in poker is absolute, including limping. As lousy as limping tends to be in general, it can also be profitable under certain specific conditions.


One tactic is to open limp with a very strong hand. The idea behind this unorthodox poker strategy is to have someone else raise and take control when the action returns to you (always remembering to be careful of danger hands). The danger is that more skilled players will pick up on what you’re doing and know exactly what to do next time you “limp-raise.” So you’ll want to balance your range when you limp, which can mean limping more often than you’d ideally want to.

Limping behind

It’s perfectly okay to limp in with a decent hand behind a couple of other limpers. Say you’re in cutoff position and you’re dealt pocket fives, a hand that’s worth seeing the flop with as long as it doesn’t cost too much to get there. Two players have already limped in ahead of you, so generally you’ve got nothing to lose by limping along. A possible exception is when an aggressive player still has to act after you. There’s nothing an aggressive player likes more than targeting limpers with aggression! In this spot, you may want to consider raising to pre-empt their move or even folding to avoid committing to an expensive pot.

Limping in tournaments

A big blind chip next to some cards and chips.

Stack size is critically important in poker tournaments. Often you’ll have to find a way to play stacks as low as 30, 20, or even 10 big blinds. One tactic that players use is to limp on the button instead of raising. This makes it harder for the blinds to bully you out of the pot. If your range is properly balanced between strong hands and weaker yet still flop-worthy hands, they’ll have to be careful. If they play too aggressively, they run the risk of running into your carefully hidden monster hand!

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