Limpers are the weakest players at the table. They love seeing flops and making hands, so they play with super wide and weak ranges, making them great targets.
If you are one of the limpers you'll learn about below, I highly recommend you learn to plug the leak of limping by clicking here. Otherwise, let's learn how to target and exploit the limpers.
Listen to this podcast episode #467 as you follow along below:
Target the Limpers
What Limpers Are Telling You
Definition: Limping is calling 1bb preflop. It can be either limping first in or over-limping after another limper.
Limpers hold a weak hand. Sure, they might have AA, but that's not likely. They just want to see the flop with hands that aren't that strong, but could make big hands. 44, K9s, 98o, J7s. Limpers see the magical flops that could come, and they want that magic as cheap as possible.
Limpers are passive. Limping can be a part of a balanced game plan, but that's only if you actively spend time studying it. Preflop limping leads to passive post-flop play. You rarely spot a limper who will bluff raise their flush or straight draws. But if they flop a set or turn their straight, they'll let you know with big bets and raises.
Limpers aren't positionally aware. They run the risk of a later position player raising or limping behind, limiting their IP opportunities.
Limpers rely on hitting hands. They have less ways to win the pot. Raising at least gives you the chance to steal. But limping relies on hitting a hand on the flop, turn or river in order to win the pot.
Over-limpers allow others to get what they want. When limpers over-limp, they're allowing other limpers to see the flop cheaply and crack their limping hand. It also makes for multiway pots, which are harder to win.
The great thing about the 5 aspects above is that the limpers don't realize this is what their limp is telling you. Their limping tells you all you need to know to exploit them for maximum profits.
You’re going to exploit limpers by making isolation raises. The goal is to get the weakest players to yourself. Limpers are “value targets”, so don’t share them with others. You’re going to iso-raise against their limps whenever the situation looks profitable to do so.
Of course, you'll spot limpers by their action of limping. And the best limpers to exploit also have a lot of these fishy characteristics:
- They are loose and passive (Fish), so they play a lot of hands with a lot of calling.
- Look for big gaps between VPIP and PFR, like 40/5 or 30/6.
- Look for a Preflop Limp stat of 20%+ (the higher the better).
- It’s great if their Fold to Flop Cbet is 60%+.
There are a few things that will improve your iso-raising, limper-targeting success:
1. View Their Limp Statistics First
- Preflop Limp: The higher it is, the wider you can isolate them.
- Limp/Fold: If this is anywhere above 50%, they're happy folding so you can iso-raise a bit wider to steal preflop.
- Limp/Call: The higher this is, the more likely you can expect a call. Isolate these players more often from IP than OOP.
- Limp/Raise: Treat this the same as you would a 3bet statistic. Anything over 10% is very bluffy, and the closer it is to 1%, the more likely it’s only QQ+ that they limp/raise with.
*The total of Limp/Fold, Limp/Call and Limp/Raise = 100%
2. Choose An Exploitative Bet Size
The old wisdom is iso-raising to 3bb + 1bb per limper. But, you want them all to yourself and you want to earn more money from them, right? I recommend 4bb + 1bb per limper, and go even bigger for more value. If you have a mega fishy limper on the hook and you hold a AA, try making it 6bb+ if you believe they're willing to call with weaker. I've gone 15bb's before and gotten called by a small pp! If you have a value hand, the bigger your raise, the more potential value you get from limpers.
3. Adjust Your Range
You MUST expect the limper to call your raise. They limped to see the flop after all, and most won't give up just because you raised. It's okay to isolate with your entire open-raising range, but choose hands that you're fine with taking to the flop.
4. Plan for Post-flop Play
Your iso-raises will see the flop quite often, so plan for post-flop play before the flop hits.
Before you iso-raise, keep these ideas mind:
- Your flop position against the limper. If IP, you can value bet and bluff bet more liberally.
- The flop pot size, the limper's stack size and the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR). The lower the SPR (3 or less), the more he's committed to the hand. In a $1 pot, if Villain only has $2, you won't get him to fold any pair or draw. However, he'll give you value with all those hands.
- The limper's post-flop tendencies. If he's flop honest, great! Bluff cbet. If he's turn honest, plan on barrel bluffing to win the pot.
What To Watch Out For
Don't isolate at every opportunity. You want to iso-raise when you know it's profitable. But there are things to watch out for.
1. Beware of 3bettors
Thanks to coaches like me and articles/podcasts like this, people know the value in iso-raising. Taken to the next level, there's value in targeting and exploiting the iso-raisers!
Smart TAG and LAG players look for iso-raisers like you and try to 3bet bluff for more profits. A standard 9bb 3bet might earn 4.5bb's from the open-raiser and the blinds. However, a 3bet bluff versus an iso-raise might earn 7.5bb's from the limper, the iso-raiser and the blinds.
So, look ahead for 3bettors still to act before you iso-raise. You might have to make your iso-raise bigger to discourage their 3bet, or just fold to NOT give them a great opportunity. Also, plan your response to any 3bet before iso-raising.
Exploit the Iso-raisers! The next time you see a TAG or LAG iso-raise and you suspect they just want the limper to themselves, 3bet bluff 'em!
2. Beware of Short-stacked Limpers
Generally, look to iso-raise 40bb+ stacks. I don't know how many times I've isolated a 20bb stack only to face a limp/shove. They either planned this from the start, or they faced your raise and said, “Oh well, let's get it in!” And as mentioned before, short stacks make for small SPR's, so you have less room to maneuver post-flop.
3. Beware of Non-frequent Limpers
If someone rarely or never limps, or they're a competent TAG or LAG player, watch out! There's a good chance they're trying to trap you.
4. Tighten Your Iso-raising Range in the Blinds
Iso-raising with J8s on the BTN is one thing. But doing it from the blinds, and seeing the flop in a bloated pot OOP, is another thing.
When you isolate with J8s OOP, there are 2 big disadvantages:
- Positional Disadvantage. You already know your opponent doesn't like to fold, so they are less likely to fold to your OOP bluffs because they get to act with more information on following streets. And with J8s, you'll probably have to bluff to win the pot.
- Equity Disadvantage. Your J8s probably doesn’t have great equity against your opponent’s calling range.
Consider these disadvantages when iso-raising from the blinds and tighten up as necessary.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: In your next 3 sessions, focus on exploiting the limpers. When you hold a hand worthy of isolating, choose a good raise size and pull the trigger. The limper will probably call, so plan for post-flop play. Also, look out for 3bet bluffers and do your best to 3bet bluff the isolation raisers, too.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
DO NOT Do What Fish Do
“It's good to learn from mistakes. It's better to learn from other people's mistakes.”
– Warren Buffet
I absolutely love this quote from the world’s greatest investor because it’s not just applicable to life, but it suits us as poker learners extremely well.
Listen to this podcast episode #468 as you follow along below:
This is why I’m constantly going through my online poker database of hands, and I do the same thing with my students. We review hands and look for mistakes we made, so that we can work to NOT repeat those mistakes in the future.
Along the same lines, another great use of our study time is finding the mistakes of others and analyzing them. When we see what plays cost others valuable chips, and understand the reasons why these are poor strategies, this informs our game and we now know what plays and situations to avoid.
So, whose mistakes should we first try to learn from? Who makes the most mistakes at your tables?
They’re the weakest players at any table. They’re the marks that you’re always targeting. They love to see flops so they enter too many pots, and they remain in the pot for too long with weak hands and draws. These constantly repeated and costly mistakes make them the perfect targets for value.
This is great for sharks like you, who prey on the fishiest players, because you can work to isolate these mistake-makers for maximum profits.
And as a bonus, if you’re paying attention, fish can help you beyond the value they give to your bottom line. You can observe their most common and costly mistakes, analyze why they’re mistakes, and learn from them by working to NOT repeat those same mistakes.
So, what are the most common mistakes that fish make? And what MUST you do to avoid being a fish yourself?
Fishy Mistakes & Lessons Learned
#1: Fish limp into pots in an effort to see as many cheap flops as possible because they love making big hands.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT limp into pots. If a hand is worth playing, it's worth raising. Raising gives you fold equity and you can win the pot right now before even seeing the flop. Plus, if you get called, you still have the same chances to hit a strong hand on the flop. And, as the preflop raiser you can make a continuation bet to put pressure on your opponents to fold.
#2: Fish defend their blinds too frequently, playing too many pots with subpar hands and from out of position.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT defend your blinds too frequently. Feel free to fold “pretty” hands like J8s, 75s, 98o and K2s. Only defend with hands that are toward the top of your opponent's raising range. If your opponent is raising a 20% range with the worst suited-gapper being J9s, don’t defend your blind with 75s. Not only are you giving them positional advantage post-flop, they also have a mathematical advantage over your incredibly weak hand. This non-Bread & Butter poker is losing poker.
#3: Fish call bets and raises with multiple players yet to act, which often leads to harder-to-win multiway pots or facing re-raises.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT ignore the players yet to act. Consider how the remaining players may respond once you make your play. Calling an open-raise gives another player a great 3bet squeezing opportunity, or a greater price to enter the hand by overcalling. Calling a cbet in a multi-way pot on the flop gives another player better odds to call with their draws.
#4: Fish love making straights and flushes, so they can't find a fold post-flop with any draw.
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT call with just any draw. Count your outs, run the break-even math and if you're getting the right price, make the call. Don’t forget that you have the option to bluff raise. If they’re folding versus a raise, you don’t even have to hit your draw to win the pot.
#5: Fish give value with weak hands because, “He might be bluffing, and my 3rd pair can win… so I call!”
- Lesson Learned: DO NOT ignore the signs that your hand is beat. When a player commits lots of chips over many streets, you've got to hold a strong hand yourself in order to avoid giving away your chips. Fish only look at the strength of their hand, and don’t consider the range of their opponent. Great players ALWAYS put their opponent on a range of hands. If their range of hands crushes your current holding, it’s probably a good time to exit.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: This week is your opportunity to work to NOT make these same fishy mistakes. Write each of the five lessons learned above on a sticky note and attach it to your monitor or put it in Evernote on your phone. Warm-up this week by reading the list of five and committing to NOT doing these in every session you play.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
Exploiting the Fishies' 5 Biggest Mistakes
Now that you've learned how to avoid the 5 biggest mistakes that fish make, let's learn how to exploit those same mistakes. You're going to be earning more profits from the weakest players in the game… the Fish!
Listen to podcast episode #469 as you follow along below:
Mistake #1: Fish Limp Too Frequently
Fish love seeing cheap flops because they LOVE making big hands. Their thinking when they look down to see JT, A5, 33, J8, K9: “I might be able to hit something great on the flop, so I'm going to limp and hit something killer for just 1bb!”
You will exploit this mistake in 3 ways:
- Make isolation raises (raising after limpers) with hands ahead of their limp-calling range. This means you have to think about and visualize their limp-calling range. If they can limp-call with hands like JTs and J9s, then you don’t really want to isolation raise with J4s. Instead, play stronger hands ahead of their calling range like AJs, KJs and QJs. In the long run, fish can’t make up for the mathematical disadvantage their weaker calling ranges give them versus stronger raising ranges.
- Expect a call when you isolation raise. The fish already limped in, so they’ve shown they want to see the flop. Plus, fish hate folding once they've put money in. This means you must have a post-flop plan before you isolation raise. Think about:
- Their post-flop weaknesses.
- Your relative position.
- Their stack size after calling.
- Use a large iso-raising size. When iso-raising a limper, the goal is to get them to yourself. The old standard 3bb+1 per limper doesn't do the trick nowadays. I recommend 5-6bb+1 per limper to get even more value out of your best hands and to make it more likely the only caller will be the limper (or maybe other super fishy players, too).
Mistake #2: Fish Defend Their Blinds Too Frequently
This is great for you! Now, your bluffs will work less often, but the fish are defending with super weak hands. Plus, you’ve got position!
Exploit fishy blind defenders by open-raising to a size that isolates them in the blinds. Making it 3.5 to 4.5bb’s avoids 3bets and limits the callers, but the fish don't mind paying more to see the flop; they’ll still defend with A9, J8s, 75s and 87o. This puts you in loads of profitable Bread & Butter situations against fish. And just like I mentioned before, fish love defending so have a post-flop plan before you isolate them.
Mistake #3: Fish Play Too Many Multiway Pots
Before you raise preflop, consider how likely the remaining fish are to call your open-raise. If your raise gets 3 callers, you’re now in a multiway pot, which makes poker a bit more difficult.
If you believe your raise can lead to multiway action, narrow your range and/or use a larger raise size to discourage too many callers. A benefit of a larger-than-usual size is that it might just end up isolating the weakest player who is willing to call such a large size with weak hands.
You can also overcall with fish yet to act, knowing they won't 3bet without a solid hand. 3bets are the bane of 2bets, however, fish don't often 3bet so it's not a concern and you can call with your more speculative hands. Just be ready to play multiway pot, though.
Mistake #4: Fish Can’t Fold Draws
Keep bluffing to a minimum on wet boards because they’re not folding draws: “If they ain’t folding, you ain’t bluffing.” However, make bigger value bets to charge their draws. Imagine you hold top set of JJ on the JhTh3s flop. You know they’ll call with any flush or straight draw, plus their TP and maybe 2nd pair hands. If you bet small on this board with top set versus a fish, you're missing loads of value.
“Get value while the getting’s good.”
Make it ¾ pot or more and maximize the value you get from calling stations.
But you do have to beware when the draw completes. “Beware” doesn't mean to check and give up. However, it’s a good idea to slow down when the 3rd flush card or the 4th straight card hits the board. It’s okay to pot control and just check when there’s a great chance the turn or river just improved their hand.
One of the ways strong players hurt themselves is by spewing chips in ugly spots because they just don’t want to believe their opponent has the goods. If the fish suddenly wakes up with aggression in a spot where he’d usually be passive, that’s a key signal that he’s got the goods. It sucks, but sometimes you’ve got to be the one to find the fold and not give value to them.
Mistake #5: Fish Can’t Fold Pairs
Fish tend to just play their cards and the board. When they hold 2nd pair and a draw on the turn, and you barrel for ¾ pot, they don’t consider your range. All that goes through their mind is, “I have 2nd pair and a draw. He might be bluffing. I can’t fold.”
Fish don't use the Smart HUD (for PokerTracker 4), they don’t care your range, don't care about future board cards nor the fact that calling gives you position on another street. They only see their hand and the board.
This gives a great exploit: Gain maximum value from non-believing, non-thinking fish by betting big with a hand ahead of their calling range. As long as they can call with worse hands, bet for value on every street. Put them on a preflop range and gauge how well this range connects with the board. If they have plenty of weaker hands and draws in their range that can call, it’s a mistake to slow play your best hands by checking.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Write down each of the exploits in bold font above. Put ‘em on a sticky note attached to your monitor and refer to them in every session you play. Tag the fish on your table, and work to exploit them in every way possible, especially with the 5 exploits here.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
Support the Show
Get the Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4 to help you target and exploit the weakest limpers! Thank to this limper-exploiting poker peeps: Roman F, Juha S, Michael R, Jaroslav V, William H, Karlyne G, Leaf K, Alex W, David E, Fred, Eric B, Oli F, Jan S, Monica N, Domenico L, David, Scott M, Richard G, Yashar R, Giuliano P, Daniel K, Jim H, James B, Darren C, Joshua H, Craig A, Alberto P, Eric S, Chris B, Daniel M, Patrick F, Frank G, James B, Thomas W, Scott D, James R, Joel B, Chad J, Nate LC, Paul B, Christopher K, Lawrence W, Matthew N, Michael A, Stephen A, Charlie D, Kenneth C, Adam S, Amber C, David H, Nguyen H, John H and Sven N.
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