In small stakes games, it is not uncommon to face opponents who think it is a good idea to limp in with a wide range of marginal hands. While this is almost certainly an indication that you are in a profitable game (because limping in is usually the sign of a weak player), you must be careful to not fall into the trap of overvaluing your marginal made hands once numerous players see the flop.
For example, suppose you are playing a $1/$2 no-limit cash game with $200 effective stacks and a weak, straightforward player limps in from early position. Two other splashy players limp in from middle position. You are on the button with As-Js. You decide to raise to $13 (limping would also be an acceptable option). All of the limpers call $11 more. At this point, it is important to realize that the limpers could easily have lot of marginal hands that each have about 40% equity versus you. You could also occasionally be against a better hand that is being played in a passive manner, such as A-K or A-Q.
The flop comes Ah-Td-5c. Your opponents check to you. You decide to bet $27 into the $55 pot. The initial limper check-raises to $88. The other players fold.
Should you call, 3-bet all-in, or fold?
The first thing you need to do is assess your opponent’s check-raising range. Most weak, straightforward players would only check-raise with top pair with a strong kicker or better. Seeing how there are no reasonable draw available (almost no one check-raises K-Q in this spot), you should assume that you’re against mostly made hands that he thinks are strong. This is most likely A-Q or better, including all two pairs and sets. Against that range, your A-J is crushed, meaning you should easily fold. Take a look at the opponent’s most likely range and see how A-Jo fares:
Even if your opponent check-raises some A-x combinations (indicated by the A-xs “Hand you beat” range), you are still crushed 66% of the time. If your opponent happens to check-raise all Broadway gutshot straight draws with backdoor flush draws, you still have the worst hand on average. The only time continuing makes sense is when your opponent check-raises with all A-x hands, which will rarely be the case.
Most amateur players run into the problem where they call $61 more, effectively lighting money on fire. They do not recognize that while they flopped a strong hand, their opponent’s range has them crushed.
You may be asking yourself “Why should you continuation bet on the flop if you plan to fold when someone check-raises?” The reason is because when someone just calls your continuation bet, which will frequently happen, you will be against a range consisting of almost entirely marginal made hands that are drawing thin. By betting with the intention of folding to a check-raise, you get value when you are ahead and lose only a little when you are behind. Of course, do not let your opponents know that you plan to fold most of your range to a check-raise!
From time to time, you will be against a player who will check-raise the flop with a much wider range of marginal made hands, perhaps J-T or better. Against these players, it is wise to call the flop check-raise with the intention of calling any additional bets. If your opponent is wild, you must adjust your strategy to take advantage of his tendencies.
It is important to realize that when numerous players see a flop, it is not uncommon for someone to flop a premium hand. If it isn’t you, don’t be afraid to get out of the way, even if you flop a reasonably strong hand.
If you enjoyed this blog post, you will love my podcast, Weekly Poker Hand. Each week, I analyze a fun hand that I played and share my thought process as to why I played it as I did. Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post.