Home » What Does Open Limp in Poker Mean?

What Does Open Limp in Poker Mean?

Home » What Does Open Limp in Poker Mean?

What Does Open Limp in Poker Mean?

a woman is holding out a green poker chip over a poker table

If you’re new to poker, you might have heard the term “open limp” and wondered what it means. Well, there’s no need to keep wondering. This guide explains everything you need to know about this unusual bit of poker terminology.

Whether you play poker games online or in-person, tournaments or cash games, you’ll hear this expression fairly often. However, it’s not necessarily a good thing (as you’re about to discover.)

Definitions

Before discussing its implications, it’s important first to understand what the term open limp poker actually means. There are two distinct components here: “open” and “limp.”

The first word refers to opening the action in a hand. Whoever is first to make a voluntary contribution to the pot is said to have “opened.” It’s normally used in terms of betting, as in “opening the betting.” Since the preflop blinds and antes are a forced contribution, they don’t count.

Next up: the definition of limp. This somewhat pejorative term simply refers to calling the big blind without putting in a raise.

The best modern players agree that you should almost always enter the pot with a raise. Even in online poker tournaments where the value of chips is more important than in cash games, just calling is often a losing play. As such, it’s nicknamed “limping,” since this conjures up images of someone frail, injured, or just generally lacking in strength.

So What Is Open Limp in Poker?

Putting these two terms together is where the expression “open limp” is derived. In other words, the first voluntary action was neither a fold nor a raise, but a call. Here’s an example.

Imagine six players at a No-Limit Texas Hold’em cash game table with $0.50/$1 blinds. The player under the gun elects to fold and it’s now your turn to act. If you were to raise the big blind, this would be an “open raise.” But instead, you opt to call and hope to see a flop on the cheap. You just “open limped.”

Types of Poker Limp

a person is playing online poker on a laptop with stacks of poker chips on either side of it on a green felt poker table in a casino

Limping in poker comes in a few different flavors. Although it’s most commonly associated with Texas Hold’em, it applies to other variations of poker too, including Omaha and Seven-Card Stud. 

In the latter game, whichever player shows the lowest-ranked door card posts a forced bet. This is called the “bring-in” and is a bit like the small blind in the sense that it’s not a full bet. 

Anyone wishing to play the hand must now “complete” the bet, posting an amount equal to the small bet limit. This is comparable to the big blind. Players subsequently entering the pot with a call are said to be limping. 

Fixed Limit Games

Sticking with blind-based games like Omaha and Texas Hold’em, it’s worth pointing out that you can still open limp within a fixed-limit structure. With this type of game, you can’t raise whatever amount you like. Instead, you’re restricted by the designated limits. 

For instance, in a $1 / $2 Limit Hold’em game, the small and big blinds are $1 and $2, respectively. But this means that bets and raises must be in increments of $2 preflop and postflop, with $4 bets on the turn and river.

Continuing with the above example, imagine the player under the gun chooses to call the $2 big blind instead of making it $4 to play. This is still considered an open limp.

Limping From the Small Blind

Suppose the action folds all the way around to the small blind. Regardless of the limits in place, they have a decision to make. If they opt to call and hope that the big blind checks, this is still a form of open limping. 

Yes, they already had half of the bet in the pot so it’s no longer their money. But by completing the bet they’ve chosen to put more chips into the pot without raising. By definition, that’s a limp. And since their decision was the first voluntary action, they’ve opened with a limp.

Is an Open Limp Ever Justified?

a woman is picking up from a stack of poker chips while showing her hole cards in the blurred background

Strategy experts and top players consider open limping a weak move. But can it ever be considered a good play? Well, like everything in poker, there’s never a one-size-fits-all strategy. The answer in pretty much every theoretical spot is, “it depends.” So, in certain rare situations, yes, you can potentially justify an open limp. 

Friendly and Passive Games

You might need to adjust your strategy if the game is extremely passive. For example, if it’s a friendly home game where everyone is drunk or the standard just isn’t very good, too much aggression is bad. 

If your raises aren’t respected and everyone just calls everything, you might as well play smaller pots by limping instead of raising. What’s more, you don’t want to scare the total fish away by showing how amazing you are at poker. Keep it light and friendly. Mix a lot more open limping into your game.

Targeting Individual Players

Perhaps the wider table isn’t so passive, but one specific individual is. If that player is close to you on your left, you might want to open limp on their big blind. The thinking is that, due to their passivity, you’ll see a lot more cheap flops than you would against anyone else.

If that player is to your immediate left, so they have the big blind when you’re in the small, don’t resort to open limping. If it folds around to you, throw out a raise and steal as many blinds as possible — unless, of course, you’ve spotted one of their poker tells and you sense they might be strong.

Staying Unpredictable

Finally, it’s vital in any form of poker to mix up your game. A predictable player is exploitable, so it’s useful to throw in unusual actions from time to time in order to balance your ranges.

Usually, this means bluffing with a certain percentage of your worst hands, or occasionally flat calling with a monster. There aren’t too many spots where you’d want to open limp to throw an opponent off. But if the game is extremely aggressive, it won’t hurt to just call when under the gun with pocket aces once in a while. 

Stop Limping and Get Over to BetMGM

So, there are indeed a few situations in which limping may be acceptable. However, for the most part, it’s just a terrible play. Not only is it likely to cost you money in the long term, it also sends a signal to the rest of the table. 

Other players will assume that you’re passive and probably inexperienced. As a result, they’ll try to pick on you more frequently, isolating you in pots and attempting to steal your blinds. 

Try railing some of the cash games at BetMGM and take note of what happens to frequent open-limpers. And once you’re ready to bring a new, more aggressive style of play to the tables, register an account and jump right in.

Wondering what the poker term “open limp” means? Read on to discover what it is and when it’s considered an acceptable play.