As poker strategy has evolved, the players have developed ubiquitous tactics like c-betting and check-raising. They’ve also identified common mistakes like limping and slow playing. Those two misplays are well-known in poker as some of the most egregious blunders you can make. You have probably heard of them, but have you ever wondered what makes them so bad? Have you ever believed there are niche situations where slow playing and limping could work? If that’s on your mind, this poker guide is for you. It’ll explain both slow playing and limping in-depth, answering why they are bad and in what situations they can be justified.

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What is limping?

Limping in poker is when you call the big blind instead of raising or folding. There are actually two types of limp: Open and over-limping. Open-limping is when you call the big blind as the first player to enter the pot. Over-limping is when you call after one or more players have already called the big blind before you. Of the two, open-limping is considered far worse for the reasons below.

Why is limping bad?

Limping, primarily over-limping, is a huge mistake because it’s too passive. Aggressive play puts you in control of the pot, while limping relinquishes this control to the other players.

By limping, you invite more people into the pot since they only have to call the negligible amount of the big blind. More people in the pot is terrible for you since each added player increases the chance of someone having a better hand than yours.

Limping also causes you to miss out on the many benefits of raising. You don’t get a chance to win the pot outright, and you also miss out on the information given by your opponent’s response to your raise.

Another huge downside is that open-limping usually doesn’t allow you to see the flop cheaply. Limping signals weakness and inexperience, putting a target on your back. It’s almost a guarantee someone else will raise, taking the opportunity you gave up by limping.

All limping does is give you a small chance of seeing the flop. It gives up pot control, leads to pots with multiple players involved, and doesn’t give you information.

When does limping work?

Open-limping usually never works. It has all the downsides of a usual limp and is unlikely to let you see the flop anyway.

On the other hand, over-limping is actually a good call most of the time if you have a drawing hand. If multiple other players have already decided to limp, you can take advantage of a cheap chance at seeing the flop.

Limping is also far more acceptable in other poker variants besides Texas Holdem. A great example is Short Deck, where limping is the default since it’s unlikely you’ll win the pot outright with a raise due to the format’s hand strengths and antes instead of blinds.

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What is slow playing?

Slow playing is another strategy that may sound good on paper but is terrible in practice. It is when someone plays passively, even when they hold a strong hand.

Beginners often slow play because they think it’s an easy way to trick their opponents. By pretending to have a weak hand with passive play, they can entice more people into the pot.

More people in the pot means it will grow, and slow play allows you to make it to the showdown, revealing your premium hand and surprising everyone.

Why doesn’t slow playing work?

Reading the definition of slow playing, you may think, “That doesn’t actually sound too bad.” It’s true; the technique does seem sound at first.

However, in an actual game, slow playing fails to accomplish any of its intended goals. In fact, it actively works against some.

For building the pot, slow play often falls flat when playing with other passive players. You’re relying on someone to do the betting and raising, which may not happen. You could lose all the value from your premium hand by slow playing if everyone checks to the showdown.

Slow playing also makes it significantly harder to win the pot. Like limping, it encourages people to join the pot, reducing your chances of winning. This time, however, it’s even worse. Slow playing also lets your opponents see the turn and river easily.

This means that, even if you have the best starting hand like AA, you’re prone to getting beaten by straight and flush draws. Slow play makes it harder to win and is incredibly unreliable for building the pot, meaning it fails at everything it was intended to do.

When does slow playing work?

Slow playing seems like a particularly dreadful mistake, and it is. However, it does have one notable niche use: Playing against loose-aggressive players.

Loose-aggressives play many hands and aren’t afraid to constantly bet and raise, even as a bluff. They’re notoriously difficult to play against since it’s hard to tell what they’re holding from their actions.

Surprisingly, slow playing works well to counter these kinds of players. It relies on someone doing all the betting for you, and most loose-aggressive players will do just that. They may also see your passive play as a sign of weakness, prompting them to try and bluff you.

While slow playing has niche uses, don’t use it too often. Loose-aggressive players often understand the game very well, as the style requires experience and confidence to execute. If you stick to one technique, they will catch on.

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Improve your game with online poker!

In conclusion, there’s no such thing as a “useless technique” in poker. Even ones normally seen as mistakes, like slow playing and limping, have niche uses. It’s up to you to decide when to use them, but remember they aren’t widely applicable. To develop experience in slow playing and limping, you should play poker online. The fast pace means you can learn quicker, and there are near-infinite game formats and variants.