Going broke in a limped pot

This is a Tournament hand with blinds at 150/300 and ante of 30.

  • UTG (12000 - 40BB) 
  • HJ ( 10000 - 33BB)
  • CO (15000 - 50BB)
  • BU (14000 - 47BB)
  • SB (18000 - 60BB)
  • BB (12000 - 40BB)

Preflop: Villain is in the CO. Folded to him. He limps in. Button calls. Hero is in the SB with 9s7c and he completes. BB checks his option. We go four ways to the flop.

Flop (Pot size 1380): 9d8h6c

Hero bets 600. BB calls. Villain shoves. BU folds. Hero calls. 

Turn is 3h. River is Jh.

Villain shows 8d6s and wins the pot with two pair.


This hand is fairly straightforward in terms of strategy. But it introduces an important concept which I'll come to a little later. Let's get to the hand first.

Preflop, the villain limps in instead of Raising first in, which gives us our first piece of information: He is unlikely to have a strong holding (premium pockets, broadways). Most likely, he has a hand he wants to see a flop with for cheap. We have a decision with our off-suit connector. Usually, I wouldn't mind folding this hand right away even when we are getting such a good price. Reasons:

  • We will be out of position against 3 other opponents. It'll make it difficult for us to realise all our equity.
  • Even when we flop a pair, we are not happy with the situation with a bad kicker.
  • Our hand will often be dominated by better 9s or better 7s.
  • When we make two pair, it will often make concealed straights for our opponents.
  • We don't make strong hands often enough and when we make a weak hand, we lose a lot of money.

Basically, a lot of bad things happen. If it were suited, I can get behind the call much more.

As played, leading the flop is fine, although I much prefer to check-call to control the size of the pot. On this board, when we get raised, we are often behind. When we call, and do hit our straight, we might be chopping, up against a better straight or will not get paid since the straight is so obvious on that board. And when we hit a 7, we will be forced to call another bet even after knowing that the opponent probably has a straight.

Against villain's exact hand, we do have enough equity to make a mathematically correct break-even call but we don't know that he has 86o. When villain raises, he can have any of these hands - 98, 86, 96, better 9, same hand 97, 57, 7T, 88, 66 - These are a lot of hands and all of these beat us. I doubt if villain will shove a hand that we are beating. So against villain's complete shoving range, we don't have enough equity to justify a call.

Calculation of equity:

We need to call ~48BB to win a pot of ~59BB. So we need 48/(48+59)% or ~45%. But based on villain's range, we have only 33% equity. 

Calculating equity using Flopzilla

All this talk of strategy is less important than what I am about to tell you right now. The age old saying in Poker: 

Never go broke in a limped pot.

What this means is that if it is a limped pot, where no one raised pre flop, you don't want to stack off with a mediocre holding. Reasons:

  1. In a limped pot, unless you know the opponent inside out, you have no idea of his range. All that you can say is that he probably doesn't have premium pairs like AA or KK. Even that you can't be sure of if villain is tricky and was going for a limp-3bet with these hands.
  2. Without this critical information, hand reading post flop becomes difficult. When you bet and get raised, you are in a no man's land.
  3. Calculating your equity against villain's range becomes a nightmare.
  4. In a limped pot, there is less money in the pot pre flop. So if you go all in, you are risking much more to win a smaller pot - never a good idea.

A solid, aggressive pre flop style makes for a good winning poker strategy. Hopefully, you don't find yourself in this situation again, and when you do, remember the saying and proceed with caution.

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