Playing Big Hands in Limped Pots

There are few disappointments in poker that are bigger than having an amazing hand only to win a small pot, but this can easily happen and, unfortunately, often does. Players with drawing hands who are just hoping to see a cheap flop may “limp” into the hand by just calling. A big decision that you have to make is how susceptible your big hand is to being out drawn. Position is a critical factor in just about every single aspect of poker and a limped pot is no exception. Allowing other players to draw to their hands might help you to get paid off on the hand but it also might get your hand beaten. A bigger, and much more costly, disappointment than winning a small pot with a big hand is to lose a big pot with a big hand.

Two Possible Scenarios in Limped Pots

There are two possible scenarios for having a big hand in a limped pot and many factors to consider. The difference between the two scenarios is having a premium hand before the flop or making a hand on later streets.

• Premium Starting Hand – A premium starting hand for a newer player would be like AA, KK, QQ, or AK. As you develop more experience with poker you may choose to broaden the hands that you consider to be premium starting hands.
If you brought a big pocket pair or A, K to the flop then the texture of the flop will dictate your actions. If there are no over cards or straight and flush draws then you may want to check or call trying to build a bigger pot. However your pocket kings don’t look that strong when an ace comes on the flop. Even pocket aces are in jeopardy on certain flops like when there are 3 suited cards that don’t match either of your aces. Someone could have hit a set with a small pocket pair on what seems like a pretty safe flop. So your best move with a big hand going in to the flop is a continuation bet to try to take the pot down right there if you did not improve.

Position – In early position with a premium starting hand you should usually raise up to triple the big blind and only try to slow play in situations where you feel you will be getting a check raising opportunity. In late position with a large pocket pair and a lot of limpers in front of you a big raise is your best bet because it will most likely cause most of the limpers to fold and leave a lot of dead money in the pot. In the blinds you may sometimes want to just limp in, with the other limpers, to try and conceal the strength of your hand and maybe get some action on the flop. Mostly you would want to raise because that will either get the drawing hands to fold or make them pay a higher price for the draw when the percentages are in your favor.

Table Action – At tight tables you should always be more aggressive which means raising with a big hand against limpers and at looser tables you should usually tighten up a bit, meaning a little more slow playing.

• Made Big Hand on the Flop – This is when your pre flop drawing hand made a big hand on the flop, turn, or river. If you do not make your hand on the flop make certain to consider the pot odds before investing in a turn or river draw.
If you called pre flop with a drawing hand, along with a few other limpers, and hit your hand hard with a perfect flop giving you the nuts then this is the time that you want to slow play your hand because you are not worried about being out drawn.

Position – Do not limp in early position with a drawing hand because of the risk of being raised and having to throw away your hand and lose your bet or, even worse, throw “good money after bad” by calling the raise. In late position with a drawing hand, if there have been a few limpers in front of you, you may want to occasionally limp along to see a cheap flop. In most cases it is usually best to raise rather than just call because you may take the pot pre flop and if you don’t you will have represented strength before the flop that might help you win with a bluff on the flop. The blinds are the best positions to play a drawing hand. When several limpers call your big blind you can occasionally try to buy the pot with a raise but for the most part you should just take a free peak at the flop. Even the worst starting hand in Texas Hold Em, a seven deuce off suit, becomes a drawing hand in this situation. Before limping in the small blind you have to think about the player on your left who may be very aggressive making a raise almost certain but with the exclusion of that situation the pot odds will almost always make your half bet call a good investment.
Table Action – As stated earlier you have to contrast a tight table with aggression and a loose table with a little tighter play which means a little less raising and a little more limping.

Tournament situations also impact how you would play a big hand in a limped pot. The stage of the tournament, your chip stack at the time, and the money positions could greatly affect how you play a big hand in a limped pot but that is a topic for another article.

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