Monday, August 07, 2006

Limp Re-raising: Yay or Nay?

Thesis: Limp re-raising with AA or KK is never correct at NLHE.

I've seen people limp re-raise with KK and AA a good bit at baby $1/2 and $2/4 NL tables, and can't for the life of me understand it. I tried to allow it some leeway at first, as far as a play that has some legs to it (although really not optimal for baby NL tables where players simply aren't very good and can't lay down hands when they "should"), but more and more I can't see any time, at any table, where it's correct to limp re-raise with KK or AA.

Here's an easy, obvious example:

I'm sitting at a $2/4 NL table at Titan and have been playing for about twenty minutes, with a stack of $360. No real reads or data on any opponents, seems like a fairly generic table.

I'm in the BB with QQ. Folds to CO, who limps in. Button limps, SB folds, and I raise to $20. CO limp re-raises, making it $25 more. Button folds and I call.

CO has about $450 behind at this point in the hand and has played pretty straightforward from what I've seen so I'm just going to assume that he has KK and AA. If the flop is undercards and he bets when I check to him (other than some ridiculous amount like $4), I'm just going to fold and look for a better spot. Any A, K, or J on the flop, I check-fold. Unless I flop a set, I'm basically done with the hand. If he is capable of pulling this move with a hand like AK or 22-1010 and follows through with a sizable continuation bet on a flop that misses him, then kudos to him, he deserves the extra $25 he got out of me.

Flop is Qc 8h 3d. I check-call his $75 bet on the flop and all the money goes in on the turn. He doesn't hit his two-outer with KK and I double up.


That's an obviously biased example on several levels, but fairly illustrative of my point. Yes, indeed, I'll whiff ~7 times out of 8, and he'll extract $25 from me each time, but that's a pretty puny sum when you consider not only what I win when I flop a set (and it holds up), but what he could have otherwise extracted from me by simply making a standard pre-flop raise, which I would have re-raised, etc. etc., and he'd likely taking a much larger chunk of my stack if I ended up with an overpair on the flop.

One obvious argument for the limp re-raise is that it encourages hands like AKo, 1010, JJ, or QQ to push back over the top pre-flop, if the player is overly aggressive and not very good. Very true, but that same overly agreesive, not very good player is going to likely do that anyway on the flop, so you're really not gaining much from the limp re-raise itself. You are, though, giving a cautious and/or good player the chance to fold their overpair on the flop, which is a pretty terrible outcome for your dominant hand, especially when it's infinitely harder for them to fold that same dominated overpair if you'd played your KK or AA in a normal fashion pre-flop, instead of limp re-raising.

I suppose you could argue that there's some value in limp re-raising with KK or AA if it's a full table with many limpers, as far as clearing out the clutter that might crack your big pair, but I'm still having a hard time believing that you extract full value from those hands in the situation, as you're essentially turning your hand over face-up and encouraging all sorts of hands to call pre-flop and then check-fold the flop if they can't beat KK or AA.

It's obviously dangerous to make broad, sweeping generalizations when it comes to poker, but I'm just not seeing the value in limp re-raising with KK or AA, no matter what angle you look at it from.

With that broad, sweeping generalization made, are there any hands that it's okay to limp re-raise with?

1010, JJ, and QQ are the next obvious candidates, but they run into fairly immediate issues. If you limp re-raise with them and the original raiser comes back over the top, you've pretty much got to fold. If the original raiser just calls and an A or a K come on the flop (and you don't hit your set), you're in a pretty difficult spot and essentially forced to fold to a sizable bet or to a check-raise. If you make a hefty continuation bet and they fold, you likely had them dominated anyway. If you make a hefty continuation bet and they call, you can't really fire another bullet.

You're also not really gaining much by representing KK or AA with the limp re-raise (when in fact you have 1010-QQ), even against cautious and/or good players that could lay down a better overpair that isn't KK or AA if the flop misses them. The only spot where your limp-raise successfully pulls that off (forcing a better or equal overpair to fold on the flop) is when you limp re-raise with 1010 or JJ or QQ (representing KK or AA) and then get QQ, JJ, or 1010 to fold on a flop with all undercards to their pair.

Granted, getting QQ to fold when you have JJ and the board is 10 9 2, rainbow is a pretty nice coup (especially if they called a decent-sized re-raise pre-flop), but it takes quite the rare combination of circumstances for that to work. Remember, it's only the very narrow range outlined above where you gain anything by the limp-raise, as pairs like 88-33 are folding or check-folding that flop anyway.

The only real value I can see in the limp re-raise with 1010-QQ is possibly driving out AK pre-flop or having AK call the re-raise pre-flop and then fold when the flop misses them. And there is some value there, indeed, especially given the number of people that fall in love with AK preflop. How to quantify it, I do not know, or how to calculate whether it makes up for all the times you have to fold pre-flop after limp re-raising if someone comes back over the top of you. Or folding to a bet when an A or K flops. Or the money you lose by driving out underpairs pre-flop, that might hang around otherwise hoping their second pair to the board is good, etc.

Extending the argument (and talking out my ass even more), there's probably more value in limp re-raising with hands like J10s or 78s than any of the pairs discussed so far. It makes sense on a grunt monkey level, since limp re-raising basically translates to "I have a big pair", and the hand typically de-volves into a game of chicken with other big pairs (or AK). If you have a bigger pair, you win lots of money in the long run. In limited instances, you win smaller sums of money by causing a bigger pair to fold.

If you limp re-raise with J10s, though, and your opponent folds pre-flop or on the flop, you're almost guaranteed to be causing a better hand to fold, and running very little risk of having a dominated hand folding. Pretending for the moment that your opponents are aware and sentient and will stay at your table for awhile and/or take notes on your play, you also might gain some elusive deception value for the times you limp re-raise with a hand like J10s and it goes to showdown. Not so much when you limp re-raise with KK or AA, as that's the obvious holding to make that move, and doesn't register as anything deceptive at all when it goes to showdown.

In the end, who knows. Long story short, I can only scratch my head at the limp-raises with KK or AA, especially in cahs games, as it seems to accomplish very little and to sacrifice much information.

8 comments:

Chilly said...

I think the limp re-raise is so common because it is "a move". Players don't know why they are doing it, they don't have a reason, they just know that they are "making a move".

I think the same can be said of the bankroll busting stop and goes that I see. A lot of cold calling, push all in on the flop that can only be explained by "I wiffed, I better make a move"

RikkiDee said...

It definitely perplexes me as well. I saw most often in Vegas playing 1/2 NL. The "pro" players would do this and when it "worked" they would rake in the chips with the smuggest of satisfied smug faces. Which lead me to believe that they simply enjoy the utility associated with making this play, rather than for its poker merits.

However, I do see one reason for doing it that actually may have some sort of merit - to mix up your play. I know its hard to assume anyone online is watching you enough to know which hands you limp with and which you raise with, but for the odd observant opponent, if they notice you never ever limp early with AA-KK they can safely assume your early position open limp is some sort of marginal hand. Whereas if you showdown an open limp that is a big pair, they can't be entirely sure and they'll certainly remember it.

But, against random donks, it's useless and -EV all day.

Mark said...

I 3-bet these sentiments. Limp-raising too often gets you into small pots with the best hand and big pots with the worst.

kurokitty said...

I think it's more a symptom of weak, inexperienced play than anything else.

What is going on in a player's head when they limp raise? Well, many times they are thinking "Oh, everyone is going to fold if I raise it up here and then I'm not going to get any action for my AA, so I'm going to limp in and then see if anyone will raise it for me and then I'm either going to slowplay them or jack it up preflop."

The problem is that they're playing too tightly or not aggressively and am not raising other hands to keep the table on their toes. Or even if the table is too tight, that player is losing an opportunity to loosen up and steal blinds with many other hands.

It is good to mix up your play -- I think of High Stakes Poker recently when Johnny Chan both raised with AA and limped in for a multiway pot that could have been a disaster for him. But he did not limp-raise. I think that would be too obvious for real pros.

Drizztdj said...

How about running a bluff with air by limp-reraising a player you have a read on?

Implied tilt odds? Set him/her up for the time you DO hold AA/KK and want to get paid off?

Seems like a viable strategy.

Victor_Enriq said...

I agree with you on this one no doubt.

Although could work on a tourney table, where ppl are moving in with short Ms, then you may get to catch a medium stack that called the all in.

StudioGlyphic said...

If you only limp-reraise with AA or KK, that's stupid. If you balance the hands you'll do it with, then that makes the move unpredictable and more profitable. I think the only situation where you could limp-reraise only with AA and KK is when you are at a super-loose table with a couple aggressives who will raise it up after enough limpers are in the pot. This also serves to make the aggressive player think twice about whether limping indicates weakness or hidden strength.

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