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Limping and passive play: why it happens, and how you should respond

November 25, 2020

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Recreational poker sites that are free-to-play like Replay attract many more casual players than real cash sites, and the level of play is noticeably different.

One of the obvious traits of an inexperienced player is their tendency to “limp” before the flop and to call bets thereafter, rarely folding and never raising.


They don’t know any better. They have never studied a poker strategy book. It seems obvious to the uninitiated that “you have to be in it to win it,” so calling to stay in the hand seems logical. Just like buying a lottery ticket! Their hand reading skills are marginal at best. To them, any bet they face could be a bluff, even though the bettor has never shown any out-of-line tendencies before. 

Coupled with the tendency to call is the lack of inclination to raise. When inexperienced or passive so-called “stations” have a strong holding, it can be frustrating to find you have been betting with a medium strength hand only to find they held literally all the aces all along.

How do you play against such a passive player?

  1. Take notes!

Not everyone who plays as described is new, but the strategy is often a successful one against hot-headed bluffers and aggressive rebuy takers. If someone frequently calls the pre-flop blind and never comes into a pot with a raise (except maybe a “min-raise” of just two big blinds), they’re likely to just leak chips and “play cards,” not win poker. Work out the mindset of your opponents and play accordingly.

  1. Value bet

If your hand is better than average, and they tend to call with anything worse than a middle pair (even when there is the obvious threat of a multitude of better hands), make sure you make a big enough bet to make them pay. Make them pot committed if you’re sure you have the best hand, but you do not have to over-bet. They will continue to call on every street, so you can steadily rope them in with larger and larger bets as the pot increases.

  1. Don’t bluff. Be patient.

This is critical. Do not even try a bluff in order to make a show of being a bluffer. They won’t recognize the context of the situation, and you can’t make them call you any more frequently than they already were going to. Wait until you have the goods before you make significant bets which you expect to be called by non-believing players.

  1. Respect their raises

When they do make a bet or a raise, it is usually with a hand they are sure is winning. Sometimes they will be mistaken, when they misread a hand at Omaha, or finally complete a small flush draw after missing several attempts. Treat their aggression with respect and do not worry if you judiciously fold a hand, only to discover you had the eventual winner. It is, after all, better to fold a winner than play a loser.

  1. Be nice!

Let the recreational players enjoy their game, win or lose. 

  • Nobody likes a sore loser. Berating a player who just won a pot from you appears counter-intuitive to them. They just beat you, so who was the best player that hand?
  • Nobody likes a bad winner. Gloating about somebody making a terrible call will discourage them from playing with you again and you could quickly lose access to their easy chips.