One of the most distinguished and easily recognizable traits of an inexperienced recreational player is repeatedly just calling the big blind in an unopened pot, better known as limping. You will hardly find any examples of that play if you watch streams or videos of the best players in the world. And there are many good reasons why.
Why Limping is generally a bad idea
First off, if you just limp, you eliminate the strongest hands from your range. Even the person who sits down at a poker table for the first time in their life will raise if they get dealt a big pocket pair – by limping you’re telling your good opponents you have a marginal holding pre-flop. If you raise your whole range you can represent stronger holdings on later streets.
Also, if you open the pot with a weaker hand the others, even the good players will fold out a ton of equity against you. Let’s say you open up 98 suited in the cutoff – if you’ve been disciplined until that point, not playing too many hands, a competent player will throw away T8 off in the small blind even though they have 65% equity against your cards.
When you open, don’t raise too big since it’s going to cost you a lot if they have you beat; also you want to be able to get called by worse hands – 2.5X-3X big blind is the standard.
Be careful not to open too many hands either. As a point of reference, in 6-handed cash games around 30% VPIP is what winning players tend to have on average – this includes calling someone else’s raise as well. If there are more players at the table, you should be opening fewer hands, with fewer opponents you should open more. Make sure you open less often from earlier positions, since if more players are left to act that means there’s a bigger chance that you’ll be up against a big hand.
There are some exceptions
If you play lower stakes, you can elect to limp from time to time – but only if some else limped in before you. That way if there’s a good loose-aggressive player behind you, they’re less likely to try to bluff you off your hand and raise since they’d have to get through two players. If there is such a LAG player at your table to your left you can exploit them by trapping your premium holdings and limp-re-raise them, but that is a more advanced strategy and should be applied very rarely.
The only scenario where limping is acceptable on higher levels if it folds around to you in the small blind – still, raising and trying to knock the big blind out is more advised, but if you do that every time your opponent can call and re-raise you very light so you can mix in some limps there if you wish to.