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I am a beginner in poker, but whenever I play poker with average people and somewhere around 6 players, they will fold about 20-40% of the time, usually with the mentality that few people raise preflop and its worth paying one big blind to see if they get lucky. When I watch professionals, most players fold at the beginning, usually 2ish players don't fold. Is this because beginners don't raise enough preflop and so it is worth paying a small amount for a chance at a good flop? If so, how do you take advantage of this, because if I raise too high with a good hand preflop I think most players will fold and if the other players at the table almost never raise preflop, isn't it still worth calling to test your luck?

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That's a good question and an excellent observation for a novice player.

There are few things in poker that you should always or never do. However, it's almost universally accepted among competent poker players that you should never open limp into a pot, ie. be the first player to merely call the big blind. It is also one of the most common mistakes novice and/or bad players make. There are many reasons why open limping is bad. I'll list the ones I can think of here.

First of all, the foundation of a sound poker strategy is to play a strong range of hands aggressively. To begin with, that means being selective about which hands you decide to play. You should aim to play roughly the best 20%–30% of your starting hands, and simply fold the rest. Which hands exactly depends on your position. The earlier your position, the more selective you should be, because the higher the risk is that someone who hasn't acted yet, has a strong(er) hand.

Now that you've limited yourself to only playing quality hands, why should you bet instead of call? Simply put, because that will win you more money in the long run. When you have a good hand, you want to win a big pot. The only way to win a big pot, is to start building it early. You talk about paying a small price to see a flop in the hopes of getting lucky. The problem is that when you finally do hit an improbable two pair or better after having just called pre-flop, you will vary rarely be able to extract a large amount from your opponent, because most people (rightly) don't want to call a large bet when the pot is tiny.

The second reason for betting instead of limping, is to dissuade your opponents from calling with a wide range. It is infinitely more difficult to play against a lot of opponents who can have anything than having to play against one or two with more clearly defined ranges.

The third reason is to disguise your hand. Presumably you don't always limp, but will also on occasion open-raise? In theory it is possible to both have a open-limping range and an open-raising range preflop that are balanced so that you opponents can't put tell if you have a very strong or a medium strong hand, when you do either. In practice it's very difficult to do, and even if you could do it, it would probably not be worth it. Most players who both open-limp and open-raise have very transparent ranges for doing either.

The fourth reason is blind stealing. If you open limp, the big blind is always getting to see a flop, thereby getting a free chance to improve a hand they would have otherwise folded. Don't give them that free chance! If you have a hand worth playing, bet! And make them pay for their chance at getting lucky.

Finally, I want to address this common worry: if I raise too high with a good hand preflop I think most players will fold.

  1. Sometimes (often even) when you have AA or KK and bet, all the other players fold, and that sucks. It still doesn't mean you shouldn't have bet, it just means that none of the other players had a hand that they felt like playing. You'll make it up in spades when one of them wakes up with AJ, or TT, or whatever.
  2. If they fold a lot, that just means you get to pick up the blinds a lot. You won't always have AA or KK. You'll more often have a hand that needs to improve some way to win in a showdown. 77 unimproved will rarely be the best hand in a showdown. Likewise with AK. Which is why you should not feel bad when you win the pot uncontested.
  3. You are almost certainly wrong that the people you play against will start folding a lot. Poker players in general, and beginners in particular hate folding! If you only raised when you had AA or KK, then sure, a few astute players will catch on, and get out of the way. But once you start raising every hand you decide to play, even the most novice of novices will correctly deduce that you can't have AA every time, and will revert to their default behavior of calling too often.

You can read more about limping and why it's a bad strategy here: https://upswingpoker.com/limps-poker-open-limpers-strategy/

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