In most advice and guidelines for first in the pot, the general guidance is to raise. I have found the advice when playing a medium difficulty $2/$5 NL 9 max there is way to many of the advisors saying to just limp. Why is this the case from so many advisors if the prevailing guidance has always to raise if 1st in?
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In the modern game, it's almost a given to raise if 1st in. The reason is, it turns out, it works best. Seriously, that's almost enough to go on. But if you want more than that, there are a couple things: 1) you are going to want to raise your really good hands, like AA, but not make it obvious that this is what you have...thus you need to raise your other hands too as disguise. 2) if you are first in, and raised, you have a chance to steal the blinds...this is worth something by itself. 3) if you aren't willing to raise, it's a sign you should maybe not play the hand. Against this, limping has only about one advantage, which is the chance to see the flop cheaply, and this turns out to be not as good as the other three, most of the time.
Sorry...this was a double post.
The first and foremost reason not to flat-call the big blind when no one else has entered the pot voluntarily, is the rake. An unraised pot is going to be small and the rake is going to take a big bite out of it. This is especially true in live cash games in California, where a substantial drop is taken out of the pot when a flop is seen. It is not uncommon in low-stakes games with weak players, to have two or three players fighting over one or two dollars in the pot. A raised pot is going to be bigger and be worth fighting over.
Calling the blind, limping in, first in has only one way to win a pot: to make a hand. There is no fold equity in limpiing. Opening for a raise, on the other hand, can sometimes take down the blinds then and there, to an immediate profit.
Especially in earlier positions, open-limping caps our range. Unless we are specifically including some big hands like AA in our open-limping range, our limping range is going to be weak. If we add enough hands to balance limping with AA (to keep from capping our range) we are limping with enough of our value range that we are losing out on the value we can earn by raising with those hands. Thus, not capping our range when we limp costs us a lot of EV. So limping caps our range, and makes it easier for other players to exploit us, especially when they have position on us.
Especially in earlier positions, limping means it is highly likely we will be playing the rest of the hand out of position. We want to avoid this as much as we can.
If we open-limp and a player acting after us raises, we are now in the unhappy situation of having to choose either to put more money into the pot and play the rest of the hand out of position or to give up the money we put into the pot when we limped. We should be folding in that spot something like half the time, and the other half we are in a difficult spot.