Sun-Tzu on Limping in Poker

sun_tzu
I was watching one of the poker shows on TV, I try to record most of them. One of the announcers asked the other, “I wonder what The Art of War (Sun-Tzu) has to say about limping?”
Being a advocate of The Art of War and Poker, I thought I’d take a look at it. There has already been a good book on the subject written by David Apostolico, Tournament Poker and the Art of War, and there is also a web site devoted to it. Sun Tzu’s Art of Poker

From “The Art of War” by Sun-Tzu,
In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack:
1. The direct betting/raising
2. the indirect –checking/limping
These two in combination give rise to an endless series of maneuvers.
The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn.

It is like moving in a circle — you never come to an end.

(It’s also an effective act of randomness to keep your opponent off balance.)

Masking strength with weakness is to be effected by tactical dispositions.
Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act.
He sacrifices something, (so) the enemy may snatch at it.

  • Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline,
  • Simulated fear postulates courage;
  • Simulated weakness postulates strength. It’s all part of the Lying Game of Poker!

If we wish to fight, the enemy can be forced to an engagement even though he (is) sheltered behind a high rampart and a deep ditch –a wall of chips-. All we need do is attack some other place that he will be obliged to relieve.
If we do not wish to fight, we can prevent the enemy from engaging us even though the lines of our encampment be merely traced out on the ground. All we need do is to throw something odd and unaccountable in his way –Randomness.

  • The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.

By holding out baits –limping/slow playing-, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.
By holding out advantages –showing weakness– to him, he can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

Whoever is first –to act-with –active or passive Aggression– in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle – will arrive exhausted.
Patience is a virtue in poker, more so in cash games than tournament, however,

“In a balance of mutual terror, whoever ACTS FIRST has the ADVANTAGE!”
  • Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.

Numerical weakness – lack of chips – comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength –many chips-, (by) compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.

  • Though the enemy be stronger in numbers, we may prevent him from fighting.
  • Scheme so as to discover his plans and the likelihood of their success.

If we are able thus to attack an inferior force with a superior one, our opponents will be in dire straits.

  • When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped.

Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances –Randomness and Deciet– .

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing.
Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics –Randomness– in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.
So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.


So, Limping is a weakness than can mask strength.
Some though say “Limping is Lame“. It really doesn’t happen that much in low stakes cash games. There is usually at least one Loose Aggressive player and frequently there are 2 or more in a game, so anyone limping is generally raised. This actually makes limping a good trapping play with strong hands out of position. Especially when the typical buy-in for something like a 1/2 game is only 50 Big Blinds.

I NEVER BLUFF

Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker