Whenever someone comes to me for a general “game plan” of preflop strategy I often tell them that it is ok to limp in from the first few positions with hands like small pocket pairs. However, once, in a nine handed game, the first two players fold usually I tell my students that they should open raise or fold. The simple fact of the matter is the fold equity that they gain from opening instead of limping in this position against the dead money in the blinds usually makes a raise more +EV than a limp.
This is certainly the case when players buy the button or post dead behind the button. In the former case you only have to get through one player in order to pick up the dead money in the blinds and in the latter and you are in the more lucrative position of being able to steal three separate blinds. So in these situations, especially versus players that post dead, I think that we should change our strategy and almost always open raise with a hand that we are going to play and being first in the pot. The extra money that we can win without seeing a flop makes it worth it.
If you are paying close attention to what is going on around you can also exploit someone that you suspect is “stealing the dead money” just like a later position open raiser. I played a simple hand a few days ago where I was the button and a player to my right posted in front of me. The game was $5-10 $1500 cap and the action got folded to the hijack, an aware player. He opened the pot to $40. The player in the cutoff folded, along with giving up his $15 that he posted, and I decided to three-bet to $115 with K♥ 4♥ on the button. Both the blinds and the initial raiser folded allowing me to pick up a quick $70. Because I was paying attention to what was going on I knew that the raiser in the hijack had a wider opening range in this exact situation and my play needed to work only about 65% of the time for it to be profitable. I also knew that the player to my right respected me and I doubted that he would ever flat call my three-bet from out of position. If he took this situation one step further he may have considered four-bet bluffing me but normally the frequency of that happening in live poker at $5-$10 is rather low.
I have the same attitude about preflop play when I am at the $75-$150 to $100-$200 Omaha 8 game that is becoming more and more popular at the World Series. There, any time someone scoops a pot after a flop they have to “kill “ the hand. That means that they have to put out an extra $100 blind and the stakes of the next hand are played at $100-$200. Because there is no monetary minimum for this kill about 50% of the hands are played at $100-$200 with this extra blind. Similar to the reason why I attack the extra blind in No Limit I will usually adjust my play and almost always open raise with a hand that I will play if the pot is killed and it has been folded to me. And I also think that there are a fair amount of hands in Omaha 8 in non-kill pots that you should limp in with—much more than in No Limit Holdem. Stealing the blinds in a limit game actually has much more value than in No Limit as the stakes are bigger and players are getting immediate odds especially in Omaha 8. In fact even if you took the best possible starting hand in O8, AA23 double suited, you would still rather have the big blind fold than have him call with a random hand. This is much different than Holdem where you certainly want the blinds to call when you have a premium holding like aces or kings.