Playing Short Handed Poker

Playing full ring poker is relatively easy.  It's far easier to sit back and wait for premium hands. You have a lot more time to pick your spots. Shorthanded poker is a little different. The blinds come a lot faster when you’re in a 5 or 6-handed game and the faster the blinds come; the more aggressively you need to play. The reason being that you are playing blinds at a far faster rate, which means your stack is getting reduced faster than would be the case at a table with 9 other players.

To play profitably, we don't want to get left behind. We will need to stay aggressive and keep the pressure up. This will need to be done with less than premium hands. It takes much more skill to play shorthanded than it does to play full ring. Here are some tips to help you out:

Play Your Opponent

When you play in a full ring game, you’re primarily concerned with the cards you’re dealt. You will play certain cards in certain spots, depending who you are up against.  When you play in a shorthanded game, there’s less of a chance that one of your opponents have a good hand. This is a good enough reason to stay aggressive. It definitely is more of an advantage to have information on your opponents. Is your opponent passive?  Put more pressure on them by raising more often with your marginal hands. Is your opponent a calling station?  Then value bet them into oblivion.  Customize your play to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.

Regardless of the information you have, the only way to win is to mix it up and stay aggressive. More bets will get through as you are less likely to be up against a big hand.

Recognise that the loose action that short handed games offer attracts the action junkies. The action can get very loose at times. We need to adapt to the style of play of our opponents. If you have maniacs at the table, you are aiming to hit your hand and give them the rope to hang themselves.

Exploit Position

When there are fewer players in the pot, there’s less of a chance that someone hit the flop. In these situations, it's generally the player who shows the most aggression who wins the pot. More often than not, everyone will miss the board. This is to be expected with a reduced number of players at the table. It’s always easier to steal when you’re in position than it is to steal when you’re out of position.

Be aware that players will notice repeat steals from the same position. Too many from the same spot and you will be 3-bet more than you would want to be. Vary the spots where you are stealing from to make it look more natural.

Be Aggressive

Aggressive poker is winning poker and limpers are losers. Ok, that's a bit harsh, as true as it might be. Favor raising and folding over checking and calling. This is a winning strategy in short handed games. You want to keep the pressure up on your opponents and make them make tough decisions, one after the other.

You will hold the best hand maybe around 10% of the time compared to nearer 20% of the time in a full ring game. This applies to your opponent also. Exploit this fact and raise the aggression level. That means 9 out of 10 hands your opponents play they will miss.


Important Beginners Guides..

Read this no nonsense guide on how to play poker - covering the basics and game play. Perfect for those starting out.

A no nonsense guide on how to play poker. Ideal for beginners looking to learn how to play Texas Hold'em.

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