Short handed games

10 keys to be successful in poker short handed games

Patience is a key virtue at a poker table but certainly not in short handed games

short handed

1. ALWAYS KEEP AN OPEN EYE : Usually at a full ring table (9 to 10 players) the strategy consists in waiting for a good hand. This allows you to potentially open 10 tables at a time. In short handed games (4 to 6 players) it is a luxury you will no longer have. Blinds go by fast and the table is more active. It is urgent you identify the betting patterns at the table to benefit from them.

2. BE AGRESSIVE : it does not matter if you are large or tight. You will have to be agressive. A 6-handed game is at half way between a full ring table and a heads up.  When you get involved in a hand you should always raise or re-raise based on a wider range of opening hands than the one you are used to at a full ring table.

3. REVIEW YOUR OPENING HANDS : you have to take the position into consideration but a winning player in a 6-max game usually plays between 10% and 30% of his hands.

4. PLAY THE POSITION : It is always key but increasingly in a short handed game. It is the best way to control the pot size with a marginal hand, raise the stakes, or extract a maximum of value from your big hands. At a 5-max game the player in the UTG seat is also at the hi-jack (just 2 seats before the button) and his bad position is all relative.

5. ACT AS THE BUTTON  KING : In this position you could in theory raise 100% of your hands. You will collect a lot of dead money and it will establish your domination at the table.

6. ABUSE OF C-BETS : If you raised pre-flop you will often be in the position to control the rest of the hand. Your opponents will have the tendency to check on the flop to leave you with the initiative. The odds that somebody connected on the flop (with only one or two opponents) are scarce. If you face a check-raise after having placed your continuation bet it will be time to control the pot size (or maybe drop the hand). Meanwhile your C-bets will have to be systematic.

7. DEFEND YOUR BLINDS : You should identify re-steal spots and do not hesitate to squeeze play from the blinds when the situation is favorable. From the small blind never complete the blind. The only two options are to fold or re-raise quite heavily to secure the best fold equity possible.

8. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TABLE : in a full ring game you can wait for some good hands before confronting yourself with the strong players at the table. In a short hand game you will not be able to avoid them. If you have no edge at the table leave it and find another one before you loose 3 buy-ins.

9. TARGET THE WEAK : Profiling the players in a short handed game is easy. Focus on weak players raising them in position and punish the limpers. In such a situation you are not playing your cards but playing the man.

10. BE READY TO COPE WITH THE VARIANCE : Swings will often occur. You will be facing a greater risk to be on tilt. Leave the table as soon as you feel that your start loosing it. Lower your limits and play less tables at the same time or increase your bankroll.