Most of the times when we discuss about any poker game, it is in terms of full ring play where a large number of players are involved in playing the game at the table (online or LIVE). Here, you have the luxury of sitting back, taking your time, waiting for the premium hands, and playing a highly tight game. If you want something that is fast-paced and allows you to play more hands, you can have a look at short handed poker. With shorthanded play in poker, there are only 6 or less players involved at the table.
With such a small number of players involved, you require much more skills than in full ring poker to maintain a high winning rate. Why is that? Because in this, the number of blinds will be much more leading to your chips stack getting reduced at a faster rate. This means you just can’t wait for the premium hands and have to play other lesser hands as well. In short, you have to develop a very aggressive playing style to make the most of the limited time you will get in short-handed poker to win more hands and maintain a respectable win percentage.
Let us deep dive a little further to know which you can play at poker tournaments, Sit N Go, and even cash games.
Reasons for You to Play Short-Handed Poker
If you are doing well in full ring poker games, why should you go for a few short-handed poker games? Below are some of the reasons as to why you should consider the shorthanded play of poker:
It is extremely fast-paced and requires you to think on your feet.
It is more mentally challenging and requires a better poker skillset to emerge as a winner consistently.
It enables you to develop the ability to make faster decisions.
It encourages you to adopt an aggressive approach since the value of hands goes up in case of short handed poker. Also, there is higher aggression involved here because the blinds occur more frequently, players have a wider range, and your opponents will raise, re-raise, as well as check-raise quite a lot.
You will be able to develop your bluff strategy (to make bluffs and catch bluffs of others).
It allows you to play more hands and improves your poker playing ability. It quickens your learning process as nothing teaches you better than experience. By playing more blinds and more hands, reading hands and bluffing profitably, and making several such adjustments to your playing style, you learn more and more.
You can manage to have a better hourly win ratio / rate.
As you get to play more hands per hour, you can win more bonuses at a quick rate.
Now you have enough reasons to try it out, don’t you? So, let us have a look at some of the best short handed poker tips.
Top Tips for Short-handed Poker
As you will have to make considerable adjustments to your playing style when you switch from full ring poker to shorthanded play, the below strategic tips will help you to maintain a good winning rate.
Analyse Your Opponents Carefully
In case of shorthanded poker, it is even more necessary to analyse the playing style and traits of your opponents. Why? Because there are lesser number of players on the table and you are likely to play more hands against the same opponents. This may not always be the case in full ring poker, where you may not play many hands with few of the players.
In shorthanded play, you can do the profiling of your opponents quickly and spot some weaknesses. Keep track of the spots where particular opponents call a lot or fold a lot. Identify players who are still not used to the aggressive approach required for this type of poker game. Once you do this initial analysis accurately, you can exploit the weaknesses of these players by being aggressive, putting pressure on them through raising and re-raising, and even by placing the occasional value bets.
Remember that with lesser number of players on the table, most players will keep a track of each other’s moves and style of play. You need to be one step ahead of others by having a good understanding of the table position, and look for opportunities to exploit your position as well as that of other players. For example, when you are going to be the first one to enter the pot, ensure you raise with the other players. This kind of aggression will help you to win pots during the initial stages itself.
If you try to play a tight game and wait for premium hands to arrive, you might lose a lot of money and make little. The reason is blinds occur more frequently in case of shorthanded poker and your chips stack is going to reduce faster than you think. You will have limited opportunities when you get a really good hand, and there are chances that you may be short of chips when that opportunity comes up.
So, work on developing a solid aggressive strategy wherein you will have to raise and re-raise quite a lot. Also, you will do well to note that the value of hands goes up in this poker game type. What does this mean? You may have to start playing lesser hands which you wouldn’t have thought of playing in full ring poker. For example, you will hardly think of playing a hand like A8 or KT in full ring poker. But, in case of short handed poker, you may play these as their value could effectively be similar to hands like AJ or KQ.
Also, shorthanded poker players have wider ranges and so will you. You should not be on the backfoot when other players keep on implementing raise, re-raise, as well as check-raise.
Develop the Habit of Bluffing Frequently
We have spoke about going aggressive even with lesser hands in case of shorthanded play. So, what does this imply? You will have to identify better ways by which you can bluff. You may think of avoiding to play bluffs in full ring poker, but, you will have to play a few bluffs when it comes to the shortened 6-max poker play. This is because players will have a wide range and this does not suit well to the strategy of playing only high value hands.
Your opponents would also have done their homework with regards to this type of poker play, and so you will have to try and outsmart them by identifying good bluff spots. Else, be prepared to be pressurized by others and when you are under the pump, the chances of committing mistakes increases.
You need to grab your chances to make profitable bluffs. For example, when someone avoids a cbet opportunity (either on the flop or the turn or the river), you can use that opportunity to make a bluff. Adding the bluff strategy to your repertoire will make you a strong shorthand poker player and enhance your chances of winning.
Tightening Your Bankroll Management Strategy
When you are transitioning from full ring poker tables to tables with 6 or lesser players, you also need to adjust your bankroll management strategy accordingly. Shorthanded play calls for you to tighten up your bankroll management strategy. You need to make your bankroll strong enough so that it can withstand the massive swings, which are likely when you play aggressively.
You need to be clear in your mind about the number of buy-ins you require to have a shot at the next limit up. At the same time, you also need to be firm about stepping down from your existing limit if you suffer losses in consecutive rounds.
Play More Starting Hands
“If you play tight, you win more and lose less” – this is the mantra that many poker players follow while playing the full ring poker. However, as the number of players reduces, you need to adjust this tight play strategy. We mean that when you play short handed poker with less players, you need to explore playing a wider range of hands during preflop. You play a lot of blinds in this version, and with a broader range of hands you increase your chances of winning the blinds. If you tighten up, you will see that you lose quite a lot of blinds.
As the percentage of you being in the blinds increases significantly with less number of players, so should your range of starting hands!
Work on Your Mindset
One of the most ignored things by several poker players who switch from full ring poker to short-handed poker is that they do not prepare mentally for this massive change. It is one thing to know the rules and the strategies, but, another to implement them in the heat of things during real gameplay. Even the best of full ring poker players who are otherwise very calm and composed, find it tough to deal with the massive swings that are experienced in shorthanded play. Even before you realize, the nervousness creeps in and once that happens, you would breakdown in no time.
It is therefore vital to prepare yourself by going through few training videos and books related to how you can avoid tilt and maintain your best game. Your mindset has to be robust while dealing with lesser number of players and an overall aggressive game like the short-handed poker.
Play as Per Position
Playing as per the position is as important as playing aggressively in case of short-handed poker. Whenever you are in favourable positions, take advantage of that and play maximum hands. You can play more wider range of hands from late positions.
Be Careful on the River
While we have been advocating aggressive play, you need to be smarter when you arrive at the river stage. You should avoid making big calls here. You may opt to fold slightly more at the river against value bets (which you have to identify). Good players will go aggressive on the river with high value hands. So, if you have spotted the tendencies of your opponents, you will be able to save money at the river.
Avoid Mixing Full Ring and Short Handed Poker
A good strategy to avoid making mistakes is to avoid playing it after you have played full ring poker for a long time. Even good players find it difficult to make the shift quickly in terms of strategy required to succeed.
While it is exciting to move from a slow-paced poker game type (full ring poker) to a fast-paced game (shorthanded play), you need to be well prepared to take up this challenge. The short handed poker tips discussed here will help you to transition successfully and even maintain a good winning rate. At the end of the day, you do want to win and make money, right? So, start playing this game by downloading the Spartan Poker app and give yourself more chances to win!