Have you been playing poker for a while? You would have seen different sized tables at casinos (LIVE) as well as online. Now, when you play any poker on tables with six or less than six players, you are said to be playing short-handed poker. On the other hand, when you play a poker game on a table with more than six players on it, you are said to be playing full ring poker. Usually, you will find nine players on most full ring poker tables, but there will be certain tables where seven, eight or maximum ten players are involved.
Now, you may ask why this differentiation between short-handed and full ring poker games is? Does it really make a difference to your poker strategy? Yes, it does. With more number of players in case of full ring poker, your strategy will vary in comparison to the one which may be suitable for you in case of short-handed poker at different poker tournaments.
Full Ring Poker Overview
As mentioned earlier, this type of poker play is considered when seven to ten players are involved at the poker table. You can play this type of poker in a casino (LIVE poker) or you can play it online. The rules of the poker game variant that you play here remain the same – it is just that the style of play is different as compared to when the table contains few players.
Let us deep dive further to know about the different style of play you are likely to witness on full ring tables, along with the different strategies applicable.
Reasons for You to Play Full Ring Poker
If you are a newbie to poker, it is always advisable to start with this type of poker. Why? Because it is slow-paced and allows you enough time to take your betting decisions for the various hands that you play. You can play the waiting game here, be tight as much as possible, play the good hands, and maintain a decent win rate. It gives you enough time to study the behaviour and tendencies of your opponents, think about your own hand range, learn from your mistakes of the past, and so on. With more players on the table, you can remain ‘out of focus’ from the eyes of some smart poker players till you start winning!
Let us understand some of the major reasons for you to explore playing full ring poker in cash games or poker tournaments.
Most Common Format for Poker Tournaments
If you are someone who likes to play tournaments, either LIVE or online, then, you are most likely to come across tables with many players (more than six). In simple words, this is a common tournament format which you cannot ignore. On the other hand, the short- handed poker tournaments are quite less in number (as compared to full ring ones and even as compared to short-handed cash games).
Easy Poker Format
If you are new to poker, you don’t want to get involved in taking too many tough decisions in a short span of time. This is because money is involved and you want to gain some confidence by winning. This full ring format is quite easy for any poker player as you can conveniently play a tight game, take your time and ease yourself into action at the table.
Less Competition in Online Poker
When you are accustomed to playing poker online, you will notice that most of the experienced players look out for the short-handed poker tables (6-max poker) or the heads-up tables (2 players), as these tables are available in plenty in the online version. What does this mean? There are less experienced players on the tables with greater than six players – thus as a newbie, you are not likely to be overwhelmed by tough competition at these ring tables. So, if you can play some smart poker and use appropriate full ring poker strategy, you can manage a few easy wins!
Default Option at LIVE Venues
If you like to play poker mostly at LIVE venues, then, you will have to play this full ring version more often. The reason being many LIVE venues have this full ring version by default and you may not have many table options to play the shorter versions.
Differences Between Full Ring and Short-Handed Poker
When you are asked about the difference between both these formats of poker, you are likely to tell the count of players on the tables. However, there are many more differences which we can consider as under:
Tight Play Versus Aggressive Play
The most significant difference is that a lot of tight play is involved in the full ring version as compared to the short version. When the players are less, every player seems to be involved in the action and you will see more aggressive play as that has more likelihood of giving you success against lesser number of players. This is because blinds are played more frequently in case of short-handed poker, and so you will have to contribute lot of chips. If you happen to wait for those good hands, there may be scenarios that by the time they arrive, you will have lesser number of chips left to bet. So, it makes sense to use the aggressive approach for the short version.
However, as the table size increases (beyond six players), you can play tighter and wait for those strong hands to get assured wins. Here, the number of blinds played is quite less and you can remain in the game for a longer time without having to contribute a lot of chips. Thus, you can save those chips to bet when you have really good hands.
Value of Hands
As you adopt an aggressive approach for short-handed poker, the value of hands goes up quickly. Why? Because most players start playing hands which they wouldn’t have otherwise played in the full ring version. Thus, certain hands which might appear weak in the full version, will have increased value in the short-handed format, and even be played more often.
However, when you switch back from playing short-handed poker to the full version, you need to avoid this temptation of playing weaker hands often. Remember that the full ring poker version will give you more opportunities to play with strong hands, and the value of hands over there is comparatively less as compared to the short-handed format.
As you are faced with lot more tough decisions to be made during play at the 6-max version, you will have to get better at your poker skills to survive and win more. On the other hand, the pace at which your poker skills are required to improve while playing the full ring version is quite slow. Over there, you are allowed the liberty to take your time and ease yourself into games. There is very less pressure of too many blinds or aggressive play from your opponents in the full version. Due to this, you will observe that an average full ring opponent of yours is likely to less skilled at poker in comparison to an average short-handed opponent.
Top Tips for Full Ring Game
Now that you have understood the benefits of the full version, let us move towards unearthing the right full ring poker strategy to win more when the count of players at the table is more. Some of the useful tips to follow for the full ring poker game are as listed below:
Play a Tight Game
“When you play tight, you tend to win more and lose less” – this should be your mantra while playing this full ring format. This works well because there are lesser number of blinds in the full version, and you can explore a shorter range of hands during pre-flop in comparison to the short-handed poker version.
As part of your full ring poker strategy, this tight play should involve you playing a very small number of hands (around 15% or so) and the remaining weak hands have to be folded. You may argue that what if you try out playing the same aggressive way as you do in short-handed poker. Well, please remember that when the number of players is large, there is a high likelihood of some player having a strong hand (if it’s not you). On the other hand, when the number of players is small (as in case of 6-max or heads up formats), this likelihood reduces considerably, thereby allowing you to play less tightly. Of course, you will have to adjust this full ring poker strategy a bit and raise few more hands while you are on the button (late position) and you aim to steal a few blinds (which is an altogether different strategy for the full ring version).
Stealing Blinds Effectively
Are you confused? On one hand, we have been stating that you need to play a tight game for this full ring version, and on the other hand, we are mentioning about stealing blinds and going a bit aggressive. Why? Well, imagine a table of 10 players where everyone is playing a real tight game. In such a scenario, the probability of you winning more is quite less as everyone has a good chance of winning. It all boils down to luck – where the player who gets maximum strong hands will win more in the long run on that day.
Do you want that only luck dictates your winnings at poker? Not at all. You want to bring as much skills into the game as possible, so that you can master those skills and increase your chances of winning more. Like in this case, you can be the player who breaks the pattern of tight play by going slightly aggressive against all the other tight players and putting pressure on them. This pressure when applied smartly during the pre-flop stage can make many of those players fold up considering they have perceived you also as a tight player. This type of full ring poker strategy will help you to sneak a couple of wins by stealing blinds.
Now, this full ring poker strategy of stealing the blinds should be implemented when you are playing from late position. This will ensure that your bluff is less likely to be noticed when you are implementing it from the right spots. So, you can continue to apply this strategy for few hands as long as you have the advantage of ‘late position’. This will increase your win rate considerably and you will be the poker player on your table that wins more!
So, while you aim to develop a solid tight game for the full ring version, do not forget to make selective use of aggressive approach for stealing blinds!
Being Immensely Patient
One of the most critical skills required to be a successful full version player is patience. You need to have incredible amounts of patience to wait for the right hands on which you can bet or raise. Also, you need it to be able to make right decisions to fold your cards under pressure situations, especially during the later streets. Your mind needs to be clear in order to take those tough decisions to ‘fold’. And if you are someone who has a very aggressive style of play, then, you should avoid playing this full ring poker version. This is because the tight players await weaker players like you (weak for this format of the game) to take advantage of.
Opting for Multiple Tables
One of the disadvantages of this full ring format is the fact that you do not get to play a lot of hands. Due to this, your learning is slow. However, you can utilize this to your advantage. How? Since you are not going to be involved in too many pots at the table, you can go ahead and add more tables while playing online poker. You can easily play more, win more, and learn more by doing so.
Another benefit of multi-tabling online in poker is the potential to earn rakeback. If you have played online poker, you would know what rakeback means? It refers to the free money that different online poker platforms / sites give to play. In other words, this is a full ring poker strategy used by such online poker sites to get new players to sign-up and play on their platforms. The more you play on different sites and tables, the more you earn!
No Risks at Later Streets
Having spoken about multi-tabling above, please note that it is quite common to have many players on your table who are involved in multiple tables at the same time. So, that full ring poker strategy is not restricted to just you. Players are able to do so because of them following a strictly tight disciplined approach of placing bets (or raises) only on good hands.
When you reach the later stages of a hand while you are attempting to win the pot with an average / decent hand, make sure you are wary of those ‘raises’ from any of the opponents, especially at the turn or at the river. If any opponent does a ‘raise’ on your bet on the turn or the river, you need to ensure you take the decision to ‘fold’ instead of adding more chips into the pot. Remember that most tight players in this version of the game will ‘raise’ at such a late stage only if they have got something really good. So, you have to control the temptation to continue further and make the wise decision to fold your cards. You cannot mess around with risks at such late streets in the full ring format.
Ensure Smooth Transition from Short Handed to Full Ring
If you are someone who plays a lot of poker games and different formats at a stretch, you need to ensure you are transitioning your poker strategy seamlessly while switching between full ring format and the short-handed format. If you have been playing the short-handed version for sometime and suddenly you move to the full format, you have to give yourself time to go from an aggressive mode of play to a very tight play mode. Even the best of players find it difficult to switch easily – so, take your own time and do not rush into it. Best way would be to take a good break when you switch and prepare yourself mentally for the different strategy to be used for the different format that you are going to play next.
Understanding the Timing (Pre-Flop and Post Flop)
The full ring format variant allows you enough time to observe other players and their styles of play. You will notice that there will be some loose play during the pre-flop stage or even open limping as players aim to exploit the tight play of opponents. Here, you should play a tight game unless you have the position advantage – which is when you can aim to get as many opponents fold up as possible. Also, when you have got a good hand pre-flop, you need to derive maximum value out of it by aiming to get players involved at least till the flop stage. So, do not bet / raise big to scare off tight players who would simply fold if you give away any hint of possessing a very strong hand.
When the game moves to post flop stage, you can expect that most players would give up sooner or later once they realize they do not have a strong hand to win. It is very rare that any full ring player will continue till showdown with a weak or average hand. Over here, you will have a certain kind of players who use the same strategy every time (which can be spotted by you and exploited) – they will raise your bet at pre-flop, bet on the flop and once you call they will check on the turn. This raise-bet-check type of players will fold up as soon as you ‘bet’ on the turn. So, your key full ring poker strategy should be to spot such players as they will help to increase the pot size and get maximum value from them when you have good hands.
Differences Between LIVE Full Ring and Online Full Ring
Are you someone who belongs to that category of poker players who think that playing online full ring version provides good learning for playing LIVE full ring poker? If yes, please think again. It is hard to believe, but playing online short-handed cash games will actually assist you in learning LIVE full poker format in a better way. This is because there are several differences between the LIVE and online versions of full ring. Some of these differences are highlighted below:
When you are playing LIVE version, you are able to see the opponents at the table and observe their body language and behaviour. This reading and understanding of opponents at the table is a crucial strategy for several LIVE table specialists. In fact, it helps many players who may not be so good with the calculations (of probability, equity, expected value), but who can use human behaviour and psychology to emerge victorious. This results in many such players who are very good at the LIVE format come up quite short on the online format where they are not able to see their opponents.
So, you will generally see that good online poker players are good at LIVE format as well, while good LIVE format players may or may not be good players of online poker. This happens when certain players use behavioural analysis (physical tells) as a key component of their strategy to compensate for their lack of technical skills (in the LIVE version).
Pace of Play
If you are someone who aims to play more hands of poker in a specific time period, you would do well to consider the massive difference between number of hands you can play in LIVE format in comparison to the number of hands you can play in online format. Majority of the LIVE poker games deal about 30 hands in an hour, while most of the online games deal around 90 hands per hour. It is clear that you can play much more hands in online games. Add the possibility of playing on multiple tables at the same time online (multi-tabling) and you have a mammoth number of hands possible every hour (in the online format).
It is common to see LIVE cash games run deep quite a lot as compared to online cash games. The maximum possible buy-in in most of the online rooms will be about 100 bb (big blinds), whereas in LIVE rooms you will have cases where players are permitted to join the table with minimum 200 bb (big blinds) or more. Is it really that big a difference in terms of big blinds? Well, you need to keep in mind that 100 bb in LIVE scenario will not be equivalent to 100 bb in online scenario.
So, every chip in an online game has much more value as compared to every chip in a LIVE game. This results in different stack sizes for both the scenarios.
Sizing for Open Raises
In case of an online game, 2 big blinds (2 bb) could be a potentially open raise sizing. On the other hand, it is common to see 5 bb as a possible open raise sizing in a LIVE game. This type of play has an impact on the SPR (Stack to Pot Ratio), which represents the relationship between the count (number) of chips in the pot as well as the amount that is remaining in the effective stacks.
Heads Up and Multi-way
In LIVE poker games, it is very rare to find lot of heads-up plays at the flop or post-flop stage. Instead you will see a lot of different scenarios (multiway scenarios) inclusive of few limps, iso-raise, and so on. The case is exactly opposite in online poker games, where you will see more heads-up pots and less of multiway scenarios. Because of this pattern, you will have LIVE players who are not so good at heads-up pots, and online players who are not so confident of handling multiway pots.
You are likely to witness LIVE games that are a lot softer in comparison to the online games. So, you will see a lot of players opt for online full ring games to play more hands as well as learn more. This is evident from the fact that online games require sound technical understanding of poker to succeed as they do not provide any opportunity of behavioural analysis (unlike the LIVE games).
You will come across LIVE games where there is an optional provision of big blind pre-flop (known as ‘straddle’), which is almost twice the size of the big blind. However, majority of the online game rooms do not offer the option to straddle. The straddle option (as seen in LIVE games) increases the stakes for a hand and modifies the number of big blinds.
If you are new to poker or someone who has good amount of patience, the full ring format is the right one to start playing. It may not make you learn lot of things quickly, but, you will learn to play the most favoured poker strategy of having a tight game (to fold up weak hands and play the strong ones). Its slower pace and lack of actions will allow you time to get used to poker rules and happenings during actual game play. This style of play does not just involve playing tight, but, it also involves being aggressive at the right spots and using your position advantage. This full ring version allows you to collect rakeback (especially in online format) and bonuses. It does not put you under severe pressure like short-handed poker and you are made to face lesser tough decisions.