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SHORT HANDED GAMES

     The most distinguishing feature of a short handed game is the fact that much weaker hands than average will win the pots.  It’s statistically more likely that you can deal out a premium hand like A ♦ K ♠, K ♣ Q ♣ orJ ♠ J ♥ in ten hands than you can in just five hands. 
If you’ve never played in a short handed game before and would like to have a feel for what it’s like, try this simple exercise: Using a deck of cards, deal out ten Hold’em odds poker hands on the table in front of you.  Deal out two rows of hands with five hands in each row.  It might look like this:

1. T ♠2♥ 2. 8♣3♦3.9♠Q ♠  4. 7♦5♣ 5. A♣ 7♥ 
6.  2♠ A ♥  7. T ♦ Q♣8. 5♥ 8♦  9. K ♠ J♦
10. J ♥ 4♦

  Now put a flop, turn and river on the board.  Let’s use this board: J ♣ 4♠ 8♠ 3♣ K♥.  The winning hand in this example is the K ♠ J♦, but that is when you have ten hands to choose from.  If you have were to choose the winning hand from only the top row, it would be the 8♣ 3♦, a hand that is obviously inferior (head-up before the flop) to K♠ J♦.  The operative principle here is that as you have a greater number of hands from which to choose, the better the winning hand will be. 

  So, as there are more and more players dealt in at the beginning of the hand, the better the hand it will take to win if there is a showdown at the end.  Conversely, this implies that as there are fewer and fewer players dealt in the hand, the weaker the winning hands will be at the showdown, if there is one.  This is the essence of understanding how to play in a short handed game and it calls for some pretty serious and drastic strategy  changes on your part.  Here is a list of things that you need to know about playing online slots in a short handed game:

  1. Adapt to the Game

Remember, that for you, texas holdem poker playingrequires skillful play and that you should be willing and able to adapt to changing circumstances and conditions, one of which might be short handed game.  Theoretically, poker is a perfectly balanced game.  For every strategy, there is a correct counter-strategy.  For every weakness that a player has, there’s a way to take advantage of it.  And there’s a way to take advantage of an opponent’s strengths also.
If you’re going to be a Poker Player in the true sense of the word, you should not avoid a game solely because there aren’t enough players in the game.  You will have many, many games in your future that will be short handed and they represent a potential gold mine for you if you know how to adjust to the conditions.  In short, your attitude toward these games is probably the major contributing factor to your success or failure.

  1. Pay Attentioning the Game

Often, a game will change from a full game to a short handed game without anyone really realizing it or mentioning it at the table.  It’s been my experience that a game takes on the major characteristics of a short handed game when there are six or fewer players being dealt in at the beginning of the hand.  This is when the short handed strategies become more effective.  Also, when you realize that the game has become short handed, do not announce it for all to hear.  Poker is a game of concealed information and you should not educate your opponents at the table.

  1. Ask for Rake Breaks and a Single Blind

Ask the house for a rake break and a single blind if you’re playing in a casino poker room.  This is critical because the pots are smaller in a short handed game and the $ 2 or $ 3 that the house takes out of every pot represents a larger winning percentages of the pot.

  1. Think About Various Factors Before Quitting Play

Your decision regarding when to quit the game takes on a different perspective.  You have to think about many various factors.  You have to consider what time of day it is.  The game might be short handed because it’s six o’clock in the morning, but you know if you wait another hour or so the regular day players will be coming in to fill up the game.  Is there another, better, game to go to?  Or is it 3 a.m. and there’s no money on the table and there’s no other game to go to?  Think ahead.  The game will fill up, but is it worth waiting around for?

  1. Big Cards Become Stronger

Big cards in the pocket do not have to improve as much to win in a short handed game.  A ♦K ♠ will win more often without improving.  A river card that could make a possible flush or straight is not as likely to hurt you as much as it would in a full game.  Scare cards are more likely to be just that.  If you hold A ♥ J ♠ and get another Jack on the flop to make top pair with top kicker, a King or Queen on the river is not as likely to hurt you since you’ll be facing fewer players.

  1. Forget That You Are Suited

If you are, you will almost never get the right odds to draw to a straight limit poker or a flush in a short handed game.  You should look at being suited as an added bonus those few times you make a flush using both hole cards.  My previous advice about limping in with A ♥ K ♥ and the like does not apply since you’re not primarily drawing to the flush.  You should rely on the high ranks of your cards to win the hand.  Because of that, you should usually raise pre-flop with Big Slick and other big hands.
  The value of big cards goes up while the value of drawing cards in the pocket (such as 7♦ 9♦ ) goes down in a short handed game.

  1. Play More Aggressively

You should usually play more player aggressively before and on the flop when you have big cards.  Your raises will further reduce the field which will in turn further increase your chance of having the best hand at the end.  Because it’s correct for you to play more hands and raise more often, it’s also correct for everyone else to play that way.  This means that more players will be doing more raising with weaker hands than average, and that almost every hand will be an exercise in blind-stealing.  The problem comes in knowing when your opponents are playing a short handed strategy or when they have a legitimately strong hand.  It’s difficult to give a definitive answer on this subject but your best guides are to know your players and stick to a somewhat solid strategy yourself.
  In those instances where you can’t decide if a raise means a steal or a good hand, you should usually consider it to be a steal.  You will be wrong once in a while, but I think that’s the best way to play it in the long run.

  1. You Do Not Always Need the Nuts to Win

Often, just an Ace-high or a pair will win the hand.  You can bet weaker hands with more confidence, especially if it would be a good hand in a full game.  A raise on the flop is more likely to be intended to protect a weaker hand than it would in a full game.
  For example, you hold J ♠ T ♦ and the flop is J ♥ 6♥ 5♣.  In a full game, you might check and fold this hand if there’s a bet with a large field.  But in a short handed game, you probably have the best hand at this point and a raise from you will help protect it.  A raise from you will ensure that there are fewer players chasing you down with straight and flush draws.

  1. Play a Straightforward Game

Fancy plays are less likely to be successful in a typical short handed, low limit game.  Forget about check raising, slowplaying and other attempts at deception.  Don’t be afraid to bet and raise with your good hands because the other players will assume that you don’t have that great a hand.  They will think you are playing your standard short handed game, which does entail a lot of betting and raising.  In other words, the fact that the game is short handed game, which does entail a lot of betting and raising.  In other words, the fact that the game is short handed will disguise the fact that you’re betting for value, when you do have a fantastic hand

  1. Be Aware of Loose and Wild Players

Be aware of those times when the game is full and it is full of loose, wild players playing and betting every hand.  This is a common situation in a weekend Hold’em game in a casino poker room.  As more and more players drop out of the game, the more correct this strategy becomes.  These players are unwittingly playing a good short handed game, but this strength does not help them until the game actually becomes short handed.

  1. Adjust your Strategies

There are a few specific strategy changes that you can make in a short handed game.  You can give free cards more often.  With fewer players in the game, a free card is less likely to hurt you.  You can bet middle and bottom pairs more because it will actually be the best hand more often than in a full game.  You can bet your draws more often, especially if you’re holding the big cards in the draw.  You can semi-bluff more often, because what would be a semi-bluff in a full game is often actually a bet for value in a short handed game.

  1. Other Considerations

The fewer the number of players there are in the game, the more small advantages are worth to you.  There are fewer of you to split all of that money that the drunk in game is losing.  Early position is less vulnerable because there are fewer players raise behind you.  If you’re playing tight, you’ll be more successful because you won’t have to wait as long for the blinds to come around.  And, if you’re the best elimate players in the game, you’ll get to play more hands per hour because of that.

  There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to play in a short handed game.  You have to be flexible and be able to adjust to your opponent’s style of play.  Put yourself in their shoes and realize that it would be correct for them to play more hands and do more raising, especially before the flop.  Whenever I’m in a short handed game and I hear one player continually complaining about all the raising, I know that I’m in a game with someone who really doesn’t understand the game.  Your best guide is experience.  You shouldn’t pass up a good, profitable game just because it might be short handed.  Being able to play short handed games will make you a better player in the long run.