Short Handed Poker Strategy

Playing short handed games or when the game has 4 or less people is a different playing style. In short handed games you will be playing marginal hands with a more aggressive style. Also position becomes critical in short handed games.  The less people, the more aggressive you should be.  In heads up poker you need to be fierce.

The ability to change gears is what is so important in short handed games. If you continue the same patient style as in a Ring game you will eventually lose all your money due to blinds. Your overall hand values will increase as well. Playing you Ace X now becomes a good hand but as we previously discussed this hand is considered trash in Ring games.  Bluffing in poker is very valuable in short handed games as well.

Because position is the most important factor to consider when playing short handed games we will discuss this first. A player who continually raises on the “Button” will constantly put pressure under the big and small blind. Let’s discuss why this is the case. For this scenario let’s assume there are four players. The hole cards are dealt and you are on the “Button” meaning you are first to act. You pick up Ace Ten. In this favorable position you are going to raise. This will put pressure on the small and big blind because they will be first to act after the flop which gives them a big disadvantage. Having them act first after your raise will give you an edge.

Since the value of your hands goes up in short handed play you will be playing a lot of what would be considered junk or risky cards in a Ring game. Big pairs are huge in short handed play. Vice versa suited connectors are valuable in Ring poker games. You want to play big pairs real hard in short handed play as well. While playing short handed games you will see much less straights and flushes because pot odds don’t suggest that a player should draw into hands. You will typically see high pairs and two pairs winning most pots in short handed play.

You must be aggressive to win at short handed games. Patience is a virtue in large Ring games but you are going to be in and firing away with your opponent in smaller games. You must be the aggressor and in there stealing pots and putting pressure on your opponents to make a move to win. Playing short handed is much more of a gamble and it is also much riskier. You will see large fluctuations playing short handed so prepare for some swings.

Let’s recap how you should play short handed games.

1.  Change gears and become more aggressive.
2.  The cards you normally wouldn’t play you are going to be playing
3.  Pay attention to position. Raise when you are on the button.
4.  Play your big pairs aggressively.
5.  Don’t chase your straights if the pot isn’t worth it.
6.  Prepare for the swings and don’t be afraid to gamble with aggression

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