Short Handed poker games are those where the table consists of only six players, although the term can also relate to games approaching their conclusion such as a Sit n Go or the end of a tournament – ultimately culminating in a “Heads Up” scenario. It is an area of poker in which every complete poker player should be proficient, as the dynamics of a table are much different than the larger populated game
The transition for players from nine or ten handed tables to less populated games can be quite difficult, as a heavier emphasis is put on seat position with less on hand value. If seated on the button, the aim has to be to control the table, try to manipulate the betting and steal the blinds when not always holding the best hand.
The reason for this strategy is that there are fewer premium hands on show – in nine handed poker, there is 50% more chance for a top pair to be dealt than there is in six handed as there are 50% more hands. Thereafter, there are fewer chances that any given hand will catch on the flop, and so, if you seated in a good position, you should be able to dominate proceedings with a relatively ordinary hand.
As with “regular” poker tables, you would only try to attack players once you have spent some time analysing their play, although one of the key errors made by new players at short handed tables can be to play too tight. Playing short handed allows you to get involved with weaker hands (although not necessarily more of them) and steal more pots. One weakness commonly seen in short handed poker is the willingness to call rather than bet and try to get to the next draw cheaply. By betting, you will take the pot uncontested more often than not, but by simply checking you allow yourself to be raised and lose control of the table.
A further element of the short handed game is getting “into” players. By this, it is meant to identify their style of play, without revealing yours, and frustrating their moves. This can be done by folding on their raises (when appropriate) or re-raising and using continuation betting when in position to do so. Deliberate hesitation and mind games play a more vital role in the six player game than you could imagine. It becomes all the more important when the table gets to less than six players at the end of a tournament. If you have displayed control over a table, you should be the chip leader (or close) and can continue that role into the heads up situation. Here it is patience, discipline and a combination of strategies that will enable you to emerge victorious from the contest.
Naturally aggressive players will do well in low stakes short handed hold´em, but as the stakes rise, or the competition draws to a close, it is the better balanced player who will prevail.