When you are playing short-handed poker – tables with just 6 players, or towards the end of Sit ´n´ Go or Multi-Table Tournament – premium hands are less rarely seen due to there being fewer cards dealt.
For players who apply the same opening hand criteria as when playing on a full ring, this can be damaging to your chances of winning (or progressing in the tournament) as you will not be involved in so many hands and are paying blinds more frequently.
There is a way to adjust your opening hand criteria to account for the lower number of cards that are dealt, and in order to do this, you need to know the odds of specific cards being drawn on a full ring table and recalculate what your opening hands should be.
For example, the odds of being dealt AA are 220/1. On a ten player, full ring table playing 90 hands per hour, AA will appear on that table an average of four times within the hour ([10 x 90] / 220).
On a six player table, playing at the same rate, AA will be dealt less than two and a half times ([6 x 90) / 220) or 40% less often. Expanding this theory to include a typical tight players opening hand criteria may look something like this.
Frequency of JJ or higher (54/1) within 90 hands on a full ring = 16.67
Frequency of JJ or higher within 90 hands on a short-handed table = 10
Frequency of any AK (82/1) within 90 hands on a full ring = 11
Frequency of any AK within 90 hands on a short-handed table = 6.50
Frequency of any suited AQ, AJ, AT (110/1) within 90 hands on a full ring = 8
Frequency of any suited AQ, AJ, AT within 90 hands on a short-handed table = 5
Therefore, to adjust to the equivalent opening hand criteria for short-handed tables, you have to calculate the frequency that lower hand options offer. You know (from the above) that you can do this by reducing the odds of your premium hands by roughly 40% (16.67 – 40% = 10 / 11 – 40% = 6.6 / 8 – 40% = 4.80) and so you need to look for hand combinations that fill the void.
A suggested solution would be to replace “JJ or higher” with “88 or higher”, “any AK” with “any AK or AQ”, and include Kings in your suited selection (KQ, KJ, KT).
The odds of seeing 88 or higher are 31/1 whereas the odds for JJ or higher less 40% is 32.4/1.
Including any AQ to your any AK selection is 42/1 instead of (82/1 – 40%) 49/1, and the addition of Kings in your suited criteria reduces the odds to 56/1 where the odds previously were (110/1 – 40%) 66/1.
This wider range of opening hands will compensate for the lower frequency of seeing your higher criteria being matched and enable you to become more competitive in short-handed Texas Hold´em.