WPT Global: How To Adjust When Your Game Gets Short Handed

WPT Global: How To Adjust When Your Game Gets Short Handed

Short-handed play is challenging, especially if you're used to playing at full-ring tables of eight to ten players. The pattern of play changes as the table shrinks. Preflop hand values shift, and the shorter rounds mean that you have to cough up your blinds that much more often.

If you play at a stake level with high volumes of traffic online, you may never have to worry about short-handed play. However, if you play live where cash game traffic ebbs and flows, or if you play MTTs, you will find yourself having to adjust to different table sizes frequently, if not regularly.

In this article, the team at WPT Global has put together some short-handed poker tips to help you manage those adjustments from playing at a full-ring table to playing against four to six opponents.

More Aggression

Fewer players means fewer hands. This, in turn, affects the relative strength of your hole cards. As players widen their ranges in response to the shrinking table, you should find yourself playing weaker hands against weaker ranges. At the same time, the blinds are coming around more and more often.

The upshot of this is that aggression becomes the correct move more and more often. You should raise and three-bet more frequently and do so with a wider range of hands.

Semi-bluffs in particular become a key part of play here. Combining fold equity with the chance of picking up your draw on a later street can make these hands very profitable if played hard.

More Hands

As well as raising and reraising more often, you should also be playing a wider range of hands. This doesn't mean simply opening up your range, as some hands play better short-handed while others lose some of their value.

In particular, low-suited connectors tend to be weaker when short-handed. You're less likely to get good odds to draw to a flush when most hands are played heads-up post-flop.

However, high-card hands and pocket pairs, in particular, get a boost in strength as the tables get smaller. Weak aces play like strong aces, and strong aces play like the nuts preflop.

You can also play more kings and queens and pocket pairs retain their showdown value more often.

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Give Greater Attention To Each Opponent

Keeping track of seven to nine other players takes up a good chunk of your mental CPU. When the table gets shorter, it can be tempting to simply use that to free up some space.

Instead, take that additional memory and attention and use it to focus more on each opponent.

You'll be playing more hands against each opponent, so patterns will emerge much quicker at a short-handed. Hone your reads on this smaller player pool. Every edge counts.

The Effect Of Stack Sizes Is Amplified

Short-handed play has a way of intensifying most aspects of the game. Stack sizes are no exception. Pay attention to stack sizes and factor them into your reads and strategy.

Deep stacks can bully opponents and take longer risks on draws, short stacks are looking to play for a push or a fold. Make sure you adjust accordingly.

More Hands Per Hour

Short-handed holdem moves faster than full ring. Fewer preflop decision makers, weaker hands post-flop, more aggressive play these all make for a shorter average hand time. That's great if you're profitable, you win more money per hour.

But it also means that if you're off your game, your errors can add up in your pocketbook a lot faster.

Make sure you're on top of your game, and if you're not, take a moment to rest up, drink some caffeine, or breathe some fresh air. Tilt is the bankroll killer; short-handed that's doubly true.

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Always Be Adjusting

If your opponents are worth the salt on their chips, they will be following the advice above too. That means they will observe your play more closely and adjust faster to match the new conditions.

It is best to mix up your play to confound their observations and to take advantage of any errors in their adjustments. A lot of ring game players fail to increase their aggression enough or open up their hand selection too wide. When a player makes these kinds of errors, work out a counter strategy and hit them hard.

To beat short-handed games, you have to be adaptable. When you adapt correctly, you become a much more intimidating player to compete against.

If you want to give short-handed play a go, you can find short-handed cash games and tournaments on WPT Global. If you are new to WPT Global, you can download the WPT Global software and create a new account, earning a welcome bonus in the process.


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