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Shorthanded Tips

16 June 2005, By:
Shorthanded poker is a different game then a full 10 player table, you need to be able to adjust your game accordingly and play more hands in order to make a profit or else you'll be eaten by the blinds if you play too tight and your play will be so obvious even when you hit you won't get paid off. Let's look at some hands and situations. 1. ...When you're dealt a small pocket pair (sevens or less)


Small pocket pairs work best in a large, multi-way pot (you're hoping to hit another card of your pair and make trips) or heads-up. Therefore, your preflop strategy should reflect this. If you're on the button, one guy has raised and another has folded, your best strategy would be to shut out the blinds and make it heads up. So in this case, reraise. However, if you're the big blind and three other people have already called the big blind, it's best to just check and hope to hit a set on the flop.

Note: Don't use the reraise to make it heads up against a very tight player. There's a good chance he has a higher pocket pair. In these situations, your opponent will dominate you. For example, you do not want to reraise when you hold 8 8 and the other player holds 10 10 . Thus, the reraise to make it heads-up move only works if you think your opponent has two unpaired cards or a lower pocket pair than you.

On the flop:

If you're in a multi-way pot, the answer is simple, fold if you don't hit a set, jam the pot if you do. The only exception is if you hit a weird flop - like 552 or 666 (and you hold something like 77), in which case, you probably hold the best hand and should jam the pot.

If you're heads up, it gets a little tricker. If the flop is mainly low cards, bet at it. Your opponent probably has nothing. However, if the flop is AJQ, you're probably toast. You can go ahead and bet at it (in case he has a low pocket pair too), but if you encounter any resistance, you must fold.
2. Flop bluffs

Flop bluffs work best against one or maybe two opponents. The method is fairly simple. Suppose you raise it up preflop with K Q , and the flop comes A 9 5. You have nothing, not even a flush draw, but they may have nothing too. Go ahead and bet at it, you might steal the pot right there.

If they just call you, you have a decision. They may have Ace and a low kicker or they may have something like K 9 . Either case, you're losing. You should generally check and fold. Do this about 80% of the time. However, you don't want them to be able to crack your bluffing strategy by just calling you on the flop and then seeing what you do on the turn. Because of this, I recommend slowplaying occasionally. For example, suppose you have A 9 at this flop, I'd bet at flop, then check-raise at turn. In other words, you must punish them for just calling. People should never be allowed to just call with a second-best hand if they hope you're bluffing; they should be forced to raise to see where they are. If you suspect that they just call you with the second-best hand, you should bet until the river when you have the goods, but not always just bet/check-fold when you don't. You sometimes should bluff on the turn too (most of the time don't).
3. Slowplaying

I'm not a huge slowplayer because I like to run flop bluffs, and flop bluffs are only successful if you actually bet with the goods at the flop. However, sometimes it's best to just wait and jam the pot. I like to slowplay in multi-way situations when I really have the goods.
Me AcKc
Flop AsKh3d
Turn Ah

In this example, I have the stone nuts. I'll generally wait for a bet if I think one will happen and then raise it. In other words, slowplaying and jamming the pot on the turn will often be very profitable in multi-way pots, but I don't recommend it in heads-up situations. Even in this AK situation with a AAK3 board, someone with a King may call my bet but will likely not make a bet himself.

One thing to always remember about slowplaying is that it is successful when you have a super-boss hand and you want to let them develop a hand that is good but not good enough to beat yours. Slowplaying a set when a flush draw is on board is dumb, because you are allowing them to develop a hand that can beat yours. You should think, What can they develop that won't beat me, but will still make them bet so I can raise them? Don't slowplay just because you have a good hand. Slowplay if you have the boss hand but it won't be paid of unless something develops on the board that won't beat you but will cause people to think they can beat you.
4. Paired board when you have the third card
Your Hand AcJc
Board AdQsQh

This is a trouble situation. You may have the best hand or you may be toast. However, the situation is pretty simple. If it's checked around to you, check. After all, what will people call you with? The only thing people will call you with that can't beat you is A7 or maybe a pocket pair (few would call though).

So, when you're in this trouble situation, you have to consider two factors: What will people call you with that won't beat you, and what are the chances they have the trip? The higher the boad pair, the higher the chance they have the trip. If you have K J, AAJ is far more scary than J44. I would treat the AAJ with caution and play it passively, while I'd bet at J44 and be fairly aggressive.

Which brings up the question: What do you mean play it with caution? Well, if I have K J and someone bets at me with the board AAJ, he may have QJ, so I'd go ahead and call. But if someone bet, I called, someone else raised, well I'd get out.

5. Play against a CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY maniac

Maniacs can be a real pain in shorthand. However, they are generally best dealt with by just calling (although raise them if you hold a very strong hand). They will increase the variance of the game, but you will win in the long run. For example, at a $100-200 game, I was dealt Q Q, a nice hand. Anyway, someone calls, maniac raises, I reraise, maniac caps and there's one other normal player in the pot. Flop comes A K 4. I mean, this is the worst possible flop for me. Anyway, I bet at it, the normal player folds (thankfully), and the maniac raises me. Normally, I would fold, but this guy is nuts so I just check-call to the river. Anyways, I win. The maniac had 3 5.

6. Don't pay them off

Sometimes, when people are on a flush draw and you have top pair or top two pair, they will wait for you to bet so they can raise. If you think they were on a flush draw and then the flush card hits on the river, don't pay them off. Just check it on the river. Think about the math. If you are in position and just check the river, you save yourself 2 big bets (4 total bets). If it's a standard hand, there was probably a raise preflop and bet-calls on flop-turn. So you put in a total of 5 bets. You literally save yourself about half the money you would have lost using this technique.

Some Quick Don't's of Shorthand

* Don't go in with any Ace if someone else has already gone in. Chances are, they have either a decent pocket pair, Ace and a higher kicker, or something like KQ. Any of these hands are a favorite against you except for KQ. Also, all of these hands play better than yours in 3-way situations. Fold.

* Don't play above your bankroll. Shorthand has a high level of variance. Make sure you can bank many hours of play before sitting in. You don't want to enter a game, have your Aces cracked, and be broke!

* Don't just play your hand. Always remember what the other player is thinking. While this isn't quite as important as it is in no-limit, you have to think about what the other player went in with and what he is calling/raising with. Don't always bank on the chance that he's bluffing because most of the time he's not.

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