Online Poker Tips: Playing Smaller Tables

pe03079_Recently a new craze has swept over the online poker community. As if the instant dealing and time clocks weren’t enough, now it seems that short-handed or half table games are all the rage. These five or six player tables encourage loose play and even faster action than their full table counterparts.

While I do not see anything wrong with playing at these tables I find that player’s on short-handed tables are often overly loose and wild. It is important to take a look at the differences between short-handed and full tables. How should you adjust your game? What are some traps you should look to avoid? What are the advantages to these fast paced mini-tables?

Loosen up for the right reasons.

In many cases, people feel that when they play short-handed it is okay to loosen up their starting hand requirements. The most popular reason given for this looser play is that there are fewer hands being dealt. Therefore, normally unplayable hands become playable.

This is true, but the more important reason to loosen up your starting requirements is because with a short-handed table you must win more pots. This is due to the blinds and the fact that you are now seeing half as many free hands as you normally would. So while you are less likely to face more powerful hands, it is important to understand that adjusting your game is not a luxury but a necessity.

Some hands are better suited for short-handed games

If it is important to loosen your opening requirements, it’s very important to know when to tighten them. When playing at a table with 5 or less opponents, high cards become more valuable and suited low or medium connected cards become less valuable.

You will often end up on a draw with suited connectors and cannot expect to get sufficient pot odds to call on draw hands. Conversely, playing high cards with a low kicker is often times the correct play. By playing your high cards you are in a situation where if you hit top pair you are unlikely to run into a higher kicker. Even if you don’t make a pair, you may steal the pot with a high card if your opponents also miss their hands.

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Position and perception

When playing in a maximum five or six player game, you must always be aware of your position in relation to other players. While position is key in all forms of poker, it is devastatingly powerful in short-handed games. As you already know, you must win more pots to turn a profit.

When playing short-handed winning the small pots is very important. In poker tournaments they offset your increased blinds and allow you to more chances of being dealt winning cards. Stealing blinds and winning small pots early will give you a great advantage over other players.

For every blind or small pot you win, it’s like getting a free round of play. Now, you are using someone else’s money to ante on your next round. It’s a great way to bide your time while you wait for a big hand.

To improve your chances of stealing blinds or winning pots early, it is important to show power in the opening round of betting. If you have a good position and feel you have the best hand, do not hesitate to raise. While in most cases you will not get everyone to fold in a short-handed game, you will usually be able to scare them out after the flop if they fail to hit the board.

Identifying poor players

It was alluded to earlier in this articles that it is sometimes wise to play short-handed games. The fact is that they are a magnet for loose and poor aggressive players. Poor players choose these tables because they feel it gives them an excuse to play loosely.

It is important when playing at these tables that you are able to distinguish good players, who are playing a short-handed game correctly, from poor players, who are playing overly loose.

Look for players who are consistently calling or betting draw hands with low cards. These players have loosened their play in the wrong way and will ultimately lose. Conversely, avoid players you notice to be raising correctly. These players are raising when they have the best hand, signaling that they are a strong player. Also be aware of anyone who is using position to gain advantage, and anyone who is just calling or betting wildly. Once you have identified the truly poor players, short-handed games become a fast-paced feeding frenzy for piling up chips.

Hopefully you now have a little better understanding of playing online poker short-handed. It is completely different than playing at a full table, and while the rake and increased blinds do make winning tricky, it is possible to clean up if you sit down already understanding the changes you have to make in order to level the playing field.

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