The term “short-handed” usually relates to a poker table which contains 6 or less players. In Texas Hold´em, it is a very aggressive game where the best hand does not necessarily win the pots.
A short-handed table is no place for a loose-passive player to be, nor the player who waits too long the premium hands (which are much rarer on a 6 handed table) as the blinds come around that much faster, and a “rock” or bonus hunter will find themselves losing chips very quickly without getting involved in the action.
The way to succeed when playing short-handed is to include more marginal hands into your opening hand criteria, and when you do get a premium hand to play it more aggressively. The strategy requires that you specifically target weak players who get into more hands than they should, and use your discretion to determine when to withdraw from a bet. Because there are fewer players around the table, you should find it easier to identify their particular tendencies and recognise those who err on the side of caution, and the more proactive players, who are most likely to call any bets you make.
Position plays far less a crucial role than it does on a full ring table, so some of your starting hands can be much lower in value than you would normally choose to play, and can be bet from any seat around the table – depending on the betting tendencies of players behind you. Because high ranking pocket cards are not dealt so frequently, most experienced players would suggest that you could start as low as pocket 5´s, and any combination of AKQJT – sizing your bets in accordance with their status.
Playing looser and more aggressive does not mean playing recklessly. If you have a good hand, or catch a better one on the flop, exploit it, but in order to win frequently on short-handed tables requires discipline and timing. When you get dealt good hands, with fewer players on the table, it is worth considering that you are less likely to be outdrawn on the turn or river, so you can go in with your betting a little stronger than you normally would.
Indeed, most short-handed games are often resolved before reaching the river – but this is not an excuse to frequently bluff with any two cards!
Playing short-handed poker takes Texas Hold´em to a new level for many players. There is little opportunity to relax from the action around the table and nowhere to hide when you get it wrong! However, rather than shun it because you feel that it may be a little too different from what you are comfortable with, it is recommended that you give it a go and see what effect it has on your play when you return to the full ring game. You may well be surprised!