Short-handed starting hand strategy for Texas Hold'em
As you should know, position plays a very important role in any hand of Texas Hold'em. In a large number of cases, hands can be actually won or lost based on the position of the players alone and not upon the actual strength of the hands that each player holds. However, how does the importance of position in poker translate into a short handed Texas Hold'em game?
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Basic table position strategy
- Just so we can set some foundations, here are a few basic tips on positional poker strategy.
- It is more beneficial to be acting after your opponents than before.
- Playing hands in late position will give you an advantage over the players acting before you.
- You should avoid playing mediocre hands from early position.
- You should open up your starting hand requirements in late position.
- The button is the best seat in the hand, as you will act last on every betting round after the flop.
Hopefully that acted as a quick reminder to the role that your table position plays in each hand. So now on to some short-handed Texas Hold'em strategy for you.
Due to the fact that there are less players at the table, the probability of one or more players holding a premium hand is reduced. This does not mean it is incredibly rare or impossible for an opponent to pick up Aces or Kings, but simply that you are going to see less premium holdings on a hand-to-hand basis than you would at a full ring game.
In addition to this, the fact that there are less players at the tables means that you are going to see less hands per orbit than at a full-ring table, and you will be paying the blinds more frequently. When you combine this with the fact that there are less premium hands lying around, it means that you can and should open up your starting hand requirements for short handed cash games.
If you use the same starting hand strategy as you would at a 10-seater table, you will be losing a fair amount of money to the blinds, and your play will become predictable. If you want to play 6-seater cash games profitably, you have to be prepared to play more hands.
Entering pots at short handed tables
Just as a quick note, I would like to point out that if you intend on playing a pot and there has been no action before you, you should come in with a raise. Calling with a strong starting hand is a passive play that isn't going to do you any favours. If you raise, you will reduce the number of players coming to see a flop and you take the initiative in the hand, so get used to raising if you are dealt a hand that is worth playing.
You will be losing money by calling when you should be raising
Early position starting hand strategy
In early position, you still want to stick to the higher tier of starting hands to enter pots with, such as
AA KK AKs QQ AK
However, you can profitably incorporate hands that you would normally avoid whilst in early position at a full ring table. For example, you should be more than happy to raise with hands like AQs and AQ, along with pocket pairs like JJ.
There is the option of playing hands like AJs and KQs from these seats, but it isn't something that I would make a habit of. If you want to be strict with the hands you play, I would lean toward folding these hands in early position. The more experienced you become at short handed tables, the more you can experiment with your starting hand range to see how comfortable you feel.
Mid position starting hand strategy
Now this is where you can comfortably incorporate the speculative hands above like AJs and KQs. In addition to this you should also play pocket pairs like TT and possibly 99. So added to the list in mid position are
AJs KQs TT 99
As you should be able to spot, the starting hand requirements for a short handed game have simply been shifted a little to be a little more lenient, and to allow you to enter pots with a wider range of starting hands.
Late position starting hand strategy
As far as basic starting hand strategy goes in late position, you can once again open up your starting hand requirements and happily play hands like
ATs AJ KQ KJs 88
In my honest opinion however, due to the fact that you are going to be playing in late position more often than you would in a full-ring game, I would strongly suggest that you start experimenting with a wide range of starting hands after you become familiar with the basics.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, your table position will often outweigh the value of the cards you hold, so it would be beneficial for you to gain some experience in using position to your advantage at short handed games. This does not mean that you play anything and everything from late position, but simply to get comfortable with playing more hands from late position and seeing what you can do.
The bigger your edge in Texas Hold'em, the more you will win.Overview.In general, you simply need to open up the starting hand requirements that you might have become accustomed to in the full-ring Texas Hold'em cash games for the short-handed tables. However, it is not always a good idea to live by a set of rules when making decisions in poker, as every hand is different.
The best way to use starting hand strategy is to learn the basics and build upon it with your own knowledge and experience at the tables.This article was written by Greg Walker, the owner of FreshTexasHoldem.com. FreshTexasHoldem is a sweet little strategy site with essential Texas Hold'em strategy articles to help players win more money from Hold'em, along with a recommendation for the top Texas Hold'em poker room.