David Randall

Intro To Short Handed Play

The typical long term winning poker player is tight and aggressive. He only plays the very best premium hands and when he gets them he’s aggressive and tricky. That is until he plays at a shorthanded table. Suddenly those “wild” players that were being run over before suddenly start dominating the table. If the tight aggressive player doesn’t adapt his play to suit the new table conditions he’ll develop a serious cash leak.

At a short handed table you should play more hands, raise more often, and generally loosen up and step up the aggression. This is even more true when you’re the big blind heads up against an aggressive player. So how do you defend your blind? You call and re-raise often. If you continue to only play the top 30% or so of hands you’ll lose money fast. In a 10$/20$ game if the small blind raises you, he’s risking $15 to win $15. What this means is that if you call his bet less than 50% of the time, he’ll automatically profit. Hopefully, this provides insight on why you can’t stick to only playing your premium hands when in this position.

So how do you stop an aggressive small blind from killing you? You call more often than one in three times and you re-raise often. You can’t let your aggressive opponent think that he’s going to risk 15$ to win 15$ every time he raises. You need to force him to worry about being re-raised in which case he might end up paying and extra big bet plus future bets for the chance to steal your blind.

When playing from the big blind heads up you need to call and re-raise your aggressive opponents at least 40% of the time. In addition to the hands you’d normally play, call or raise any ace, any pair, any straight flush draw, and any king suited. And play a few more hands on top of those.

Short handed play can be very difficult at first. When sitting at a full table you’ll be playing the same hands you’ve played a thousand times before and encountering the same situations time and time again. At a short handed table you’ll often be playing marginal hands and making questionable calls and raises. Just remember to play aggressively and to dramatically increase the amount of hands you call/raise with.

Short handed play is something that takes awhile to acquire a feel for. But once you’re adapted to it you’ll find that short handed play is not only more profitable due to the many extra hands you’ll be playing, it’s also more enjoyable. Many of the top pros far prefer short handed play because they’re able participate in so many more hands. At a full table game you can be stuck folding marginal hands for what seems like hours. Short handed play is not only more exciting but more rewarding as well.