6-player poker games are the perfect environment for those who are looking for an extra difficulty at the expense of some players. With fewer members, it’s easier to put the focus on the opponent’s style of play, so the tells study is livelier than ever.
That alone is a sign of how the strategic approach in a shorthanded poker game can change. If you are curious and looking for a small change in your poker games without modifying the poker variant, try playing at tables with fewer players: they are a great option to consider when the turns are getting long at the full ring tables.
6 max poker: elementary rules
Beyond the change in the number of players, the 6 max poker tables have their own rules. It is a type of game characterized by its strong loose aggressive component, but for which it is highly advisable to play with a tighter aggressive style.
When playing tight, we will not fall into the mistake of thinking that the blinds are going to crush us. Shorthanded poker requires dynamism, so you have to assume that you will have to play many hands, or at least some more than you are used to at a full ring table. That is because the value of the cards at a 6-max poker table is not that high.
Whenever we are going to play a hand at a 6-player table, it is recommended that our VPIP is at least 25%. VPIP is the value that reflects how many flops we have voluntarily seen. A low VPIP reflects a tendency to be selective, while a high VPIP reflects a random or unselective tendency. Maniacs, for example, have a sky-high VPIP.
You may be puzzled by the percentage set as a cutoff. A VPIP of 25% is somewhat low at a full ring table, but in shorthanded poker it is more than enough to be considered tight.
Key points of play on preflop, flop, turn and river
There is one thing to understand about shorthanded play: it is the ultimate expression of position poker. We understand as position poker those poker modalities in which the position has almost as much or more to say than the round you are in.
In a full ring table, the position is important, but the round or street in which you are playing is more important when it comes to defining a methodology of action. On the other hand, in 6-max poker it is the position that determines almost everything.
For example, in any given round, playing from the UTG means going all-in with every move. When going all-in, we can’t do anything but open raise. What for? To make a cold call and make the opponents suddenly see more than one bet. It is something that can go very well.
Without leaving aside the UTG game: forget about limping and be dynamic. Agility is key from this position, especially as you approach UTG +2.
By always playing IP in shorthanded poker, there is no point in trying to dull the game. It’s a difficult thing to do well because at a shorthanded table, it’s easier to stall your opponents. However, you can take advantage of the cheek provided by the table structure to confuse others with your moves.
Playing from the BB, for example, we can call to get into the pot. This is critical especially on the last street, but we insist that you do not look so much at the round as at the position you occupy. In shorthanded poker, if you forget your position, you are dead.
How to defend the big blind if attacked? Re-raise. Although raising the BB can be intimidating, if you test its strength, you will see how re-raises work. Be careful, the robbery of the big blind can still occur, but you will create an atmosphere of confusion that can be transmitted to the next round, which will be very good for you.
Strategies for shorthanded poker
Keep in mind the following key strategic points according to your position, because they can help you to know how to read the game.
- UTG (Under The Gun). The player in this position will have three opponents acting in position above him. Always, always, the UTG has a range to raise that pushes him to play tighter than the others.
- MP1 (Middle Position 1). It incorporates more hands than UTG, but its playable premise is the same. It combines the best of the players who play many hands without a clear purpose with the fishes who check-call to squeeze the others and expand your stack.
- CO (Cutoff). After BU, it is the position that brings the most profit. This is where limps and 3bets come into play. Use them to put pressure on the players.
- BU (Button). Here the possibilities of making a 3bet, cold calls and limps are multiplied. You could even raise more than half of the hands and profit from it.
Play on the flop
- Here it is very common to bet heads-up. Check-call with weak draws, or check-raise, depending on how profitable the hand can be.
- A check-call or check-raise is useless if you get raised.
- Do not lead the round with strong projects, unless you see yourself with one foot out of the round.
- The strategy on the flop is based on the use of continuation bets.
- Calling too many times is a mistake. It is only advisable on flops with A or K.
- The “overcard floating”, or “floating“, is an interesting option if it is done in position. By “floating” we mean calling with marginal hands to win them on the turn or river.
Game on the turn
- A check-fold is something anecdotal. Do not trivialize it or consider it a valid recurring play.
- If you get floated all the time, check-raise.
- If you have a mediocre project and at least two players have paid on the flop, check-fold.
- Folding will save you money. With marginal stacks and mediocre hands, a timely fold will cushion your losses, especially if you’re in full tilt.
Play on the river
- If you opt for heads-up play, use value bets.
- Bluff raises. Combining check-raises with raises is a good idea to camouflage your play, but it’s a tricky technique because you need to know what kind of hand your opponent has.