When playing at six handed tables the most noticeable difference compared to 9 handed or full tables is there is more action per hour, and you can loosen up your game a bit. Although this may seem very attractive, many people tend to not quite understand some of the strategies needed to survive at a shorter table.
The blinds come around more often, you are getting raised and 3 betted frequently, and an overall adjustment is needed when coming from a full ring table.
If none of those scare you, then great, one of the great factors of playing at a shorter table is that you can become a stronger player while dealing with the new challenge of short handed tables which will also help you with short handed games when a full table is awaiting new players or there are several sit-outs.
Provided below is our suggestions to starting hands, betting techniques, and how to make an adjustment from playing on bigger tables. Before you know it you will be tearing up the 6 handed tables and becoming an overall stronger poker player.
Table Position & Starting Hands
People often feel that playing at a shorter table means that you can play a wider range of hands. This is true and in fact, it is very important as the blinds come around more. You simply can not wait for the monster hands to come. However, people tend to abuse this concept and misjudge where they are at after the flop. They just “overvalue” what they are holding and it can get ugly quick. As far as starting cards are concerned, this is what we would suggest:
EP+1/EP+2 … Pocket Pairs AA-99, AK-A9 suited/off suit
MP+1/MP+2 … Pocket Pairs AA-55, AK-A5 suited/off suit
LP+1/LP+2 … Pocket Pairs AA-22, AK-A2 suited/off suit, suited connectors down to 5-6
This is looser than what you would play at a full 9 handed game. While you will find that many people say to play looser than this, it is crucial to keep in mind that if you are new you should still focus on playing quality over quantity. In the long run this will keep you out of trouble and when the time comes you can loosen up your game a bit more. The biggest differences in starting hands is the value of your Aces go up. You can play lower kickers more often as they will prove to be good quite often.
As a guide, we have this table below so that you can see where you’d be sitting in relation to the hands you would play.
Hand Value & Betting
It is very important to keep in mind that although your Aces are worth more, so is everyone else’s. You will really have to focus on your kickers and get a good feel for where you may stand in the hand. A really good rule of thumb is to take your starting hand ranges from a full handed table and then just add a couple starting hands to that.
For example, if you were to only play AA-JJ in early position at a full ring game, then you can consider adding maybe 1010-99 to you range, even as low as 88. Over adjusting can be one of the most fatal errors a player makes at a shorter table. There is no reason to over adjust, and the extra hands applied to your range is an aggressive enough adjustment.
A very important tool to have in your arsenal is betting. It is what sets the fish apart from the sharks. What tends to be the case more often then not, is player semi bluffing more often and re-raising frequently. In a situation where you limped in the pot and someone raises you in later position, you will not know where you stand. This is an extreme disadvantage to you. Here is a couple good rules to remember:
Be #1. When you are the first person to enter a pot, raise. You can not complain if you just take the blinds.
If you have a solid read on a player or just are holding a very strong hand and you get raised, re-raise them back. It is crucial to stand up for yourself as you are very likely to get ran over if you do not. Since starting hand ranges are going to vary slightly from a full handed table, everyone is going to be playing slightly weaker hands. If you have a good pair or two high cards, play them strongly. Something else to keep in mind is that other players tend to overvalue their Aces with weak kickers. Take advantage of this.
Play connectors suited or unsuited before the flop. Let them go if you completely brick the flop. They are a great for disguising your hand, but can really foul you up if you stick with them and they are no good.
Middle pair will have good value after the flop. Obviously you do not want to over value them, but play them as you would a high pair at a full handed table.
Playing Style Adjustments
You will immediate notice a difference at a shorter table then a full handed table. What is most important is the adjustments you make as a player. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make the transition.
Do not be a tight player. The blinds come around 3 hands sooner. If you are a player that only plays Aces and Kings, you will be crushed.
Loose aggressive players may not have to adjust much. Your aggressiveness may cause you to backpedal and tighten up a bit as the other players at the table will have similar playing ranges.
Proper knowledge of implied odds and stack sizes are very important here.
Always raise or fold. Try not to just call hands if possible. Having the 2nd best hand does you absolutely no good. You need to have an idea of where you stand and project that to your opponent.
With the proper adjustments to your game you will notice that playing at a 6 handed table can really be a good break from the everyday grind of playing at larger tables. After playing at shorter tables you will find that you are much more aware of your surroundings and can use these things to better your game. You will find that you are better at dealing with pressure and that you can really open up your game to different strategies and starting hands. In short, you will be a much more rounded player with some 6 handed table experience under your belt.