Short-Handed NL Holdem Play Article

One of the best ways to make large amounts of money compared to the investment needed, is to play in short-handed NL games. The biggest mistake most people make however, is that they come into short handed NL from God knows what FL, PL or even NL full ring tables, and fail to adjust their strategy at all. Short handed NL games are somewhere in the grey zone, between the super-tight full ring games and the ferocious heads-up ones. Whichever of the aforementioned types of NL games you’re good at, you’ll find it difficult to adapt to Short-Handed NL play. Having a sound idea about starting hand values in full ring games, and in heads-up is quite easy. Those standards however, are completely turned upside down and blended together when it comes to short handed play.

In short handed games, for instance, it pays to play small pairs. That is because, on one hand, seeing the flop will cost you less in the long-run, on the other hand, you will no longer use pot odds to determine the value of a hand, but rather implied odds. Hitting trips with your low pair bears a statistical chance of 1 in 8. Since the flops cost you less however, you’ll spend less money hunting for them than when you’re playing at a full table. That alone wouldn’t make for great value though. The second part of the deal is that you’ll get a much better payout on your trips when they do hit, so overall, you’ll be making more money on your sets, than you’ll be losing when the flop misses you.

This is where the implied odds come into the play: in short-handed games, you’re a lot more likely to get an opponent (or even more of them) all-in. That will provide great value for your trips because: 1. trips are more difficult to beat in a short handed game. 2. people will act on much weaker hands than they would at a full table. A high pair is considered something to go all-in on, here. The reason why you’ll be able to build a huge pot on your trips (the good implied odds) is, that nobody will ever be able to get a read on your low set, when most of it is safely tucked away in your pocket. It is one of the most unreadable hands in poker. You may ask: why shouldn’t I play low pairs (hoping to make the set) in full games too then? The answer is because the implied odds tell you not to.

In full ring games, you’ll be paying more to see the flop on these pocket pairs than you’ll be winning when you hit your set.
Reason no1: there’s more preflop action going on, which means more expensive flops.
Reason no2: people play these tables more tightly. This will mean two things for you: hands taken to an eventual showdown will be much stronger, and thus they’ll stand a much better chance to beat your set. Building up a pot will be much more difficult in the instances when you do end up winning.

The above is a great example of how a strategic approach, which would be written down as a mistake in a full game, is a great way to make money in Short-handed NL. Needless to say, the fact that it’s NL we’re talking about here, sets things a world apart from any PL or FL games. FL will cut the value in the above presented strategy, by not allowing you to get your opponents all-in, and depriving you of your most important pot-building tools.

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