Not every poker table you sit down to play at is going to be packed, especially if you play at non-peak hours. If you want to be a winning poker player, you’ll definitely want to learn how to play in these shorthanded tables, and a lot of online poker rooms actually restrict the number of players in their higher-stakes table to create a shorthanded environment. Let’s take a look at how you can play better shorthanded poker.
Firstly, you should definitely look for the right game, and while that seems obvious, it’s surprising how many players don’t take this basic step. Unless you just want to practice playing the game, there’s no reason to sit down and take on a bunch of pros! The best way to examine any given game is to watch how much betting and raising occurs. If you see a great deal of raising and folding, stay away — that game’s probably too aggressive to be profitable! If people limp in a lot preflop and then just call bets jump into the water! The reason you want to play against more passive players is that selective aggression is the key to winning shorthanded poker games.
Preflop starting hand values become a little more fungible in shorthanded play, as there are fewer players involved and the chances of running against certain hands is dropped by a few percent. I recommend raising with Pocket Pairs, AT+, KQ, KJ, QJ, JTs. You’ll want to call with High Pocket Pairs, AJ, KQ, KJ, AT (maybe) and QJs. Reraising is a bit trickier: it all depends on the opponent. If they’re aggressive to a ridiculous extent, don’t be afraid to reraise them while holding any decent pair or cards better than A9. The rest of the time, stick to strong hands like AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AK and AQ. For the most part, I recommend staying away from suited connectors and small pairs.
If you picked the right table, that selective aggression is going to come in handy. If you have a made hand, bet on it and just stick to good, tight aggressive poker play. Stay on top of the number of outs you have and remember that you’re playing against fewer players and thus have more control over the board.
I honestly don’t recommend bluffing when you’re playing in shorthanded games except for very rare cases where you can make the board look made for you. If another player begins to play very aggressive poker, you’ll want to adjust your game for them or simply leave and find another table. There are usually plenty of them to go around.