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Hyper’s 6-Max Limit Hold’em Guide Part 2

Hyper put together a sequel to his initial guide on 6 max/short handed play. Click here to read version 1 of his
6 Max Limit Holdem Guide.

Hyper’s Limit Guide, Specializing in Shorthanded Play: Version 2.0

This guide is an extension of my previous guide, as an attempt to fix apparent errors, as well as provide new information. Also, I’m going to try and reduce the amount of rambling, and provide more direct information in point form. I’ve never been a fan of reading through lots of information when one sentence will suffice. As such, this is a near rewrite of the original version, retaining all the important information, and explaining certain sections more clearly.

While Version 1 was a lot of “if this, then do this” type of guide, especially with all the default post-flop plays, Version 2 will be more of an awareness guide. I want you to be aware of some of the things that happen, why certain lines are better than others, why they are better against certain opponents more than others, etc.. As such, Version 1 would be equivalent to a “do this,” versus Version 2 of “it depends.”

Disclaimer: I might suck, so take my advice as you will.

You might be wondering why I renamed my guide. The reasons are because I felt a lot of the advice, particularly the default plays for each street and position also applies to full ring. Thus, this guide is also useful for all full ring limit players as well.

Shorthanded Limit Games

  • It has high variance, but also higher expectation per hour (because of more hands per hour).

  • It is much more fun due to higher aggression.

  • You can play more hands profitably.

  • You can exercise and practice your skills in reading other players.

  • It is a required stepping stone to move up to higher limit games.

Word of Warning

  • Shorthanded hold’em is a vicious game. If you are a sissy you shouldn’t be playing it.

  • Just because you lost 50BB after trying “my strats” doesn’t mean I’m full of turd. Even the best known shorthanded players take regular 100BB swings. Post your hands!

  • If you are still bitchin about bad beats from time to time, you are not ready to tackle shorthanded play.

  • If you don’t know what pot odds are, what pot equity is, how hand values change, etc. you are not ready for shorthanded play. Put more hours in at full ring. I’m assuming that you actually know what you’re doing most of the time.

  • Bankroll Management. If I need to talk about this to you, you are reading the wrong guide. The only change you need to know is there will be more swings. How much? That depends how aggressive you want to be.

  • Emotional roller coaster. This point is the same as the other point about bad beats. If you can’t handle yourself, you are only going to hasten the process of your male pattern baldness.

Brief of the Guide

  • I read your last guide and it was like 30,000 pages long! I don’t have that much time!

  • Fine. Here’s the entire guide summarized in a couple points.

    • Don’t be a pansy! Raise!

    • They’re full of shit! Call down!

    • Get the idea? Be very aggressive, and be willing to take many marginal hands to showdowns.

Poker Tracker

  • In the previous version I mentioned that Poker Tracker is worthless for No Limit ring games. I have removed it, but admitting my mistake here.

    • I am an asshat and I have no idea what I’m talking about.

    • I came to this conclusion because even a hand like 92o can show a significant profit if you flop 222 and someone with AA goes all in with you.

    • As such, I concluded that the length of time it takes for a hand to converge takes too long to get any useful information out of it.

    • I haven’t played much NL ring, so I will shut up about it now.
  • Nonetheless, Poker Tracker is a great program for all variations because it helps you analyze your play.

  • Limit is all about the little things. Poker Tracker helps you nail those little bitches.

Preflop Comments

  • Do not cold-call! This is a huge leak in many people’s games. Don’t do it! If you don’t believe me and you always cold call then just do a simple filter in Poker Tracker and see for yourself. If you can’t reraise them, it is often best to fold the hand.

  • Folding against a reraise…

    • If you raise, and it gets 3-bet and capped back to you, that is 2 bets for you stay in. You need to treat this like a cold-call and should only stay in the pot with the better hands.

    • You must realize that against a cap you are very likely against a high pocket pair or high suited ace. All profit is in the implied odds.

    • “Folding when it is one bet back to you.” This comment in my previous guide has come under attack. I still stand by my original statement. The argument against me was basically that you have 5:1 odds to call after the opponent 3-bets. In my defense, it is the exception to fold, not the norm. If a tight-passive player 3-bets you preflop, and you hold A5o on a steal, you really don’t want to be drawing to 3 outs.
  • Preflop is a battle for position. Keep that in mind! If the opponents thinks their hand is worthy of having better position, they have to call or reraise you. Let them make the mistake of cold-calling you!

  • Almost always raise first in. You want to buy position, gain initiative, and make people fold. However, if the table is unusually aggressive, it may be better to limp-reraise your premium hands like AA-AKs. Or, if the table is unusally loose, you might be better off to open limp some more speculative hands, but muck weaker offsuit hands you would normally raise. Play the appropriate hands to the table conditions.

    • Which hands to raise?

      • Loosen up your raising standards as you approach the button.

      • All aces, even the naked ones, are very strong shorthanded.

      • Strong kings are also very good.

      • All pocket pairs are strong.
    • Which hands to muck?

      • If you don’t feel comfortable raising it, muck it.
    • Why are you so vague on the preflop hands?

      • Shorthanded players are successful anywhere with a VP$IP of 20 up to 35 or even higher. The hands you choose don’t really matter as much when so much money is made postflop. One thing is for certain though, if you don’t raise enough, you lose.
  • Here are some general Poker Tracker stats you should aim for:

    • VP$IP

      • The absolute minimum is 20%, and that is already overly tight. Shoot for 25%. The best of the best of players can play profitably at 30%. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to play profitably beyond low 30’s. All those people who claim positive winrates at 40% don’t have a big enough hand database to back them up. The higher VP$IP also results in a much higher standard deviation, so those players need something like triple the amount of hands of a 20% player to get a good confidence interval on the winrate.

      • Playing more hands has a tradeoff of higher variance for a little bit of expectation increase. Ever heard of diminishing returns?
    • PFR

      • 10% is the absolute minimum, and if you are very passive you should start here. Increase your aggression towards 15%. 10% is fine for something like Party’s very soft 1/2 game, but you will get crushed in higher limits if you don’t put your chips in the pot. As with VP$IP, you can push for 20% in certain situations.

      • Raising more preflop increases your expectation at the cost of higher variance. Suck it up! It’s just swings! And swings were fun when you were a kid!
    • WTSD

      • This stat hovers anywhere from 30% to 40% or more. It depends on the game. At 1/2 you’re probably fine with low 30%, but at the 5/10 game you are folding the winner way too much.
    • W@SD

      • This stays the same: slightly above 50%. This doesn’t change compared to ring stats. You are going to showdown more, but your pair of 7’s are far more likely to be good in a shorthanded game than it is in a ring game.
    • Fold to Steal in BB

      • If this number isn’t around 50%, you are folding too much!

Hand Values

  • High cards with showdown value are very strong. You raise with any ace because people will call you down with king high!

  • All speculative hands go down in value except for pairs. Pairs are only 50/50 against any 2 overcards. If you hit a set you are almost guaranteed to win the pot. Suited connectors are not that great because often you won’t have odds to see a river. They don’t have showdown value either.

  • This makes suited aces very strong because of their high card strength for showdown, and because of the implied odds for when you hit a flush.

Post-Flop Play

  • In the previous version I attempted to make default plays for most situations. Most of the time they are fine for typical games, but I completely missed the point that poker is a complex game and every situation is unique. Instead, I will brief on the main points that are important to post flop play.

  • Check-raising

    • Often used in early position to protect a vulnerable hand

    • In the odd occasion, it can be used to build a pot on your strong made hands and strong drawing hands.

    • Most often used on the flop. Uses on the turn and river are mostly limited to when you hit your draw, or if you are bluffing against someone who can make laydowns.
  • Betting/Raising/3-Betting

    • Often you bet/raise for value. Other times it is to protect a vulnerable hand. A lot of the time it is to try and buy position.
  • Free cards/Free showdowns/Cheap showdowns

    • I don’t know what the terms are anymore, but they all involve betting the flop!

    • There’s only a couple plays you do with marginal hands after a flop bet and they check to you on the turn.

      • You check the turn and check/call the river for the cheapest showdown.

      • You fire again on the turn if you think you have folding equity, and plan to check behind on the river for a free showdown if you don’t improve.
  • Folding

    • Duh! Save your money!
  • Draws

    • It’s simple! If you have odds, call. If you don’t, fold! If you have pot equity, bet/raise/3-bet/cap. That’s all there is to it!
  • What you really need to know about shorthanded post flop play…

    • Alright, everything above applies to all limit games, so here’s some shorthanded tips.

    • 3-Betting middle pair is OK sometimes!

    • Calling down with ace high can be profitable.

    • Don’t fold many hands unless you have a read.

Types of Games

  • Why do I recommend shorthanded games as a stepping stone? Many higher limit ring games play like lower limit shorthanded games. Higher and lower are relative here.

  • Tight passive games.

    • Very easy to steal pots.

    • When they raise back, it’s obvious they hold something.
  • Tight aggressive games.

    • Tough games to play. Not much to say here. If you want a challenge then go ahead and sit down at a table like this.

    • They will protect their blinds, and be vicious against yours.
  • Loose Passive games.

    • Just value bet them to death.
  • Loose Aggressive games.

    • This is the most typical shorthanded game. This is also a typical 15/30 game at Party (mainly because the SB is 2/3), which is why we have stepping stones!

    • They will steal with anything and everything. You can open up your defense range of hands.

    • Don’t steal with the crappier range of hands, only because they will defend and be very willing to call down with any pair.

    • Likewise, you should be willing to call down with any pair as well.

Questions?

  • You’re telling me call down with any pair? But in the old version said to fold if an opponent raises back at you on the turn!

    • Like everything in poker, it depends.

    • Against passive players, it’s an obvious fold with anything less than top pair.

    • Against “sane” aggressive players it is not as obvious.

    • Against “idiot” aggressive players you should continue calling down.
  • Almost everything you said so far applies to all limit games! Some real shorthanded advice please!

    • You’re right. The real money that is made in shorthanded play is playing your blinds well, and playing well heads up by making the right value bets and calldowns.

    • The most important technique to learn from shorthanded play that will improve your limit game is selective aggression.

Personalized Aggression

  • Definition

    • It’s the difference between aggression with reason, and aggression with no reason, personalized against your opponent.
  • Aggression with reason.

    • 3-Betting middle pair.

      • You need to do this against aggressive players that will eat your blinds. You need to tell them you will fight back with crappy hands. This only applies to opponents who actually pay attention to what you do!
    • Capping with a medium pair

      • This line would be highly stupid in most ring games.

      • This is mostly done as a defense mechanism. Also, it is because of the heightened aggression in shorthanded games that this becomes necessary.

      • For example, Player A has overcards, and Player B has a pair protecting his blind. It is heads up and Player A has position.

        • Player B checks.

        • Player A bets to follow through with the preflop raise, hoping to take the pot down right here.

        • Player B suspects a steal, and check-raises to protect his hand and prevent giving a free card.

        • Player A realizes that he might raise to protect, so Player A 3-Bets to keep the initialize for a free look at the turn and river.

        • Player B doesn’t buy it…Player B caps back.

        • Player A is fugged…and thinks he/she might be in real trouble. Here’s where variance comes and kick you in the ass. Player A has odds to call the flop and turn. Player B continues firing hoping to resteal the pot.
  • Aggression with no reason.

    • The guy has been getting aces and kings and all I get is this crap blah blah blah! Screw it! 82o?? I don’t care! I’m raising it and taking some of my money back!

    • Stupid aggression is the easiest way to lose your money. So unless you’re feeling awfully generous, it is best that you don’t play stupid. It also saves you and your opponent’s time if you just do a money transfer instead if you’re gonna throw money around.

  • Lack of aggression as a trap.

    • I like this one a lot. You know your opponents will bet anything and everything. Call them down! Waiting for the turn vs. waiting for the river to raise is not set in stone, as it changes from opponent to opponent.

Made Hand Relative Strengths

  • I’ve received good comments on this section, so I will reiterate it.

  • Monster = TPTK or better

  • Good Hand = TPWK or TPGK (weak and good kickers)

  • Marginal Hand = MPGK (mid pair good kicker)

  • Bad Hand = Everything else

  • In full ring, you will not continue past the flop without at least mid pair very good kicker. It better be a high mid pair too!

  • You are playing too tight shorthanded if you do the same thing.

  • Be willing to take mid pair no kicker to showdowns sometimes.

  • In summary, your hand strength is relative to the likely range of hands your opponents hold.

    • With more opponents you require a stronger hand to win.

    • With fewer opponents you require a weaker hand to win.

    • Against loose opponents you require a weaker hand to win.

    • Against tight opponents you require a stronger hand to win.

Interlude 1:

  • Everything I’ve talked about so far is pretty basic. I realized that you can’t teach someone into becoming a great player. They are born. They need guidance. I’m here to help them along the way.

  • Ever heard of all those people bitchin about how SSH broke their game and turned them into losing players? Well, even in a great book like SSH can’t teach you everything, and more importantly sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re even applying all the concepts properly.

  • Posting and analyzing hands is one of the best and fastest ways to improve your skill and I recommend that you do it.

Blind Stealing:

  • What hands to raise?

    • Basically, you raise any ace, decent kings, strong queens.
  • Reraised preflop?

    • If the button 3-bets you and you hold a naked ace it’s probably best to fold if they are very tight. Otherwise, call and hope to flop an ace.

    • If they are in the blinds, you need to double-check the likelihood that they would reraise you with weak hands to tell you to piss off. Depending on who the opponent is, it may be wise to go to showdown with them, telling him that they can’t just use initiative to resteal the pot from you. They must fight for what is rightfully ours (we have position).
  • Follow through on the flop?

    • This is usually standard when they check to you. Bet regardless of what falls. If they reraise, most often it’s best to call and fold the turn unimproved. Reads will affect your decision. Sometimes, to keep the initiative you should 3-bet back at them.
  • What if they call the flop bet?

    • Fire again on the turn and river if you think you have a good chance in making them fold.

    • Tend to bet stronger hands, and take the free card with very weak hands.

    • If you get reraised on the turn you’re in a bitch of a situation. If you’re at a soft game, you can be pretty sure you’re beat, and just fold. Better/thinking players will bluff you a good amount of the time, since calling the flop and checkraising the turn is the “standard i have a hand” play. Board texture doesn’t matter much because it will either look like they hit the draw, or were slowplaying a stronger pre-made hand.
  • Freebies

    • If you’re fortunate to come across players who have auto-fold checked most of the time, make sure you raise every hand until they catch on… Twisted Evil

Blind Defense:

  • Against a raise from UTG/MP

    • This is often not a steal. Fold all your crappy hands.

    • Against aggressive players it may be wise to just call with aces or kings. They will auto bet the flop, which you call. This sets up a nice turn check/raise against aggressive players.
  • Against a raise from CO/Button

    • This is about 50/50 for value vs stealing. You basically call any hand you would steal with, in addition to some decent suited cards and one gappers.

    • There are 2 ways to defend. Calling, or reraising. It’s a good idea to mix them up.

    • Reraising preflop basically tells them to piss off. You hope to fold them with your flop bet out.

    • Calling seems passive, but it’s pretty useful. A default play is to check, after they bet, raise any made hand (even lowest pair), or fold with nothing. Then, autobet the turn, hoping to fold them.

    • The problem is when they continue playing back at you, after you show strength. You can be forced to make some very marginal calldowns, so it’s crucial you have a good read on your opponent.

    • When you flop a pair, or a strong draw, there’s basically 2 ways to play it.

      • Play back aggressively. This will possibly make them fold if they are on an obvious steal. Against aggressive players you might make even more money off them because their overcards will miss some of the time. There are 2 popular lines: call the flop and check/raise the turn, and check/raise the flop and bet out the turn. Regardless, they have odds to call, no matter what you do. So just hope their overcard doesn’t fall.

      • Call down passively. You don’t know if they have ace high, or aces. So, as a low variance line, you can call them down. This loses you the least when you’re behind (or even drawing dead), and gains a decent amount when they are bluffing with overcards and put in the last desperate bet on the river.

Fold Equity:

  • What is it?

    • It is the expectation of a bet/raise when the opponent folds.
  • Why is it useful?

    • While this is much more powerful in No-Limit, it also has its uses in Limit. I know you are bluffing, but I can’t call you! That is the basic idea. Since you don’t have the ability to vary your bet sizes, the chances of success vastly improve on later streets when the bet size doubles.
  • How does this apply to shorthanded games?

    • You are always betting and raising hands, even marginal hands, for 2 reasons. You want to move people off their hands, or you want them to call so you can make more money.

    • This applies mostly when you are heads up. Therefore, this doesn’t apply when you are 4 handed on the flop.

    • A lot of the profit from blind stealing comes from fold equity. They know you are stealing, yet they can’t call. If they fight back, and you keep the initiative by 3-betting back, they can’t feel good calling the turn again unimproved.

Bluffing:

  • Bluffing

    • Well…bet if the chances of them folding are equal to the pot odds you’re getting. So, if there are 5 bets in the pot, and you bet 1, if they fold once in 6 times you break even. That’s all there is to it.
  • Induced Bluffs

    • Inducing bluffs in shorthanded is easier than full ring games. Shorthanded players are keen on sensing weakness. They will autobet many crappy hands if checked to just because the pot is often laying them good odds to bluff.

    • So, basically check to them if you think they will bluff, which is a lot of the time for most players.

    • Only induce bluffs when the hand you hold is weak to marginal. If you have a marginal or better hand it is often best to bet for value yourself, and for the chance they will fold.

    • An important point from the previous version that I will reiterate is closing the action. You need to close the action! This is a double sized bet on the end and you do not want to be check raised by a slowplayer.

Important Points for Any Poker Game

  • Just to really put it down in point form, these following points are the most important things to know about any poker game.

  • Bets/raises are for:

    • Value. You probably have the best hand and you want to make some more money. You want your opponent to call.

    • Equity. You have a strong draw, and with each additional bet that goes in you make money. You can’t beat them currently, but if enough people call relative to the chances of you hitting your draw, it is profitable.

    • Bluff. Your hand is crap and you cannot win unless your opponents fold.
  • Calls are for:

    • Induced bluffs. You call with hands that you expect can beat weak hands or a bluff.
    • Odds. You call when you have odds to call, but not enough equity to raise.
  • Folds:

    • You forfeit all the money you have invested in the pot because you cannot beat what your opponent is likely holding, and don’t expect to be able to bluff them out.
  • All of those points seem pretty obvious when you read them, but they encompass all the poker theory that allows you to be a consistent, winning player.

Isolation Bets

  • This is when you know that someone before you has made a weak raise. You know this because based on previous action you know that the player raises crap. Your hand is on average stronger than theirs, but you can’t cold-call because other hands like AQ, KJ, AJ could cold-call cheaply.

  • Therefore, 3-bet isolate! Your 3-bet will highly increase the chances of folding all those hands.

  • For example, someone MP raises. You know that it can be any naked ace. You hold ATo. They could have any pocket pair, weaker ace, strong ace, strong king, etc. You’re pretty much 50/50 whether you currently beat them. However, your 3-bet is telling them your hand is stronger than it really is. It will also buy you position, or outs by folding hands like AJ and AQ.

  • Your 3-bet wants to get it heads up. Once you do, you’ve gained initiative! You’re in position, and you can do a whole bunch of stuff now.

  • This is a high variance play, and should only be attempted if you have reads that a particular player is weak, or makes “expert folds”.

  • This is also a very powerful play. When you are the person who’s isolated, you’re either screwed or in power. If you have AA, cap it back in their face (or slowplay it and raise them on the turn)! If you have A9, and flop a 9, you need to make the tough decision on calling down or folding. The most important question to ask yourself is can this person purposely perform a isolation bet? If yes, be more inclined to call down because all they have could be king high queen kicker.

Heads up

  • One of the biggest differences between shorthanded and fullhanded games is the amount of time you will end up heads up on the flop, or even on the turn. It’s quite common to have a 3-way pot in a fullhanded game on the river. This is very rare on shorthanded games (baring exceptions like penny tables).

  • So, there are many “default” plays that many players do to extract the most money out of other players.

  • Raising is generally used to protect and gain value. If the raise is likely to force people out, it’s a protection raise. If the raise is so that everyone will call anyway since they have invested one bet already, it’s for value. Of course this only applies multiway, so what happens when you’re heads up?

  • In position

    • Since you probably raised preflop, it is often best to bet and try to take the pot right here.

    • Typical sequences

      • Bet/Bet/Bet – the please fold you biznatch or for value line

      • Bet/Check/* – the free card play

      • Bet/Bet/* – the free/cheap showdown play
    • Sometimes you will need to 3-bet the flop to keep the initiative, allowing you to continue making the free card and showdown players. Players know you will auto-bet the flop, so a check-raise don’t really mean anything. 3-Bet to keep the initiative!
  • Out of position

    • Being out of position has the advantage of just forfeiting your money. You have shit, you know they will bet, so just fold. It also has the advantage of milking your opponent for more money.

    • You can use these typical “I have a hand” plays to move off opponents that might be stealing by bluffing at them.

    • Typical I have a hand sequences

      • Check-Call/Check-Call/Check-Raise

        • Useful against aggressive players. Delaying until the river for a raise makes it more likely they will call down.
      • Check-Call/Check-Call/Bet

        • Useful against aggressive players who tend to give up by the river if they have nothing. They will take too many free showdowns, making you miss bets without putting in the river bet.
      • Check-Call/Check-Raise/Bet

        • This is almost the standard “I have a hand” line. It is almost overused…I see all the time. Since it is so popular, this is also likely to be a blind defense tactic as well. The point of this line is you get at least 2 big bets out of the opponent, if they call the turn. Typically you make this play against players who easily go into call down mode. You will miss bets by pulling this on a tight player who can make the routine turn fold.
      • Check-Raise/Bet/Bet

        • This looks like a desperate way to defend your blind and is useful against players who always think you’re full of crap.
      • Check-Raise/Check-Raise/Bet

        • This is only useful against the most aggressive players. This will get checked past the turn too often against most players.
      • Bet/Check-Raise/Bet

        • A very deceptive play, the bet out on the flop looks like a weird blind defense play. It doesn’t matter if they raise or call, you check the turn. This makes you look weak, inducing a bet. You raise for value, and they call down.
    • Other sequences

      • The major thing you need to realize is that each of your 3 options of betting, check-raising, and check-calling work best against everyone differently, and differently based on previous actions. There are many variations from what I’ve listed above.

      • In general, you check-call if you have a weak hand, that you think might be good, and you want to show it down as cheap as possible.

      • Check-raises are good for confusion, and value.

      • Bets are basically “donk-bets” or they are to make sure you get at least one value bet in. Of course, that might not be the best because some people will check behind too much. Thus, that’s why there are check-calls and check-raises.
  • Stop’n’Gos, Donk-bets

    • This term is commonly used because some “fish” tries to make moves on other players by betting out. The “good” player raises, and the “fish” calls. The next street, the same thing happens. On the river, it happens again, but the “fish” now folds.

    • Basically, this looks like they are desperately trying to make you fold, and on the river when it’s obvious it’s not working, they fold when they have odds to call a possible bluff.

    • Of course, when they do call down, they show down a pair of 4s, and you take it down with your pair of queens.

    • I love using this line just because it is so confusing. When you have a powerhouse hand, you can put in the 3-bet on the river and really tap some money out of your opponent.

    • Stop’n’gos and donkbets are fairly similar. Stop’n’gos refers to someone betting, calling the raise, and better out again the next street. A donkbet is a bet coming out of no where. These are the bets that make you go wtf???

    • Officially, a donkbet is one where a player will bet into a previous street aggressor, usually on the turn.

    • It should be easy to tell which players are using SnGs/donkbets effectively to deceive you or not. You should pay extra attention when strong players make these plays.

Hands that experts can play, but you can’t…

  • Alright, I see all these “experts” raise 22 UTG, and 3-bet with a hand like A2o preflop, and they are profitable. Why am I losing when I do this?

    • They are called experts for a reason.

    • They know when they can, and can’t get away with it.
  • The difference in skill required to play a VP$IP of 25% vs 30% is exponential.

    • This skill can only be obtained through study, and more importantly, experience.

    • Starting off at 30% because you think you can, is probably a good idea if you want to blow your bankroll very fast.

    • Start off at 20%, and gradually add hands as you gain experience.
  • The evolution of a poker player

    • Phase 1

      • Awareness that they probably suck, and need to seek advice.
    • Phase 2

      • Advice is seeked, and applied to the dot.

      • Starting hand charts may be used, followed exactly.

      • Generally, a fit or fold strategy is used.
    • Phase 3

      • The strict advice seems to be working, and they are now breaking even or a modest winner.

      • They are bored, and realize that there must be more to poker than just playing cards.
    • Phase 4

      • They start to play poker…not cards.

The decision process…

  • Player dynamics

    • What is their range of preflop raising hands?

    • What is the range of their preflop limping hands?

    • What are the chances they might limp-reraise preflop?

    • What are the chances they will fold to a raise preflop?

    • What are the chances they will (semi)bluff postflop?

    • Are they tricky?

    • How aggressive are they?

    • Will they make moves on you?

    • Can you make moves on them?
  • Table dynamics

    • Is the table tight or loose?

    • Is betting/raising for value, thinning the field, or fold equity?

    • What kind of table is the bet/raise correct?

    • What are the chances players will limp in after me, if I limp first?

    • What is the likelihood of the average player bluffing?
  • Card dynamics

    • Do you have a good hand?

    • Do you have a good hand relative to the field?

    • Do you have a good hand relative to the player you want heads up?
  • Comments

    • If you haven’t noticed, I listed cards last. A small winner can win through cards alone. A big winner cannot.

    • It’s a long list, and I missed a lot. If it was as simple as listing everything, poker would not be a lifetime game of learning.

    • Table dynamics is 2nd most important. This justifies how many hands you can play in general.

    • Choosing the right tables will make you a respectable winner.

    • Remember, that all reads are independent between you and your opponent. If opponent A plays extra aggressive against opponent B, does not mean that opponent A should be pegged as a LAG. They could simply be adjusting to the TAP of opponent B. Always update your reads as session progresses.

    • Most important of all is player dynamics. Do you know how to extract the maximum from a maniac? How about a tight-aggressive player?

Playing the maniac

  • The maniac poses many problems to the average player. Some of the problems are…

    • Lack of information. All you know is that, on average, they will have a crappy hand. However, they will always bet/raise it. Their aggression tells you nothing about the hand they hold. Most of the time, it’s weak. Some of the time, it’s strong. It is the fear that this time they will have the strong hand, that confuses players.

    • Aggression. Fight fire with fire, or wait for the opportune moment to hose it down?
  • Those are the general problems. Lack of information, and dealing with the aggression.

  • What to do?

    • There are 2 general strategies.

      • Fight fire with fire.

        • This is generally the less popular strategy, for the main reason of massive variance. You never 3-bet the flop with a pair of 4’s, so what makes this different? The maniac might have hit the 5 on the board, or they could hold jack high. Are you willing to take the gamble?

        • Treat mid-pair good kicker as a monster hand against a maniac.

        • I’d recommend keeping bets on the turn and river to 2 bets per street. Taking it to 3 on either street with a single medium pair is just too risky.

        • Maniacs are great targets to use the stop’n’go play.
      • Avoid getting burnt, and get yourself a water hose.

        • The advantage of this strategy is that the maniac will take many small pots off of you, but when you get a hand you take one big pot off of them. You keep your variance low.

        • In general, when you flop mid pair of better, you just minimize your variance by calling down. You don’t know if they have a good hand, but they will bet it the entire way for you anyway. If you are gonna play with fire, you would throw in a raise somewhere on a bigger street.

Playing the good aggressive player

  • The major difference between a maniac and a good loose-aggressive player is this:

    • They both burn a lot of small pots off of you.

    • The good player dodges your water hose when you have a hand.
  • How should you deal with them?

    • This is the typical shark at a shorthanded table, and the player you should aspire to be. Since they play more hands (at the cost of extra variance), they make a little bit more money than a tight-aggressive in the long run.

    • Generally, you’ll tend to avoid playing a hand with them. You do not want to get outplayed.

    • On average, tend to play against them with stronger hands than usual.

    • Call them down. When you do this with decent hands like medium pairs or better, you tell them that it’s not a good idea to semi-bluff in the future.
  • What are the differences between dealing with a good LAG and a bad LAG (maniac)?

    • Tighten up against good players. Loosen up calling standards (not starting hands) with bad players.

Playing against passive players

  • These players, whether tight or loose, are by far the easiest to deal with at a shorthanded table.

  • At a full table, tight-passives can camp all day long and still make a profit. At a short table, they’d need to run good just to break even.

  • Value-bet the crap out of these opponents. Tend to fold when they bite back.

Battle of the TAGs

  • Whoever raises more wins the race!

  • The concept of initiative

    • When you’re playing against another aggressive player, generally you are both fighting for the initiative.

    • Whoever raises preflop, attempts to gain initiative. Whoever calls, gives up the initiative to the raiser. Whoever, 3-bets, steals the initiative from the original raiser. This concept applies throughout every street in every hand.

    • The aggressor has the initiative. A player with position and initiative is a very powerful combination. Strive to be that player!

    • All the concepts described in playing the players sections is tightly related to initiative. You want to steal the initiative from your opponent, but you want to do it tactfully.

Swings

  • 100BB is not a swing anymore.

  • 300BB is now the standard swing that can get some sympathy.

  • Even the tightest of shorthanded players, i.e. VPIP 20 types, can expect to experience regular 100BB wins and losses.

Comfort zone

  • It wasn’t long ago that 25/15 was the “optimum” stats for a shorthanded player to have. It’s not uncommon to have people suggest that 30/20 is now the new optimum. However, I think all of this is irrevelant. It simply isn’t important.

  • The most important thing about how we play, is if we are making money. You shouldn’t give a damn about your VPIP/PFR ratio if you are winning a great deal of money.

  • You must realize, that your standard deviation increases by a large amount every time you increase your VPIP. Sure…you might be expected to win more money, but are you willing to risk 2 extra 100BB swings so you make an extra 10BB after 10,000 hands? Of course, I have no idea if that is the case, I’m just speculating. But, I think that some people should realize what the trade offs are.

  • Particularly, people who have trouble controlling their emotions are very bad candidates to increase VPIP. Sure…increase this player’s VPIP from 20 to 25 may increase his expected win rate from 2.0BB/100 to 2.2BB/100, but it could easily mean it decreases to 1.5BB/100 because the player deals with tilt badly.

  • Increasing your VPIP puts you out of your comfort zone, and as such you will play different. You will make plays that you think is +EV, when in reality they are -EV.

  • There was a recent discussion on 2+2 whether it is +EV to raise all suited aces UTG. Think about now. Your raising standards are A9s UTG. You only raise A2s on the button. These are your current standards. You are also winning at 2.5BB/100. You expect to win an extra .5BB/100 if you incorporate this (no idea if it is 0.5, just saying for example). It is highly -EV for your to adjust your play at this point. You are already killing the game by regular standards. If you were intent on opening up though, the best strategy is to open your UTG to A8s, and as such as your position gets better you would increase the range as well. That is smart. Blindly raising A2s once you heard of this new breakthough is not.

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