Five rules to remember
There is no one-size-fits-all winning strategy when playing 6-max. Every player has his own tactics that can pay off. But one thing remains the same: beginners and inexperienced players always make the same mistakes. Use that, but first learn how to avoid those mistakes yourself.
1. Don’t play too aggressively.
This is a problem for a lot of players, especially at the short table. Aggressive style is the norm these days, and everybody knows you have to play that way to win. But some go too far in situations where they should have taken a more passive stance. Here’s an example:
- Your hand is Th-Jc – You’re on the big blind and you call the raise from the batton.
- Flop: 8-J-2 You check, Button keeps betting. You, in turn, raise with a top pair.
You wonder what the problem is? If so, it’s likely that you often make similar mistakes with an average combination of cards in your hand. Let’s see how your opponent might respond to your check-raise:
- Fold: You win a small pot, but how much of a potential goodie did you miss? Your check-raise caused weaker hands to fold, and they didn’t add to the pot. Probably in one of the next rounds your opponent will decide to bluff, and you won’t notice it.
- Call: Do you know what his cards are? An overpair, a jack with a better kicker, or even a monster? Maybe he’s trying to flop? One thing’s for sure, you overestimated your options and now the game goes on with a big pot and your hand is so-so.
- Raise: Your opponent raises your bet. The smartest thing to do would be to fold, otherwise you’ll have to play the stack with top pair and a medium kicker.
So the best solution in this situation would be a check-call. Yes, aggressive style is an important part of the short table, but you have to use it at the right time, either with a good hand or a smart bluff.
2. Learn to change tactics quickly
Of course, using an ABC strategy has its benefits (you can read about it here). However, if you stick with it all the time without taking into account rapidly changing circumstances on the table, your opponents will easily figure you out. That goes for any inflexible tactic, whether it’s neglecting a limp or always using a 4-bet with a pair of aces on your hand. Yes, when playing multiple tables at once, there is a temptation to use one pattern, but such “lazy” poker is unlikely to bring you profit. Try to always look for alternative solutions that can work better.
Let’s say you have two aces and you bet in the middle position. A player who has already 3-bet many times responds by raiding from the batton. Everyone else passes. So, you know your opponent often 3-bets, but you’re unlikely to respond to a 4-bet with weak cards. Calling will help you dust off your hand without giving it away, and will likely provoke at least a continuation bet from your aggressive opponent.
This is a great opportunity to move away from your usual strategy and try to increase the pot based on the situation. If you were facing a strong opponent who doesn’t 3-bet as often, you should try to increase the pot even in the preflop. Learn to evaluate each situation separately and make the most of it.
3: Don’t play in the blinds too often.
The urge to play in the blinds can be great, because the bet is already made. But don’t forget that you’ll be out of position on all streets in the postflop. Experienced players will easily figure you out if you try to protect the blinds too often. That’s why it’s a good idea to play tight: fold everything but the strongest hands. Here are the ranges when you can use a more flexible strategy.
Call: Q-J, K-J, A-J, A-T, all pairs 8 and under. You have an advantage over your opponent’s weakest hands and can get a set on the flop and pick up the stack. If your opponent raises from an early position, you should fold.
Raise: You should rake all good hands, including K-Q, A-Q, A-K, and best pairs. You could also add single-male connectors to your range – you’ve got a chance to take the pot right away or you could get a strong draw on the flop and take a chance to play aggressively.
4. Don’t ignore your opponents’ position in the preflop
The strength of your hand in the preflop changes with the position of your opponents. Say you have a pair of pocket jacks. You play in the blinds, the batton raises – you can make a 3-bet and play for the stack. If your opponent has a better hand, you’re out of luck.
If you decide to 3-bet with the same hand against an under-the-radar player and he responds with a 4-bet, you’re probably in trouble. Apparently, your opponent figured you out. Otherwise he wouldn’t have risked a 4-bet. You should expect him to have either a higher pair or A-K. You might not like the idea of calling an even, but that means you have to control the pot on the postflop.
If your opponent raises early and you don’t know much about him, evaluate your position and only go all-in with aces, kings, maybe queens, or A-K. Otherwise, you might get into a bad situation that could have been easily avoided.
5. Don’t be afraid to leave a bad spot.
Here it’s simple. If a strong player sits on the left, prepare for trouble. There’s nothing good about continual 3-bets and 4-bets against you or flops on the flops. So you don’t get frustrated with losing money, you can consider it a good lesson. If you don’t like paying for such training, just leave the game and find yourself another table.
Much better, on the contrary, if you yourself are that tricky player, and on the right is an inexperienced student. In such a situation, you can abstract away from the rest of the table and focus on it, even if there are other poker sharks among the players.