Leaks in Your Shorthanded Limit Hold 'Em Game

Playing shorthanded limit poker can be extremely profitable, but even good players making the transition to short play generally find they have some leaks. This article addresses some of the most common leaks in short limit play. By short I'm referring to games with 4-6 players. Games with 3 players or HU games are significantly different animals from a strategy perspective.

With that said, here are some of the most common and easy-to-fix shorthanded leaks:

  1. Calling too much from the small blind. It's tempting when there are only 2 players in the hand to play that Q3o from the SB — after all, you do have a paint card and you've been seeing small pairs and weak kickers take down pots all day. But especially in games where completing the SB takes 2/3rds of a bet rather than just 1/2, calling too much from the SB adds up — and quick. You're still going to be out of position all hand, and position needs to be respected even more in a short game. Tighten up from this position and ditch the borderline hands.

  2. Playing small suited connectors. If you're used to a full limit ring or NL games, you will probably overvalue the suited connectors 98 and down when you first start to play short. These hands are pretty much worthless except for mixing up your play. Raise with them occasionally to throw your opponents off, maybe toss in a call from the BB when the pot is raised and you're looking at a 4-way pot or better, but otherwise let them go.

  3. Trying to run over a table that won't fold. This is a huge leak for aggressive players. When you run into a short table full of call stations, you NEED to adjust and back off some hands when you just miss. Yes, the other players SHOULD fold their 10 6 on a flop of K J 10, but stop pushing with 77 when it becomes obvious that other players habitually call down with nothing. Hang back for a bit, punish them with some good hands, and then try to run over them again.

  4. Overplaying small pocket pairs. Yes, pairs in the pocket are a strong hand, and there's nothing wrong with trying to pick up the blinds UTG raising with 55. The problem with pairs 8 and down is that the flop almost always brings overcards or an obvious draw and this puts you in a tough spot on the flop — especially if there are players to act behind you. Calling raises with low pp's is a real problem short unless you really feel like you can outplay the raiser. Re-raising is a good occasional play, but if you make it three bets preflop you've essentially committed yourself to playing the hand through barring a terrifying flop. What it boils down to if you're bleeding in a short game, cut these hands out of your arsenal until you feel comfortable again.

  5. Playing draws without odds. Pot odds don't disappear just because you're shorthanded. Calling a straight draw HU at 3-1 on the turn is just a bad idea, unless you also have two overcards or a pair to go with it. You still need to have odds to draw, and calling draws with sub par odds is one of the most common leaks I see shorthanded. Betting draws is a much stronger play, but if you're at the table described in leak 3) then don't forget - you still need odds to bet draws. They don't have to be as good because of the chance you can pick up the pot by betting, but as the chances of everyone folding decrease, the odds the pot gives you have to increase to justify a call.

Shorthanded play is a great opportunity for profit, but remember, since you see more hands than in a full ring, the impact of each leak on your bankroll is magnified proportionately.

Now that you've cleaned up your game a bit, log in and play a few hands — we'll see you at the tables.

Team GamesGrid

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