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Shorthanded No Limit Hold'em Preflop Guide
The requirements for opening a pot, and also to re-raise in an already opened pot, go down at short handed no limit Holdem tables. However, starting hand selection is still important in relation to both position and the tendencies of opponents. This guide looks at how starting hands at short handed tables should be selected to ensure profitable play.
We start by looking at starting hand requirements in relation to the common strategy of raising any pot that you choose to play. Next hands which can be used for re-raises before the flop in short handed games are looked at. Finally high implied odds hands including small pairs and suited connectors will be covered.
While starting hands with which you open raise a pot do not need to be as ‘strong’ as in a full ring game those hands which you call a raise with still need to have some value. The selection of starting hands at short handed tables is driven by 4 inter-related factors. The tendencies of your opponents (how frequently they will call or re-raise), your position relative to the button, how many hands you have raised recently (your table image) and finally the actual showdown value of your cards.
At one extreme you may have the button, extra tight opponents and a tight image yourself – in which case raising with a wide range of holdings would be profitable. The opposite example would occur with an aggressive table where 3 and 4 betting is frequent from first position.
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Don't Make Second Best Hands
The key factor in selecting starting hands at short handed tables is to make sure that your holding is not easily dominated when you are called. For example hands with an ace and a small kicker can get in trouble after the flop when called – catching the ace could mean losing the pot to someone with a higher kicker than you. This does not mean that you can not raise with such hands if the other factors are favorable – however calling a raise with these hands may often be a mistake.
Since many of your opponents will be opening pots for a raise with medium strength holdings the type of hands you need to re-raise them (especially from position) are wider than at a full table. For example a hand such as Ace-queen or a pair of Jacks will often be the strongest holding even after an opponent has raised. Combined with position a re-raise before the flop can have a good chance of winning immediately.
Hands such as small pairs and suited connectors are great for winning big pots if you hit the flop hard. At a short-handed table these are candidates for over-calling a raise before the flop when the stacks are deep enough to justify this. If you are folded to before the flop then raising is usually optimal – even when called you will have an excellent chance of taking the pot with a continuation bet those times when you miss.
To summarize, the actual strength of the cards held is only one of many factors involved in starting hand selection at short handed no-limit Holdem tables. More important is your table position, your image and the tendencies of opponents who are still to act.
Since may opponents will open raise with medium strength holdings the hands with which you can re-raise with pre-flop need less value. High implied odds hands (at a full table) make good candidates for raises at short handed tables – especially from position.
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