Explanation of Short handed

The term “short handed” describes any poker table with 6 players or less. This helps to differentiate from tables with 7-10 players which are instead described as “full ring” tables. 

Full ring tables are perhaps the most traditional format in pokker. For example, most serious poker tournaments involve 9 or 10 handed tables. Stud games typically involve 8 players at the table. 

While NLHE and PLO cash games were also traditionally played in full-ring format, short handed games are currently experiencing a surge in popularity, especially online. 6 handed online cash games are now currently dwarfing full ring cash games in terms of traffic. It is also difficult to find high stakes full ring games online whereas short handed high-stakes cash games crop up routinely.

While 6-handed games are the most common, heads up, 3-handed, 4-handed and 5-handed games are all available depending on the network. Heads up (i.e. 2-handed) is a discipline in itself and requires significantly different strategy compared to 6-handed games for example.

The term “short handed” may also be used to describe any table that is not at full capacity. For example, a table with seven players might still be described as “short handed” assuming its maximum capacity is 10, but three players left the table.

Example of Short Handed used in a sentence -> The general consensus is that short handed action requires more skill than full ring action. 

How to Use Short handed as Part of Your Poker Strategy 

The number of players at the table has a big impact on correct strategy. Without tying our strategy advice to a specific variant, we should keep the following in mind.

Looser Starting Ranges for Short handed

The more players at the table, the tighter the range of hands we should enter the pot with. As an example full ring NLHE players typically enter the pot with around 18% of holdings while HU players enter the pot with roughly 60% of holdings. 

Short handed games are hence especially good for players who like to play a loose game with wide ranges. For those who like to play on the tighter side and wait for premiums, full-ring games might be a better choice. 6-handed games are generally considered the toughest due to their popularity, so it’s worth keeping in mind that full-ring and heads-up games often provide a softer field of opponents, making bigger profits possible. Heads up poker is considered by many to be the most profitable format due to the possibility of targeting specific opponents but it’s worth remembering that heads up play requires more skill than full ring play due to the necessity for wider ranges. 

Looser Commitment Ranges for Short handed

The requirement for loosening up in short handed games also applies to the later streets. Full ring players have a tendency to stack off extremely tight ranges postflop, so it’s important to be careful we are not constantly paying off our opponents with worse.

Heads up play provides an example of how things are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Since both players are starting out with wide ranges preflop (in Hold’em), it’s necessary to continue with wide ranges postflop in order to avoid folding too frequently. A hand that might be an easy fold in a full ring postflop scenario could end up being an easy continue in a heads up postflop scenario. 

6-handed games provide a nice middle ground. Plenty of action but not the requirement to play over half of our starting hands. This is no doubt one of the reasons that 6-handed games are currently the most popular online format. 

See Also 

Postflop, Preflop, Range, Hold’em

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