When it comes to playing shorthanded games online, one size definitely does not fit all. Certain concepts, aggression being the most important, are paramount no matter WHAT level you are playing; but the low limit games with its preponderance of loose, passive opponents mandate a slightly different style of play be used to maximize profits.
As at any level of poker, starting hand selection is key. At Party Poker’s lowest level, the six seated tables are littered with players who see 60 to 70 percent of flops. We advocate that you keep your percentage somewhere around 30. While you are ditching your long term losers, most of your opponents will be bleeding money by playing negative expected value hands.
While position is important in Texas Holdem, it is much less important in low limit shorthanded play. Pre-flop raising is infrequent, so you will rarely be “punished” for limping with a hand of moderate strength. We advocate the following starting hands recommendations: Raise with pairs down to Nine, Ace-King to Ace-Ten, King-Queen, King-Jack and Queen-Jack suited. Limp with any suited Ace, Ace-nine and Ace-eight, Queen-Jack, King-Ten, Queen-Ten and Jack-Ten. King-nine can be played late, and Queen-Nine and Jack-nine are optional in late position. Play pocket sevens and sixes anywhere. Lower pocket pairs can be played if there are two limpers ahead of you. Suited connectors down to seven-six should also be played in an unraised pot. Other suited hands to be played are Queen-Nine, Queen-Eight, Jack-Nine and King-Nine. Jack-Eight and Ten-Eight can be played late.
Beware of playing too many hands in the blinds. Even tight players get caught limping in the small blind with poor hands. This is a long term money loser. Stretch your opening hand list only slightly in the small blind, and don’t be too eager to call raises in the big blind. Remember, most of these players raise only with top-notch holdings, so you’ll probably be at a disadvantage if you call a raise.
Shorthanded Poker is typically characterized by raising and aggression. However, this is often less effective at the lowest limits. Your pre-flop raises will typically be called in several places. At higher limits, raising with hands like pocket sevens is an effective strategy, as against a single caller you will probably be a favorite. However, this play is a loser at low limit shorthanded holdem. You will not be able to bully your way to pots very frequently. When you have raised with your big cards and missed the flop, position becomes most important. Frequently you will be up against three or more opponents. If you’ve missed the flop and are last, take a free turn card if possible, or fold to an opponent’s bet. Against two opponents, bet the flop and use your judgement on future streets as to whether you think you can bet them off the hand. Low limit players will generally call you down with any pair, so bluffing them on the river is a long term losing play. If they’ve stuck with you that long, checking (and then folding) is probably your best course of action.
If you’ve hit your flop, whether you raised or limped pre-flop, you must be extremely aggressive. Your starting hands are more solid than everyone else’s. The low limit players’ tendency to chase to the river with poor holdings must be punished. Bet and raise with impunity. If you are in the blinds and flop top pair, even with a weak kicker, by all means check raise. Punish other players for trying to steal pots or betting their middle pair. This will pay off handsomely, as they will remember being check raised and give you free cards later on. Remember also that top pair is a stronger hand in shorthanded games than it is in ten player games, so treat it as such. If you’ve flopped top pair, it is unlikely that one of the other two cards to make top pair landed in the other ten cards dealt to the table. Raise any bettors with top pair, regardless of the kicker, unless there was a preflop raiser. One last note on post-flop play: If you are heads up with someone, throw in a bluff raise occasionally. Many of your opponents are inexperienced and will drop their hands in the face of a raise.
With the plethora of poor players at the lowest limits of shorthanded poker, the game is ripe for the picking. Aggression, while still very important, must be toned down a bit, however, in the face of the numerous calling stations you’re likely to find at these tables. So remain tight, play VERY aggressively when you’ve hit something, but don’t try to bully your way to too many pots and you’ll build a big bankroll by swimming with the fish.