Saturday, 18 December 2010

Year 1 as a Pro - Shorthanded / HU

As a full ring (9 seats) cash player, most of my experience and comfort zone is with 7 or more players. Playing with less opponents is definitely harder and higher variance due to everyone having wider ranges of hands and therefore decisions being much more maginal. However, it can also be very profitable and should not be ignored or passed up.

It wasn't until I felt competent at full ring that I felt I could try to play with less people. Some of the hardest things become much more important - understanding ranges, bet sizing, lines, hand reading and villain types for examples. However, there are 2 great side effects of trying it and working on all these areas

  • We get better as a player and can bring a better A-game to full tables
  • Villains play worse than they might full ring as it is harder and will make more mistakes and therefore it can be a great source of profit
Heads-up with just 2 players is obviously hardest but is still great for your game and profitable. Starting tables also has other great side effects because as the table fills up the villains are generally weaker - casual players just want to play so they fill find a seat as soon as they can rather than wory about waiting lists or game selection. Often these kinds of opponents are there for a quick gamble so will stack off much lighter than usual. Regs are usually busy multi-tabling they don't always have the time to see new tables starting and will take some time to find them so you can generally get at least a few orbits before the casual players start to bust and leave and be replaced by regs. Taking notes on villains and their HU play is extremely useful and I need to do it more as often there will be opportunities to get your stack in within a hew hands. Generally, the biggest winners at each stake are table starters so the cycle of getting better and playing in profitable situations definitley pays off.

In these short-handed situations its important to keep your eye on how profitable a situation it is as the dynamic can change much more quickly than at a full table. You also need to be ready and be aware of when it is +EV to change seats as again it can make a huge difference. There are times that I will choose not to play against a certain collection of or single villain becuase they are good (or just plain lucky!) or it is hard to get into good spots with a weak player due to seating options. However, it is also important to recognise when there seems to be an appetite for seats at your stake - a few hands HU with someone who you wouldn't choose to play for profit as your edge is tool small or negative is worth it if you can get a full soft table running quickly.

In the situation where there are a few regulars and only one or 2 weak players or as tables start there are obviously some strategic manouverings going on between the regulars.. either in seat choice, range adaptation or in simply choosing when to sit in or sit out. There are some fine lines between making the situation the most profitable it can be and table etiquette and each reg seems to have a different opinion of where these lines are drawn... I'll post more about this under "Table Etiquette".

I can understand why some regulars only want to play full tables - usually as they require more attention than you might have when multi-tabling or they simply don't feel as comfortable. However, as tables are breaking up it is worth keeping an eye on the changing dynamic and it can often become a very profitable situation again within a few hands. I can't sometimes believe when a regular leaves after a couple of seats become free when there is still a really bad fish at the table, especially when they have a deep stack. I'm happy that they are leaving easy money on the table, but the times it causes the bad player to leave because there aren't enough players makes me sad :(