How to Play Short-Handed Poker

Last Updated on May 22, 2023 Author:Adrian Sterne

PokerShort-handed poker games are a great choice for players looking for engaging gameplay as it’s action-packed.

Those who make it to the final rounds of poker tournaments can also expect such gameplay as not more than six people can sit at the table.

Either way, it’s hard to miss out on all the fun.

Read our guide to understand the concept of short-handed poker and maximize your winning chances with our proven tips and tricks.

What Is Short-Handed Poker?

Short-handed or 6-max poker is a variation of this popular card game which differs from full-ring poker primarily by the maximum number of players. As you can guess from its alternative title, this variation includes any poker table that can take up to six players.

While short-handed poker tables accommodate fewer players, the basic principles of the game remain the same. You’ll still play by the same standard poker rules and follow the same hand ranking.

However, the underlying math behind the game changes dramatically, and the game pace becomes faster, as you’ll have fewer opponents compared to standard full-ring games. This also means you’ll play more hands than in full-ring games within the same amount of time.

Transitioning From Full-Ring to Short-Handed Poker

Transitioning from full-ring to short-handed poker creates problems for some players who aren’t sure what approach to take. If you struggle with this, poker pros might have a solution — play short-handed poker as if several players folded every hand in a full-ring game.

This idea will give you a solid starting position and make you feel more confident even if you’re a first-timer at a short-handed poker table.

Pro Tips for Playing Short-Handed Poker

Transitioning from requires fine-tuning to increase your winning chances. Our poker pros came up with a list of tips and tricks for short-handed poker, and embracing these suggestions can help you adjust to these limited tables more naturally. Let’s see what you can do to find your feet at short-handed poker tables.

Review Poker Rules and Strategies

No matter how skillful a player you are, it’s always wise to prepare for each game the best you can. Brushing up on poker strategies and rules is even more important when you change the gaming environment and join a table with limited seats.

The best thing to do is snowball your poker education and research all the strategic moves experienced short-handed poker players make. Listen to the advice given by those who’ve already spent some time playing poker against fewer players, and you won’t have to figure out what to do in critical situations on your own.

Don’t Skip Player Profiling

Playing against a rookie is always better than having a seasoned poker player as your opponent. That’s why you should sharpen your focus and pay maximum attention to others at your table during the initial hands. The essential things to buckle down include, but aren’t limited to, the following questions:
  • Are your opponents amateurs or professionals?
  • How frequently do they fold/call?
  • In which situations do they commonly fold/call?
  • How good is their poker face?

In short, the more information you can gather about your rivals, the better decisions you’ll make throughout the game. If your budget allows it, you may even sacrifice the first few hands and play them in a way to trick your opponents into showing their true gaming character.

Base Your Decisions on the Group Size

One of the reasons why players love short-handed poker is that their winning chances drastically increase when the number of active players drops down. For instance, getting pocket deuce will more likely dominate a 10-person game than a 6-max poker table, while in a heads-up poker game, a baby pair like this may become the winning hand.

In other words, the fewer the players at the table, the bigger your winning chances. Furthermore, this allows you to play your starting hand more often than in full-ring poker. So, make sure you’re aware of the number of players and play accordingly.

Pick the Right Moment for a Bluff

Bluffing is integral to all poker variants, so it’s not uncommon in short-handed games. Nevertheless, you should be able to identify the right moment for bluffing for this popular move to work.

Some poker aficionados believe you should try bluffing whenever your opponent passes the c-bet chance. In addition, bluffing is better done from a late position, such as a button, small blind, or cutoff. On the other hand, very few players will expect a bluff at the very beginning of the night, so this may sometimes be a nice twist early in the game.

Place Rational Bets and Limit Your Bankroll

Short-handed poker leaves time for more hands to take place, but it’ll also eat up your bankroll more quickly than full-ring games. Before you sign up for short-handed games or tournaments, you must be aware of this fact and start by playing tight in low stake games.

On the other end of this stick is your bankroll cap — the maximum amount you can afford to spend on poker without going broke. The fast-paced gameplay that usually takes place at short-handed poker tables can easily swirl you into a losing streak without you noticing.

If this happens, you should follow the golden gambling rule and leave the table once that stack of chips in front of you ceases to exist. Calling it a night once you reach your bankroll limit has a couple of benefits — it’ll save you from bankruptcy and gambling addiction, while it’ll also lead you to question your poker moves and make smarter moves next time.

Final Thoughts

Whether by choice or chance, every poker player can end up at a short-handed poker table. That’s why you should do whatever you can to prepare for the high-speed gameplay these games hinge on.

To wrap it up, never forget that short-handed poker makes room for a maximum of six players and can get down to a one-on-one clash, meaning that you should play each hand depending on the number of your opponents. If you adjust your strategy right and play each hand cautiously, guided by the tips and tricks from this text, success in this game is inevitable.

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Hi, I am the Chief Editor of, this site is dedicated to all thing poker. I have been working around the poker industry for the last 15 years, with different brands. The main purpose of this site is to keep you uptodate with the industry and offer you the best deals around.

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