In poker it is always important to have the right strategy in your chosen type of game. To learn short handed poker you have to first know the differences between full ring (9-10 players) and short handed poker (5-6 players). The most important difference is that in a short handed poker game you have to be a lot more aggressive and cannot wait for such premium hands as you do in a full ring game. The early, middle and late positions all shrink to 1-2 players and you have to play a lot more marginal type of hands such as JQ, KT or ace with low kicker.
In general I can say if you are an action player who can bluff very well and does not like to wait long to get good hands then short handed online poker is for you. On the other side if you are a very tight player who is mostly making money from his big hands and cannot bluff efficiently then play full ring poker. In a short handed game many times raises and reraises can be seen with marginal hands or with second/third pairs. Not even mentioning how big the battle is sometimes for the blinds. The blinds have a key importance in a short handed game. Since you are more often a small or a big blind it is important to steal blinds and also fight for your own blinds.
I will discuss now a $2/$4 short handed (5 players) no limit hold’em hand where I am only an observer. The hand however shows perfectly the main difference between analyzing and playing at a short handed and a full ring table. Let’s see the play. The UTG folds, the cutoff folds and the button ($1034 stack) raises to $12. It is a quite general play in short handed poker that no one has entered the pot. The button might have anything, his bet does not mean that he has any kind of a strong hand. The small blind ($402 stack) reraises to $44 and the big blind folds. The small blind decides to defend his blind and reraises which is also an average play (a raise is better than a call because he is out of position so he wants like to take the pot down right now). The button waits a bit and makes the call Mysport99.
The pot is $92 and the flop comes: 8c8s4d. The small blind bets $46 and the button calls. This is a standard continuation bet from the small blind; half of the pot and does not tell any information about his hand. He could have any kind of pair or two high cards. The button called relatively fast which indicates that he has a pocket pair in his hand or he caught some piece of the flop.
The pot is now $182 and the turn card is: 3c. The small blind bets $92 and the button calls. This is interesting. The small blind either has something strong or decided to shoot the second barrel and try to take the pot. What is even more interesting to me is the fast call from the button. This indicates he must have something strong because he called the second big bet as well.
Now the pot has increased to $366 when the third club arrives on the river: Qc. I was very interested after the river card because the pot has increased greatly and both players seemed likely to play for stacks. The original bettor showed strength all the way, so he might have a high pocket pair. The button called all the way so he might have slow played an 8 or put his opponent on a bluff and called him all the way with a pair.
The small blind goes all-in with $220 and the button calls. The small blind shows Ad8d for a set of eights and the button shows Ac4c for a backdoor flush and he wins the $806 pot. It was a very interesting hand with an interesting showdown. I put both players on the wrong hand. The small blind tried to steal the pot with a relative strong short handed table hand preflop and the button called.
The small blind hit the flop very strong with set, made a standard continuation bet and the button made the call and wanted to see if the small blind had only bluffed or really had had something. On the turn the small blind built the pot larger, ready to go all-in on the river but the button called with his two pairs and flush draw. The river completed a backdoor flush draw but it was impossible to put the button on two clubs so the small blind pushed all-in and the button called. I am positive if the button had seen on the flop that he had only had a backdoor flush draw to win the hand he would have folded for sure. In my opinion the only mistake was made by the button when he called a reraise before the flop with Ac4c.