Six-max poker is still poker at its core, but the reality is that playing shorthanded poker requires players who are used to full ring games to make some adjustments. For those transitioning to six-max, here are a few key differences you’ll experience.
Prepare to play more
If you’re used to playing full ring when you play hold’em, six max is going to be a bit of a shift for you. Even when you’re under the gun, you only have five players to act after you instead of 8 or 9, meaning the blinds will come around faster, the players per pot will be smaller, and the action will generally be looser than it would be at a full ring game.
In six max, especially rush poker six max and tournament six max, the luxury of waiting for hands to play is diminished by quicker orbits around the table. An M of 10 in a full ring tournament will last you 90 hands. At six max, you lose 30 hands of play with the same M. So, if you’re a standard tight player, be prepared to open your game up if you plan on surviving at a six max table.
Lowered opening requirements
As a rule, your opening requirements should mirror those at a full ring table if everyone in the first three seats had folded to you. However, because the inherent nature of six max is a looser, more aggressive version of this, you need to open your requirements a bit beyond what you would if the previous conditions were true.
You get to be the button every sixth hand, utilize it as much as possible. I’m looking to play top 50-70%, depending on the blinds, when I have the button. This is one of the biggest differences you’ll find in six max; button abuse is rampant in the tournament style six max tables. Aggression from the button will be your biggest weapon to raking in chips in these tournaments, and will be critical in cash games as well.
More preflop decisions
Three and four betting is rampant in six max, as opponents who are playing lower requirements will also be reraising with weaker hands. If you’re not adjusting, playing too snug can really pose a threat to your Texas Holdem bankroll. Jacks become a four and five bet hand, eights may be a four bet hand, AQ may become a five bet hand as well, depending on the player. Be prepared to see your opens respected much less than they would in a full ring game, even from the same positions.
For example, opening from the cutoff in a full ring game after every one has folded is usually given a little bit of respect, and players generally play straightforwardly against it. In six max, that same player may decide to three bet you with 89s on the button because he thinks you’re opening super light.
This also means you should consider carefully your preflop decisions with more vulnerable hands to flops, like 88 and AJo. These hands may warrant a three bet a higher percentage of the time in six max than the would full ring from the same positions, so keep that in mind when the cutoff opens for the 5th time in six orbits from that position. Be aware of the increased volatility of six max and be prepared to adjust to these big decisions preflop that you may not be used to.