Texas Hold'em Shorthanded Part II: Flop Strategies

We've already talked about how to approach the preflop in shorthanded poker or 6-max games. It's on the flop that shorthanded poker starts to get interesting, so let's continue with our tips and strategies for getting ahead on the flop.

Flop play basics



Playing aggressively from preflop has its advantages on the flop

The best thing to do in poker when it comes to the flop, especially in 6-max games, is to take the initiative. Although each situation is different and must be considered separately, it is normal that, no matter what flop comes up, we should be determined and start pushing the limits ourselves. You have to understand that on a dangerous flop, whoever hits first has the upper hand.

We must not be afraid of bluffing at this stage, it can work out very well. For example, from the BUTTON we can raise two limpers. If there are three cards of the same suit and the two players before us pass, we can bet even if we have nothing. In other words, a manual bluff.

In situations like this it can benefit us to have been aggressive preflop (remember what we said in the first part about playing aggressively? For things like this it's a good thing), because the limpers won't have a flush (you can tell because they've checked) and they'll think we have a better game. It's a very good way to build the bluff, but it requires following a clear style from preflop. If we have been conservative and now we bluff, we can be seen to be bluffing.

How do we interpret this? Are they countering our bluff with another bluff? Is it a legitimate raise? Here we will have to judge the situation in each case to know what is the game of each opponent.

Continuation bets on the flop? Yes, but be careful

If we want to flop with continuation bets, we have to take into account whether we are talking about a dangerous or favourable flop, the number of players and the position we are in.

Danger of the flop

Flop danger. Here we usually talk about "flop texture". An unfavourable or dangerous texture happens when there is a pair on the flop, suited or connected cards. Can we take advantage of this? Yes, but only if we are in a good position. If not, we forget about it. Betting out of position on an unfavourable flop is suicide.

We forget about slow play. It's common to think about slow play when you're about to make a good hand or you already have a three of a kind or a flush. If you want to tie the hand, you will have to go for the ace if you want the flush, or have two cards connected over the top if you dream of the straight. Something you probably won't get by playing slow play.

Take advantage of other people's disbelief. With low limits, shorthanded poker is characterized by skepticism. Normally, players tend to distrust everything they perceive and we can take advantage of that to steal chips from them and get a good cut.

Number of players

This is extremely important. That and position, of course. In poker, the golden rule on the flop is to bet against one player if you have just raked in preflop. We can also do it with two players, but not with more.

Broadly speaking, this should not be done if we have not connected with the flop or do not have the position, although each case is different. And betting against aggressive players is out of the question, although we can do it against three tight players, even if the flop is dangerous.

Position

As in preflop, position is of vital importance. Not just here, but in 6-max poker in general. Assume that position will be the position that makes you the money when you win, and the position that makes you lose less when you get scalped.

A professional player often says that he plays better when he loses because he lost less than the others, an important detail that makes the difference.

How to play the flop from the blinds



We have already discussed in Part I that defending the blinds means attacking. That means that, if we have raised preflop, our only convincing defense is to bet. The ideal is to play in the big blind with heads up, go all-in and look at the 5 cards on the table to compensate for the (bad) position.

The differentiating element when playing 6-max poker from the blinds is the free card. This free card requires a flawless and error-free reading of the flop and the opponent, which is not always possible when playing with low limits.

Be careful with the information that we can give to the opponents with the check-raise strategy that we have already mentioned. The same can be said of the check - fold. And we will be indicating what our game is if we have not incorporated the resource of check - raise or check - fold.

If we check-fold, we are not holding cards. If we check-raise, we do. In isolation, these moves hurt us tremendously. But if we camouflage them as part of our normal play, we can take advantage of the free card.

How to play the flop in early positions



In order not to confuse you, we will try to be as clear as possible so that you are clear on how to play the flop in Texas Hold'em shorthanded:

If we hit extremely strong hands (monsters)

A monster hand is a tremendously strong hand. They are usually associated with winning plays (what we know as "nuts" in poker), but they don't always have to be.

An example of a monster hand: we have 3 5 and, on the flop, we have a straight flush draw when 4 7 Q which we can end up hitting on the turn or river. In cases like that we have to take into account that our game can be based on the following:

  • Go heads-up. Shorthanded poker is a game for straight players: don't play slow play if you connect a monster on the flop.
  • Exploit their scepticism. By hitting a monster, you can take advantage of the fact that your opponents won't believe anything to make them pay.
  • Varying the game will make them suspicious. If our usual tactic is to bet, if we suddenly switch to slow play we will arouse suspicion. Use this to reinforce your image as a consistent player. Having it, even if you lose, will give you an important advantage in later hands.
  • Choose when to bet. You may want to bet on a multiplayer hand to catch limpers, increase the pot and draw attention away from your game.

If we tie strong hands

What we call a "strong hand" and what we don't is an opaquer question. It will depend on each board, as each game is different and the circumstances of each round are unique. It is crucial, therefore, to read the game correctly to see if the hand you have managed to make is strong enough (a full house or flush draw could fall into this category).

If you think it is, consider the following to define your play on the flop:

  • Bet, with no doubt. If we have a good hand, we have no choice but to bet. Do we raise? Then we go to the turn and wait for a check-raise.
  • Protect your hand. But if there are connected or suited cards on the flop, we re-raise to protect our hand.
  • Watch out for second best pair. In a Full Ring poker game, the second best player is the first loser, but in 6-max or shorthanded games the second best pair usually has a lot of chances to win the showdown.
  • Check and test the waters. If we don't play a head up, stop by and watch. This will give you a lot of information. And be careful, because if no one bets, the BUTTON may try to steal. In that case, we raise and protect our hand, which is probably one of the best.

How to play the flop in middle positions



If we are holding monsters or very strong hands, we can follow the same principles as we have just discussed for playing early positions. But you have to bear in mind the following:

  • We can be forced to call the bet. We can protect our hand, but it comes at a price. The players behind us can raise, which would force us to check if we don't want to show our weakness. If on the turn we check and the players behind bet, they will force us to fold our hand. They might also give themselves a free card thanks to our no bet. Bad, in any case.
  • If they bet from early position, so much the better for us. If that happens, we can take advantage of it because if someone bets from early position, we can protect ourselves with a raise.

How to play the flop in late position

You know what the flop is, but you don't know how to play the flop from late position. Don't worry, it's normal, especially if you don't have much experience in 6-max poker. Keep the following in mind:

Tying extremely strong or "just" strong hands

In this case, if the pot is not open, we bet. If it is open, we raise. We can opt for slow play, but sometimes a straight game can be good for us.

With strong hands, what we should do is a manual fast play, cancelling the reaction time of the others.

With medium strong hands

If we have a good hand "just like that", we do something similar: we bet if the pot is not open, and raise if someone else has already bet and opened. If you do this, the turn will go in your favour, no one will bet and you will have all the initiative.

If you're betting a tighter game, it can be good to bet on the turn to let whoever wants to get out of the hand. If someone sees you, don't bet on the river. This avoids the check-raise scare.

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