You must do the things you think you cannot do.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Starting Hands for Short Handed Limit Texas Hold'em

These are the starting hands I consider playing in short handed (i.e. 6-player) limit Texas Hold'em. I would not recommend using this list for full table games (i.e. 10-player); those games require tighter playing.

1) Below are the hands that I always play (and consider raising) no matter what:

  • AA, AK, KK, QQ, JJ

2) Hands I most always play and likely raise:

  • 99, 1010, A9+, K9+, Q9+, J9+

3) Hands I play more conservatively:

  • Other pairs, 910s, A2+

Most other hands I throw away, and if I have to pay too much to play hands in section 3, I fold them as well. I don't like playing suited connectors unless I get a good deal (lots of players in the pot and a cheap, if not a limping, entry). Small pairs normally are not worth it when there is a ton of betting. You have about a 10% chance to hit a set on the flop, and that does not necessarily mean you will win if you go to the river. I prefer not to risk it.

Among the factors I consider when debating a raise are:

  • Strength of hand

    • you want to put as much money as you can get on the top holdings without scaring away too many bettors

  • Number of other players in the hand

    • the more players in the hand, the more likely you are to lose; if you can scare some out, that's better for your bottom line in the long run.

  • Reraising can often give you a look into what the other person has.

    • People tend to reraise a reraise if they have a high pair or AJ+. Other than that, people tend to merely call a reraise. It doesn't always work, and I often use this as a way to throw off my opponent if they are an easy read. But at the low tables, people play much more simply. And those who have an AA are rarely going to call a reraise unless they fear scaring people away.

All of the above starting hands are guidelines I use to play the game. Sometimes I break my rules depending on how others are structuring their play. Deviating too far from the above (e.g. raising 27offsuit or always raising/calling preflop) will tend to hurt you in the long run. Maybe you can get away with it, but I find that playing tight and aggressive works out best, and most professionals and good players agree. Bluffing with shit will only work so many times. If you do it too frequently, you're going to get called and busted. Let other people do that--it's how you'll make money.