Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Short-handed Verbals

YTD: +$19745.12 (I told you it was moving!!!)

Before we enter "The Vault" I thought I would cover off a question that may be in my prospective readers' minds: "If Dave is the "Internet Poker Pro" (guffaw) why isn't he winning more?" Well as I stated at the start, I do mostly only play part time....but more importantly I had a very VERY VERY bad May, which we may get into in another post.

Two thoughts of the day...the first was a post on the massive popularty of short handed limit poker, prompted by my good online pal Aksu. The other is a mildly, ok very mildly, humourous story about verbal showdowns, which are very common in cash games live but particularily annoyed one poster on The Hendon Mob. (A verbal showdown is where a player declares a hand that beats his, waiting for his opponent to show it rather than exposing his hand first).

BTW...remember to comment...you don't need to register and I would like to hear your thoughts!

"Aksu, u tease...

I have a completely contrary view on short handed games. I believe that they may have been "better", for the common reasons that Chaos states, before the internet made them a very popular form. However I honestly believe that with the current short handed player profile, i.e. very aggressive to maniac, that they are actually less skilful. I guess this view could be crystallised into two main areas:

1. Preflop - shorthanded play turns bad players into good. A significant advantage for good players in a ring game is simply the quality of hands they play. This small, but ever-present edge gives rise to a nice part of the overall earn. Of course you have to play through the streets well, and this is where a lot of your EV lies, but it shouldn’t be underestimated how significant the initial hand selection contributes to your profit, not least because you don't have to play trickier scenarios, because you simply never face them, i.e. raising utg with ATo. But a bad player will make these plays all the time, again contributing to your edge. But if you took that same bad player and dumped him in a 5 handed game, suddenly raising UTG with ATo is the right play! You've lost your edge even with the same bad player.

2. Aggression makes everyone play the same - unfortunately the super high aggression levels means that both good and bad players now play very similarly. Often you have to cling onto hands such as poor pairs heads-up in shorthanded play, and perhaps even overplay them. But this is exactly what the bad players do! I don’t have an example to hand, but it isn’t hard to build scenarios where good and bad players play the hand identically. And these come up fairly often.

I also think that to good players, short handed games can be alluring and exciting, especially compared to dull-as-dishwater ring games. It seems like poker as it really should be played. But I believe these feelings are deceiving, at least profit wise."


"I'm not sure why these things annoy you so much. In truth they are just part of the game and exist everywhere, especially the "verbal showdown". If you want to play cash, you just learn to live with it.

My favourite "verbal showdown" story was between the infamous Ali Malu and myself a looong time ago. It was a reasonably chunky pot of 6 card Omaha, maybe £2k or so:

"Full house wins"


"Flush wins"

The only sound is that of cards being desperately shuffled to find winners.

"Straight wins"

Its getting embarrasing now....

"Uhmm trips wins?"

Ahhh...now i've got it :-)"


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts on shorthanded poker. I remember this thread forst appearing on THM and at the time it inspired me to experiment with some heads up limit. I did resonably well but in the end decided that variance was far too high for me so I went back to playing 3 full NL tables at a time instead.

Whilst I agree that you lose nearly all your pre flop edge over the poorer player, my feeling is that you can make this back and possible more with the play on later streets when the bet is larger. Precisley because you have to hold onto smaller pairs etc shorthanded, a lot of the play in the hand will take place on the turn. There must be large opportunities for the winning player here. One of the first things I realised during my play was that my game needed a lot of work on the turn. Because a lot of a winning players edge at full table limit comes from pre flop/flop play, I hadn't noticed how weak my turn game was until I played short handed. Once I got to grips with this, my results started to improve.

A lot of the alleged big winners at online poker have made their money playing shorthanded limit and seem to still be doing so. Do you think this is just that the swings having gone their way? Perhaps the games are mch tougher now than they were a few years ago, and it would be hard for them to repeat it, but I still see the same guys playing the high stakes games, so they at least must still see the value in them.

One thing is for sure, you need a large bankroll and a lot of hours to make it worth playing these games for profit.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask some questions about online shorthanded play...

Are they five-handed or six-handed?

On average, what % of the players are seeing the flop?

If you sat down at full table with only a couple of players playing, then played until a sixth player showed up, would it be a different style of game than if you sat at a table deliberately meant to be shorthanded?


Anonymous said...

Against people who don't know what they're doing, shorthanded limit holdem play can be highly profitable. Weak-tight players in particular do very poorly in shorthanded limit holdem games. Of course, online these games attract many shorthanded specialists, along with maniacs and calling stations who found out that their game does a lot better shorthanded than at full tables, while the weak-tight players avoid them realizing that they have no chance, meaning that in practice these games are rarely goldmines. The real problem is that the maniacs and calling stations are people you want in your 10-handed game, and when they moved to shorthanded the 10-handed games became much worse!

One drawback of shorthanded play from the standpoint of profitability is that you can't play many shorthanded tables at once effectively, since watching your opponents' betting patterns is much more important than in full games.

With respect to shorthanded NL/PL, then I definitely think that full games are more skillful. Even though the blinds come around more often in shorthanded play, the blind money is still too insignificant to penalize overly tight play, while loose calls and raises are far less deadly than in full games since it's much less likely that a monster hand will be out there. The 10-handed NL/PL games also became much worse then they started 6-handed NL/PL tables.