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Making The Switch: Live Full-Ring to Online Six-Max
Short-handed No-Limit Hold'em - or "six-max" - is by far the most popular game being played online today.
It's an ultra-aggressive, action-packed game and if you're coming from a live poker background, you may find these games difficult to adjust to.
The core of the game remains exactly the same: you're dealt two cards, and there are five community cards. Your goal is to make the best five-card hand.
The only real physical difference in six-max is that there are four less seats at the table. But how much does that really change the game?
1) Games are Tougher
For some stubborn players, this may be difficult to believe - or at least difficult to accept. But it's the truth.
Online games, on average, are much more difficult than their live counterparts at the same stakes. There are a few reasons why that is.
When you're playing online, its just you, by yourself, vs. your opponents with no distractions. Because the game is less social than the live variant, generally the players themselves are more serious.
By contrast casino poker, for a large percentage of the players, is a social game. People come to play and talk and drink and have a good time.
The poker, though still an integral part, is just the means to an end of a night out. The real goal is having a good time.
Since online poker isn't as social a game, the people that play online have to find poker interesting enough on its own to be motivated to play. Those people on average tend to be more serious players.
What you give up in soft games live you get back in total number of hands online.
Online players are the new generation. They aren't happy sitting around in a card room waiting for their twenty hands an hour to be dealt.
Online poker is instantaneous - the cards are dealt in an instant, the hand plays out in a snap, and the pot is shipped immediately with no mistakes.
Everything is faster. You literally can play more hands in a single day online than you could in an entire month of live play.
The biggest difference between live full-ring games and online short-handed games is that the players are infinitely more aggressive online than their live counterparts.
In six-max No-Limit Hold'em, loose-aggressive is no longer a dirty word. Adjusting to that aggression is usually the most difficult factor for a live player making the switch.
In a six-max game, everyone is forced to play more hands. When you're paying a blind in one in three hands, you can no longer just sit around waiting for aces - the action is forced.
The good news is that not everyone adjusts well. There is a lot of dead money from players that either do not adjust or incorrectly adjust.
You can't play six-max like it's a full-ring game. A basic TAG style is extremely easily read, and when you are forced to play more hands that can be a recipe for disaster.
4) Hand Ranges
With fewer players at the table, the risk of domination is diminished. You no longer have to worry about nine players behind you waking up with a bigger hand.
An easy way to think about your playable hand range is to think about the hands you would play when the first four players fold to you in a full-ring game.
That includes suited connectors from 6-7 and up, pocket pairs, broadway cards, premiums etc.
In six-max, loose-aggressive isn't the dirty word - it's limping that's the no no. In a short-handed game it's very rarely ever correct to limp. You're best off coming in raising or not coming in at all.
The reason is simple. When you raise you give yourself more ways to win. You seize control of the hand. You can win the pot immediately, you can win the pot on the flop with a continuation bet, or you can win the pot at showdown with the best hand.
When you limp, you have zero initiative. You can only win the hand with the best hand at showdown. You'll be left guessing, with no initiative, and the aggressive players will have their way with you. Not a winning strategy.
5) Post-Flop Play
In a six-max game, the focus is on post-flop play.
Players play extremely loose preflop, but once the flop is down and the betting gets big on the turn and river, you'd better watch out. Six-max is a post-flop game, and if you play well post-flop there is plenty of money to be made.
In a full-ring game, you can get away with playing like a robot before the flop, folding all your trash and waiting for a good hand. Playing tight and playing only good hands pre-flop is a sound strategy as it makes your decisions after the flop easier.
In a six-max game where you are forced to play more hands, you give up some of that easy decision edge and you will be put in more difficult situations post-flop.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since everyone will have to make tough decisions. And if you make better decisions than your opponent, you'll win the money in the long run.
Focus on playing your best, reading hands and putting your opponent on a range.
If you can do that better than your opponents, you will be literally printing money as the better player given the amount of hands you'll play with them.
6) The Magic Formula
Ok, there is no magic formula. You just have to realize that the players are a little bit tougher and are more aggressive.
They will value-bet thinner and they will bluff more, but the game remains the same.
If you play solid post-flop poker and make better decisions than your opponents, you will have no problem beating six-max online.
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