Short Handed No-Limit Hold'em Part 1: Introduction

Late at night in any given poker room you'll see hundreds of players battling it out in short-handed No-Limit Hold'em (SHNL) cash games.

I've played poker for years, becoming a tournament and Limit specialist, but I always return to SHNL cash games because they're so profitable.

SHNL is by far the hardest poker variation to master because it requires an excellent feel for the game. There are many different strategies on how to achieve this sort of excellence, but I believe that only one of them will produce outstanding results. After three years of SHNL poker playing, I've come up with a bona fide, winning strategy.

But before I launch into my strategy, I want to tell you how I began playing SHNL cash games and how my experience can help you.

About three years ago, I built a solid bankroll at online poker. I started out with about $100 and played mostly tournaments. A month or two later, I had run my roll up to about $5,000. It may seem impossible, but I was eating, sleeping and breathing No-Limit Texas Hold'em at the time, and I was enjoying every minute of it until I ventured to the dark side of No-Limit cash games, SHNL.

I was watching a short-handed game with $3/$6 blinds at an online poker site. The winning hands were extremely weak. People were going all-in with pocket pairs left and right. Top pair low kicker was taking down $400 pots. Occasionally, I would see ace high take down $400 pots as well. About four or five times an hour I would witness an all-in between two large-stacked players (more than $2,000 in real-money chips).

Coming from a tournament background, this seemed like a gold mine, but in reality I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Before I jumped into this dogfight, I developed a strategy. I would play only the best hands pre-flop since these players were showing down such weak cards. I bought in with the full amount, $600, and waited patiently.

I went about an hour with cold cards before I realized how much I was giving up in blinds. I was down to $450 when I was dealt pocket aces in the big blind. "Perfect," I thought, as a fish raised to $30 from an early position. I called and we saw the flop. It came all rags and he bet $45 on the flop, which I re-raised to $125. He then went all-in.

"If I lose this hand, I must be the unluckiest guy in the world," I said to myself.

I called, and I guess I was the unluckiest guy in the world because I did lose. He had hit three-of-a-kind fives on the flop. I was stunned. Six-hundred dollars gone in an hour to some fish who raised 5-5 pre-flop.

I was definitely the sucker at the table. I went on to lose my entire bankroll that very same night. My opponent was far from a fish. He knew SHNL like the back of his hand and went on to teach me everything I needed to know about winning the game.

This is the knowledge that I'll be passing on to you in my next article, Importance of the Set.

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