Sunday, June 12, 2005

Playing Multiple Shorthanded Games

Playing Multiple Shorthanded Games

Playing multiple shorthanded games is tough. A great advantage that good shorthanded players have is their ability to identify how their opponents play and adjusting their own play accordingly. When playing multiple games, this is tougher because the player’s attention is divided among more than one table. When the player is not involved in a hand at one table, he will have less time to observe the players play because there is a higher chance he will be involved in a hand at a different table. It may still be possible to observe his opponents over just two tables, but with three or four shorthanded tables going at the same time, it becomes difficult to pay attention to all players. This essay focuses on playing three or four shorthanded tables at the same time and how to adjust to minimize the disadvantage of not being able to observe the other players carefully.

It is important to understand that playing multiple shorthanded games a good player will not be playing at his best at all tables. A good player will not have all the information about the other players that he would otherwise have picked up. A good player must expect his win expectancy to decrease per table when playing multiple tables; but a good player who can handle multiple shorthanded games can expect his total expectation of all tables combined exceeds his expectation if he only played at one table at a time. Since the good player will surely miss some clues at some tables, he should adjust by acknowledging that disadvantage and focus on how to maximize at all tables as a whole instead. Not all good shorthanded players will be able to beat multiple games due to the speed of the games and the quickly changing tables. The first step is to identify your own strengths and weaknesses.

Here are some of the different ways a good shorthanded player should play when playing three or four shorthanded games compared to just one or two.

1. Play straightforward more often.
2. Give other players’ bets and raises more respect.
3. Don’t bother with pot odds until you have to.
4. Don’t semi-bluff as often.
5. Don’t worry about identifying players too carefully. Just identify them generally.
6. Don’t bother with carefully reading hands until you have to.

Play straightforward more often
Play straightforward at all tables when playing multiple tables. Tricky play requires more attention to each hand than straightforward play requires. Since you have less time to observe the tables when you are not involved in a hand, you will probably know less about each individual player than you would if you were only playing at one table.

Give other players’ bets and raises more respect
Since your attention is divided, it will be more difficult to identify who the semi-bluffers and bluffers are with the same degree of accuracy. If you don’t give players more respect when they bet or raise, it is too easy to get into the problem of thinking all players are constant semi-bluffers or bluffers. This will cause problems over all tables. Of course, if you can identify the habitual semi-bluffers/bluffers (either from the observed play in this session or from previous sessions), then you can play accordingly. By giving players more respect, you will lose some edge compared to when you are playing at a single table. This is one of the edges that you may have at a single table but is difficult to duplicate when playing at multiple tables.

Don’t bother with pot odds until you have to
I think it is worthwhile to count the pot when the bets go into the pot, even in hands you are not involved in. By counting the pot and knowing the pot odds, you will have a better idea of how to act when the situation comes up instead of stopping the game a bit to count the pot at the moment. You also have the advantage of understanding who is making a pot odds mistake and who isn’t. This is great if you are playing at one table only. But in multiple tables, this will be too difficult. So it is not worthwhile to use your mental energy until you have to. In situations when you have to know the pot odds to make a decision, take the time to think through the pot odds and the outs at that point. You will lose some edge that you may have in single tables, but this is another issue where giving up some edge in this area will benefit the bottom line.

Don’t semi-bluff as often
Semi-bluffing requires you know your opponent has a chance of folding a better hand. If you semi-bluff against opponents who won’t fold a better hand, you are spewing chips and losing edge. When playing multiple tables, it will be more difficult to know how your opponents play, so you will have a more difficult time knowing when a semi-bluff has more value.

Don’t worry about identifying players too carefully. Just identify them generally.
Identifying players has been mentioned throughout this section. Without the time to concentrate on any single table, it is more difficult to identify how the players play. So instead of trying to identify them in very specific ways (such as: Bob will always call down with Ace high if he was the pre-Flop raiser), try to identify them in very general ways. General identifications would be: calling station, too aggressive, and solid player.

Don’t bother with carefully reading hands until you have to
Reading hands take time and concentration. You need to know the players as well as know the exact actions they have taken relative to the board. So don’t bother with reading hands when you aren’t involved in the hand. And don’t worry as much about reading hands early in the hand (pre-Flop and Flop) unless it is crucial. Of course, you will have to recap everything near the end of the hand (Turn and River) and do a “flashback” read. But you will have saved time by dismissing some of the issues mentioned above, so you will have the time to think things through at this moment.

Note: This serves as an initial draft for a section in a possible book on shorthanded hold’em. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions, please email me:

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