How to beat live six-max tournaments

PokerStrategy.com’s Patrick ‘pleno1′ Leonard reveals the secrets behind playing six-max live

I played the UKIPT main event at Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham at the end of last year. It was unique because it was the first ever UKIPT to be six-handed. Although I live thousands of miles away in Budapest the opportunity to play this tournament was too good to turn down and I headed to Nottingham with my three-betting shoes on, because that’s what six-max is all about right? Ducking and diving? Three-betting and four-betting? Well, not exactly…

I received a lot of messages from amateurs asking for any help as they had ‘no clue’ what to do in a six-max tournament and were scared they would feel lost. I told them all the same thing; ‘Dude, it is just poker without the first few positions!’

Categorising your opponents

The main thing that you have to do is understand exactly what everybody else is going to do. Generally when you get to your table you will be able to categorise your opponents into two different player types:

1. The over-aggressive player

These players think that because it’s six-max they have to three-bet every button, open when it’s folded to them and raise every c-bet.

Strengths
They can be intimidating to play against and can put us into some difficult situations

Weaknesses
They will play too many pots with too weak a range

2. The weak-tight player

These players are used to full ring games where they continually wait patiently for Aces.

Strengths
They won’t spew off or tilt chips away

Weaknesses
You can run these players over as they don’t defend enough

 Obviously the ideal situation is if the aggro kids are on your right and the passive guys are on your left. This way you won’t be three-bet whenever you raise from the passive guys and when the aggro kid raises we act after them, meaning we can make a decision without worrying somebody is just going to stick it in our eye from behind.

So how exactly should we go about exploiting this? Here are some of my top tips…

 Look at the button

The button is generally able to play the most aggressively in a six-max line up, so you may want to fold A-J or 7-7 under the gun when some aggressive players are on the button. If, on the other hand, you have a tight player on the button you can afford to raise 7-4 offsuit in the cutoff. Instead of checking whose blinds we can pinch we will now be looking to steal buttons off our opponents.

 Don’t be afraid to go to war

If you have a bad position at the table then sometimes you just have to go to war! If you always flat call out of position then you give up the initiative and the betting lead, which is exactly what our opponents want us to do. This means that we need to throw some four-bet bluffs in. Remember that four-betting is usually a lot easier to do than five-betting, as this will always be a large portion of their stack and often all of it.

Making constant four-bets to exploit stack sizes is a great idea. Remember that eventually they will be likely to ‘blow up’ so it’s important that you assess the situation correctly and not burn chips by unnecessarily four-betting at any opportunity. Similarly, you should recognise when people look tilted and widen your four-bet value range. Here’s an example;

History
You have four-bet your opponent the last two times he three-bet. The first time you had A-J and the second time you had K-9, and you viewed both as a bluff. The second time he threw his cards aggressively into the muck.

The action
You are in the cutoff and raise to 2.5BBs and he three-bets from the button again! Now this would be a terrible spot to four-bet as he will be expecting it and will likely have a counter move ready. However if we have a hand like A-T or 8-8 it goes way up in value compared to normal and so we can profitably decide to four-bet, but this time with the plan of calling a shove. It sounds crazy but we can now expect him to shove suited Aces, small pairs and suited connectors due to our history.

We have now gone from bluffing A-J to trying to induce with A-T against the same opponent in the same positions. Six-max poker is not just about three-betting and four-betting blindly but it’s about knowing when to three-bet bluff, when to four-bet bluff and when to try and con your opponent into dumping his chips.

Don’t fall for the non-showdown myth

I hear this line all the time and it sends me on so much tilt that I can hardly play for the next day! ‘I was playing so well that I didn’t showdown a hand in five levels.’ This is usually going to translate to, ‘I was playing so bad that I didn’t showdown a hand in five levels.’ One of the main things with short-handed poker is we should be successfully bluff catching a far wider range than in full ring because we are playing against wider ranges that will have a lot less showdown value and thus will bluff a lot. For example, the Villain raises the cutoff and we decide to three-bet the button with A-5 suited. The flop is A-8-2 rainbow and we decide to check back as it is too ambitious to get value on multiple streets and there are no draws that can call our bet. The turn is a 4 and the river is a Jack. Our opponent bets twice and we decide to call twice and beat his K-Q. We successfully induced a bluff from our opponent.

My friend thinks he did great because he won a pot, but he didn’t think about the maximum return that he could get from the hand. Remember that calling down does not make you a station or a fish – if you always fold to an opponent’s bets then you will be extremely exploitable.

 Don’t three-bet just because it’s short-handed

If in a normal game somebody opened the cutoff and you were on the button with 5-5 you would be ecstatic to just see a flop and potentially flop a set. In six-max though I repeatedly see my opponents three-betting small pairs or hands like A-J because, ‘it’s six-max and I should have the best hand.’

Again this makes little to no sense. Poker is a simple game, and there are some adjustments that you can make to improve your chances and exploit your opponents but basic tournament theory and fundamentals should absolutely not be thrown out the window. I always hear people say that six-max is their speciality but really I think this is just a myth. Just because you find it a lot of fun does not mean you are necessarily making the correct adaptations to transition from full ring tournaments to six-max ones.


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