How to Manage Short-Handed Situations in Poker

At some point or another, you may find yourself playing Texas Hold'Em at a short-handed table. This means that there will only be five or six players at the table, instead of the full ring of nine or ten players. This situation will alter your playing style, and will change the value of your stack of chips.

What to Do With a Big Stack

Just as in a full poker game, a big chip stack is ideal during a short-handed game. Obviously, you want to accrue as many chips as possible. In a short-handed game, however, there is a better chance that more than one player will hold a big stack, which means that you should not take your sizeable chip holdings as a sign of a sure win. If someone offers to negotiate, seriously consider a deal.

What to Do With a Short Stack

As the game progresses, take note of the size of other players' stacks. If you notice that you and many other players have short stacks, proceed with caution. Calculate the pot odds according to where the blind is as well as the value of the other players chip holdings before you decide to play a hand, since there is a greater chance that you might lose everything.

Short-handed poker can be tricky, because you can't play as "loose" as you might in a heads-up game, but you also need to be more aggressive than you would in a full ring game. Paying attention to stacks can help you determine when and what to play, and can keep you one step ahead.