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Advanced Shorthand Limit Strategy

This section will provide tips for some troublesome situations in shorthand fixed-limit games.

Small Pocket Pairs (sevens or lower)

Small pocket pairs work best in a large, multi-way pot (you're hoping to flop a set) or heads-up. Therefore, your preflop strategy should reflect this. If you're on the button, one guy has raised, and another has folded, your best strategy would be to shut out the blinds and make it heads up. So in this case, reraise. However, if you're the big blind and three other people have already called the big blind, it's best to just check and hope to hit a set on the flop.

Note: Don't use the reraise to make it heads-up strategy against a very tight player. There's a good chance he has a higher pocket pair. In these situations, your opponent will dominate you. For example, you do not want to reraise when you hold [[cards 8h 8d]] and the other player holds [[cards 10s 10d]]. The reraise move only works if you think your opponent has two unpaired cards or a lower pocket pair than you.

On the flop:

If you're in a multi-way pot, the answer is simple: fold if you don't hit a set, jam the pot if you do. The only exception is if you hit a weird flop, like 552 or 666 when you hold like 77. In this case, you might have the best hand and could consider betting or calling one bet.

If you're heads-up, it gets a little tricker. If the flop is mainly low cards, bet at it. Your opponent probably has nothing. However, if the flop is AQJ, you're probably toast. You can try to bet at it (in case he has a low pocket pair also), but if you encounter any resistance, you must fold.

Flop bluffs
Flop bluffs work best against one or maybe two opponents. The method is fairly simple.

Your Hand

Suppose you raised preflop. You have nothing on the flop, not even a flush draw, but your opponents may also have nothing. Go ahead and bet at it, you might steal the pot right there.

If they just call you, you have a decision. They may have Ace and a low kicker or they may have something like [[cards Kc 9c]]. In either case, you're losing. You should generally check and fold. Do this about 80% of the time. However, you don't want them to be able to crack your bluffing strategy by just calling you on the flop and then seeing what you do on the turn.

Because of this, I recommend slowplaying occasionally. For example, suppose you have [[cards Ad 9d]] at this flop. You can bet the flop, then check-raise the turn. In other words, you must punish them for just calling on the flop. People should never be allowed to just call with a second-best hand if they hope you're bluffing; they should be forced to raise to see where they are. If you suspect that they just call you with the second-best hand, you should bet until the river when you have the goods, but don't always check-fold when you don't. You should sometimes bluff on the turn too (but most of the time, don't).

I'm not a huge fan of slowplaying because I like to run flop bluffs, and flop bluffs are only successful if you actually bet with the goods at the flop. However, sometimes it's best to just wait to jam the pot. I like to slowplay in multi-way situations when I really have the goods.


In this example, I have the stone nuts. I'll generally wait for a bet if I think one will happen and then raise it. Slowplaying and jamming the pot on the turn can be very profitable in multi-way pots, but I don't recommend it in heads-up situations. In this situation, someone with a King may call my bet but probably will not make a bet himself.

Slowplaying is successful when:

1. You have a great hand, and
2. Your opponent can develop a hand that is good, but not good enough to beat yours.

Slowplaying a set with a flush draw on board is dumb because you could be allowing them to develop a hand that can beat yours without having to pay to do so. You should think, what can they develop that won't beat me, but will still make them bet so I can raise them? Don't slowplay just because you have a good hand. Slowplay when the two conditions above are met.

Paired board when you have the third card
Your Hand

This is a troublesome situation. You may have the best hand or you may be toast. However, the situation is pretty simple. If it's checked around to you, check. After all, what will people call you with? The only thing people will call you with that can't beat you is A7 or maybe a pocket pair (few will call with this hand, though).

So, when you're in this trouble situation, you have to consider two factors: What will people call you with that won't beat you, and what are the chances they have the better hand? The higher the board pair, the higher the chance they have the trip. If you have [[cards Kh Jh]], AAJ is far more scary than J44. I would treat the AAJ with caution and play it passively, while I'd bet at J44 and be fairly aggressive.

That brings up the question: What do you mean by 'play it with caution'? Well, if I have [[cards Kh Jh]] and someone bets at me with the board AAJ, he may have QJ, so I'd go ahead and call. But if someone bet, I called, someone else raises, I'd get out. I would also be prepared to fold if they bet again on the turn.

Play against a CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAZY maniac
Maniacs can be a real pain in shorthand. However, they are generally best dealt with by just calling (but raise them if you hold a very strong hand). They will increase the variance of the game, but you will win more in the long run. For example, in a $100-$200 game, I was dealt [[cards Qc Qd]], a nice hand. Anyway, someone calls, the maniac raises, I reraise, the maniac caps and there is one other normal player in the pot. The flop comes [[cards Ah Kc 4h]]. This is one of the worst possible flops for me. I go ahead and bet, the normal player folds, and the maniac raises me. Normally, I would fold, but this guy was so crazy that I decided to check-call to the river. I won the pot. The maniac had [[cards 5d 3d]].

Don't pay them off
Sometimes, when your opponent is on a flush draw, and you have top pair, they will attempt to check-raise on the river. If you put them on a flush draw, and then the flush card hits on the river, don't pay them off. Just check down the river. Think about the math. If you are in position and check the river, you save yourself 2 big bets (4 small bets). There was probably a raise preflop and a bet on the flop and turn. So you put in a total of 5 small bets. By checking the river, you save yourself almost half the money you would have lost.

What not to do
• Don't go in with any Ace if someone else has already gone in. Chances are, they have either a decent pocket pair, Ace with a higher kicker, or something like KQ. These hands are a favorite against you, except for KQ which is only a slight underdog. Also, all of these hands play better than yours in 3-way situations. Fold.

• Don't play above your bankroll. Shorthand has a high level of variance. Make sure you can bank many hours of play before sitting in. You don't want to enter a game, have your Aces cracked, and be broke!

• Don't just play your hand. Always consider what the other player is thinking. While this isn't quite as important as it is in no-limit, you have to think about what the other player went in with and what he is calling with. Don't always assume that he's bluffing, because most of the time he's not.

Next Article: Introduction to No-Limit Texas Hold'em

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