6-max poker is the game of choice for most Texas Holdem players today because it’s so much faster and generates more action than full ring games. You spend less time waiting on other people to make up their minds on what to do and you get to play more hands because there aren’t as many monsters lurking out there (fewer people = fewer big hands).
It’s the most popular format for cash games and is even featured in a good number of tournaments. Best of all, these shorthanded tables can be found all over the internet. The best 6-max poker sites differentiate themselves in the following manner:
- Action at all stakes
- Enough shorthanded tables that there aren’t long waiting lists
- Fast-moving ring games
- Selection of 6-max tournaments and SNGs
Shorthanded poker has been my bread and butter for a long time so I feel quite qualified in telling you which sites are the best for 6-max cash games and tournaments. Going beyond just action at all stakes, it’s important to make sure you stick with recognized names in online poker. The biggest poker sites in the world all host 6-max games so there’s no need to play at small or un-reputable sites.
The other thing to look for is fast-moving software. I’ve never been a fan of fancy or complicated graphics because it tends to slow things down. Simple, clean and fast-moving software is the best for shorthanded games. After all, one of the main benefits to playing at shorthanded table is the speed at which hands are dealt and played.
6-max tournaments don’t have quite the same popularity as full ring tournaments but you will find enough shorthanded MTTs and SNGs at larger poker sites. That’s just one more reason to stick with the big names. As far as cash games go, you won’t have a problem finding tables anywhere you go. 6-max reigns supreme in the world of cash games.
Why play 6-max poker?
There are so many reasons to play shorthanded poker. For one, you get to see way more hands per hour. This is super beneficial to winning players because it forces your opponents to make more decisions per hour. If you tend to outplay your opponents, the direct result is an increase in your hourly win rate.
Look at it this way: the average number of hands per hour is about 80 in 6-max games and about 65 in full ring games. That’s an extra 15 hands per hour that you’re seeing in shorthanded games. If you, on average, outplay your opponents to the tune of $0.50 per hand, that’s an extra $7.50 per hour.
Additionally, 6-max poker helps develop your game. Shorthanded tables cause you to enter pots more frequently with each person at the table. You get to know your opponents better and this is great experience in the mental aspect of adjusting your play to individual opponents.
Additionally, less value is placed on absolute hand strength. The fewer people there are at a table, the less the card values matter. Compare full ring games with 9 players to heads-up poker against a single opponent. The actual cards in your hand matter much less when you’re up against a single opponent because there are so few monster hands to worry about.
6-max tables don’t take it to quite the same extreme as heads-up poker and therefore aren’t as intimidating or psychologically demanding. In that way, six person tables serve as a compromise between the plodding full ring games and the exhausting heads-up games. You don’t have to play every hand but you also don’t have to sit around all day waiting for pocket Aces.
In the end, six-max poker is just a whole lot more fun than rull ring poker. Just try your hand at the shorthanded tables for a while and I’ll bet you never want to go back. Once you play a few hours at the 6-man tables, the full ring tables feel extremely dull by comparison.
Are 6-Max Poker Sites More Difficult?
Making the switch to 6-max does require a bit of a transition in how you approach the game. You could call it more difficult, but I just call it different. What you may find difficult is that shorthanded games force you to make more decisions with marginal cards. You’ll be blinded to death if you just wait for the nuts before you put any money in the pot.
6-max poker sites force you to get in there and mix it up with your opponents. This can make it feel more challenging, but it also makes it easier to win money if you are more skilled than your opponents. Once you get comfortable with making decisions that aren’t always cut-and-dry, you’ll find shorthanded games more profitable on a per-hour basis.
The first adjustment you’ll need to make in 6-max poker is opening up your hand range. With fewer people in each pot, it’s not necessary to hunker down and wait for the absolute nuts. Often times, top pair is enough to take down the pot. However, this must be balanced with you not getting too attached to non-nut hands. It requires some finesse to balance getting value for your decent hands without getting married to them. Monster hands do show up in 6-max games – just not as often.
You’ll also have to deal with blind steal situations more often. It is very common for the button to raise with any two cards any time it folds around to him. You cannot fold every time without becoming utterly transparent in your blind-playing game. You’ll need to protect your blinds to a greater extent in 6-max, but again without overdoing it.
So yes, you do have to make more close decisions in 6-max but it’s not “harder” to win more money. It’s not like you’re playing heads-up poker against a skilled opponent. There are just as many fish in shorthanded games as there are in full ring games. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have no problem making money.