Six Appeal: An Introduction to Six-Max Cash Games
Six-max cash game action is fast, furious, and a lot more fun than playing full ring. The Tip Top Fox explains the adjustments you need to make to succeed in this competitive arena
This article caters to those playing small stakes No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) six-max cash games, many of the following concepts will not apply to higher stakes games against opponents who think on a different level. Serving as an introduction to six-max cash games, this article touches the surface of what a player needs to know when approaching these games. Some of the concepts mentioned might be fairly trivial but it can never hurt to brush up on the fundamentals of NLHE theory.
“Good poker players analyse their sessions afterward and critically assess their play.”
Tools of the Trade
In online six-max cash games, programs such as Poker Tracker or Hold’em Manager are essential. In addition to helping you analyse your own play they allow you to analyse the play of your opponents. The Heads Up Display or HUD they provide is an essential tool when multi-tabling. It helps you get a feel for how others are playing so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
Tight Aggressive statistics start from 15/13/3 and can range all the way up to 25/20/4. The numbers mentioned relate to VPIP/PFR/AF or money voluntarily put in the pot, pre-flop raise percentage, and aggression factor.
The first two stats give you an idea of how an opponent plays pre-flop and the last one tells you about their post-flop tendencies. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to keep your VPIP and PFR statistics fairly close when starting out. Generally, this means you have to adopt a raise or fold strategy pre-flop. As you get more comfortable with your post-flop play you can decide whether or not to open up your pre-flop hand ranges.
A mistake a lot of players make when making the switch from full ring to six-max is either playing too few hands or too many. Some are unable to adapt their starting hand ranges quickly enough from playing in a full ring game, and as a result play far too tight and too passively. Others play too many hands out of position against more seasoned six-max opponents who are more used to playing this aggressive and creative type of poker.
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to starting hand requirements in a six-max cash game, there are a few things you can do to increase your aggression factor without putting yourself in too many tough spots.
The first and foremost is to stop limping. Limping has no place at the six-max tables and if you are coming into a pot it should be with a raise. Open limping from the cut-off or button is weak play and in addition to playing the majority of your hands from these two positions you should be opening up these pots with a raise. Of course if you are doing this often enough it means the blinds will start to play back at you. This is where another fundamental aspect of poker comes into play:
“Your goal is to maximise your profit against the worse hands in an opponent’s range while minimising losses against the stronger part of their range.”
The most important part of being a good NLHE player is the ability to think in ranges. In any hand, your opponent has a range of hands they may be holding depending on their position and playing style. Some are better than yours and some are worse. Your goal is to maximise your profit against the worse hands in an opponent’s range while minimising losses against the stronger part of their range. As the hand develops, you must narrow your opponent’s hand range by deciphering their betting patterns and playing tendencies so that at no point in the hand do you have to ‘find out where you are’.
Betting for information is an outdated concept. Good NLHE players take advantage of this whenever they can. When someone is betting for information or raising for information their plan is to bet/fold or raise/fold. If you can recognize when a player is taking this line you can raise them every time and be pretty sure of taking down the hand (depending on your table image of course).
Consider the following hand as an example. You are out of position against an opponent in a three-bet pot – a hand where you raised and were re-raised pre-flop – holding pocket nines. What do you do without the betting lead on an eight-high flop?
Against your average opponent check-raising this board will fold out most hands that you beat, while most hands you are behind to will stay in. By raising in this spot you have isolated yourself against the strongest part of your opponent’s range. By just check-calling the flop and checking the turn you allow your opponent to still bet with hands that you beat and minimize your losses against hands you are losing to. In poker, you must always allow your opponent to make the mistakes because that’s where you make your profit.
Another mistake players moving from full ring to six-max often make is playing too many tables. While you may be able to play six or more tables of full ring with ease, making the move to the six-max tables decreases the amount of time you have between hands and increases the amount of tough decisions you have to make at the tables.
When you play a lot of tables at once you will have to make a lot of decisions without much deliberation. This can be disastrous sometimes as one bad decision could put you on tilt, leading to many more bad decisions in a session. Four tables are easy enough to handle until you can secure a solid win rate over a large sample size, although at the start of a session you can build up to this by opening two tables to start, then add an extra table or two a little later in the session after you have settled in.
Do Your Homework
Post-flop play is the most important aspect of No-Limit Hold’em and the best post-flop decisions are made by thinking through decisions at the table and then reinforcing that knowledge by studying and analysing your game off the table.
Playing poker for recreation is fine and a lot of players do play for fun. However to become a good player you must understand how the game works and make the best decisions possible. It is all to easy to blame bad luck after losing six buy-ins in a single session. However, good poker players analyse their sessions afterward and critically assess their play.
After a lot of trial and error, you can isolate your mistakes and correct them. Until someone becomes the greatest player in the world there is always room for improvement. The best players take responsibility for their actions and their decisions at the table and do not use variance as a crutch. Good luck people, once you make the switch to six-max you’ll never look back!