6-MAX TO FULL RING: HOW TO ADJUST
Article I wrote for WPT Magazine
While 6-max games are extremely popular online there is a whole wealth of opportunities just waiting to be had in the world of full ring games. This month PKR’s Sofia Lövgren gives you her top tips for moving out of the fast lane and into a steadier slipstream.
A lot of players that usually play shorthanded often have problems being winning players in a full ring game. Over the last few years 6 max cash games have been incredibly popular, mainly because they offer more opportunities to be creative as well as allowing you to see more hands per hour. So if you’re winning in these games the best advice would be to keep playing 6-max games. Indeed, why run 10,000 meters when you’re a successful sprinter?
People often like change though and I often get asked for my advice on switching from 6-max to full ring games and how someone can master both forms of the game. In this article I’m going to describe the advantages of full ring games and give some advice about the most important strategic changes you need to make.
Advantages of Playing Full Ring Games:
• The variance is lower, which means that you could play with less buy-ins and, more importantly, make a steadier profit and less stress.
• Full ring is easier to multi table so you will still be able to play a lot of hands. Hand reading is simpler and it’s easier to narrow a player’s range.
• The blinds come round less often, so each hand isn’t as critical which means you don’t need to steal as much.
• You have plenty of time to study the game and the players around you. By playing fewer hands you’ll have more time to think through your moves as well as pay more attention to the stats available through programs such as Hold’Em Manager or PokerTracker.
• The transition to live poker isn’t that drastic since the cash games are nearly always full ring in casinos. Also, if you want to go from online to live tournaments it will be easier to handle the slower pace of the live environment.
So those are the advantages, but what adjustments do you need to make in order to be successful in full ring games?
Aggressive But Not Loose
In a full ring game it’s definitely good to be aggressive but you will need to play somewhat tighter than you often would in the shorthanded games. Sticking to premium hands is important as it will naturally make you play tighter and will prevent you from facing tough, marginal decisions. Of course, you have to mix it up and sometimes and play hands such as suited connectors in order to not to be too predictable. Indeed, getting caught with a bluff can often be profitable in the long run as it will help balance your image and make you less predictable.
Early Position = Extra Vulnerable
Playing too many hands from early position in a full ring game can be expensive because of the number of players behind you. In 6-max the lesser number of players obviously means a lesser chance that’ll you’ll run into a good hand and thus it can be profitable to raise more frequently in early position in a shorthanded game. More importantly that this, if you do manage to get to a flop without running in a string of good hands, you will be out of position against a great number of players than in a 6-max game. This can be extremely problematic because it will be even tougher to assess the strength of your hand because of the increased variables such as what each player might hold, how they might act etc. Because of this, folding hands such as AT, QJ in early position in a full ring game is very often the correct play.
Pot control is crucial
As stated above the chance of running into a good hand is greater in a full ring game, mainly because 20 cards, which is almost 40% of the whole deck, has already been dealt pre-flop. This fact makes pot control with marginal hands essential. Unlike a 6-max game where player’s ranges can be a lot wider which makes the chance they’re bluffing greater, it’s often wrong to be all-in without super strong hands. Thus, risking your whole stack with any random top-pair hand is often going to lose you money. If you do find yourself in a big pot with just top- pair, you must at least make sure you have a good kicker to go with it.
Using Your Image
If you have developed a tight image in a full ring game, don’t forget to take advantage of it every now and then. Always maintain your focus at the table and watch for the opponents who are weak and buckle when they are faced with any sort of resistance. Examples of this type of player can be found in countless full ring games, so here’s how you can exploit your own image and take advantage of them:
NL400 full ring game
Mid pos: $350
Me bb: $450
Early position raises to $14 and a tight player in late position flat calls. I call with 4s 5s in the bb making the pot $44. The flop falls a very draw heavy, Js 9d 6d. I checked and so do the players in EP and LP.
The turn came the As, giving me greater equity in the hand in the form of a flush draw. I checked again, as does the player in EP, which prompts the LP to bet $34 into the pot. Knowing this player I thought they most likely had a pair of aces in this spot and I couldn’t put them on anything stronger because they would likely have bet out on the flop. With this in mind, I decided to represent a stronger hand than a pair of aces and make a semi-bluff, raising the action to $80. (This is a semi-bluff because of the flush draw I picked up on the turn)
My raise prompted the EP to fold and the LP to call, but not before taking some time to ponder his decision.
When the 3c fell on the river the pot stood at $204 and I continued with my bluff and bet out $150. My opponent folded pretty quickly and I won the pot with 5 high by virtue of the fact I identified my opponent’s propensity to fold when faced with a lot of pressure.
So the conclusion to a situation like this: Bluff the nits!!
Being successful in full ring games requires discipline. Folding a lot hands and being patient is a requirement and for many players used to the aggressive nature of 6-max games this can be difficult. If you’re looking to make the switch you need to be mentally prepared for this shift in pace because a few mistimed plays will see your bankroll go south very quickly.