Short handed play.
We all know what most short handed poker games come down to: Big Blind usually ends up in a heads up on the flop with a preflop raiser, right? It is obvious, that because the speed of the game increases and starting hand values are no longer that important, there will be a lot of blinds-stealing in short handed poker.
It seems like there’s always someone who takes a shot at the Big Blind, forcing everyone but the Big Blind out of the game, before the flop. The Big Blind is forced to defend, otherwise he’ll be eaten up by the grind, so that’s how the above situation comes to be.
In case the flop completely misses our player in the BB, and he suspects the other guy may have something (even if what he has, would go down as garbage in a full ring game) all he can do is check/fold.
There’s not much philosophy in that, but what happens when he has reasons to believe the preflop raiser is acting on a big pile of rags, and he has a pair?
Many online poker rooms offer rake races these days. Such a race usually offers nice rewards, but if you sign up through a rakeback deal, you’ll get a huge amount of your rake back too. The volume of raked hands that you play in a rake race will turn rakeback into a substantial revenue-source.
In a short handed online poker game, when only two opponents reach the post-flop stage. It is generally assumed that neither of them have a poker hand (at least a pair). With this in mind, our player should be able to keep that preflop raiser honest with a high pair. High pairs can be vulnerable too, though.
In case of a pair like two Ts, check-raising would make sense as the BB is still a favorite against the raiser even if the latter has something like an open-ended straight. It would add extra value to the pot too.
Even if the raiser (who is sure to raise after the flop, too) has two overcards, it still pays for our BB guy to check-raise him. It generally does all the time, except when the BB has a low pair, or when he has but an overcard. The fact that he’s in the BB, adds +EV even if he faces someone with an overcard, not having anything more himself.
What if our guy in the BB hits a monster on the flop? Like trips. What’s the dilemma then?
Obviously, pretty much the only question remaining at this stage, is how to get the most money out of our preflop raiser? Is slowplaying it an option? It could well be, but if you plan on doing that, you need to know one thing: in online poker, the difference between winners and losers is often made by a couple of free cards allowed. You will allow him 2 more free cards by slowplaying and thus you’ll expose yourself to the luck factor. I’ve been there and done that, and I have even lost on those 2 free cards once (they both hit the preflop raiser dead on, for a K-high straight).
If you’re one of them more cautious players, you won’t allow him the two free cards, so you’ll either checkraise or you’ll bet out (remember, we are assuming that your preflop raiser will bet on the flop).
Which of the two options you should go with, comes down to the type of player you’re facing. Against a determined raiser, checkraising will secure one more small bet in the pot. Against someone who’s scared by a check-raise, betting out would bring in extra profit.
Make it a part of your strategic thinking to exploit edges like rakeback, cashback and prop deals. Even if you’re an otherwise successful player, rakeback will augment your revenue thus making you even more successful. If you’re a break-even player rakeback will make you a winner.
Remember, the last thing you want in this situation is that the raiser fold his hand. You need to be extra careful to disguise the monster that you have and pray hat he doesn’t make a read. Don’t play it uniquely from other hands, as that’ll clue him in right away.
By far the best thing that could happen to you here, is the following: the raiser holds a high pair and he thinks he has you beat. Of course, he has no idea of the strength of the hand you’re holding in your pocket…
Whichever way you decide to go, remember one more thing: in online poker, a short handed game can become a full ring game in a matter of seconds. Flexibility is a key issue here. Adapt to the situation on the go, and you’ll be a winner.