Come on, read know you want to...

From my good friend Do Work Son, who is stationed at Travis AFB, CA, I got the following request. 

"I need some advice for playing 3-handed. I've been playing with a couple of friends lately, and I am getting trashed every single time."

So with that, I offer the following advice for playing short-handed poker.  Now remember, if this doesn't apply, then we can always tweak it later on.  My main problem will be that I have no idea how Do Work Son is playing.  So this advice is for anyone playing a short handed game.  If Do Work Son is already doing this, then maybe there is something else out there that needs fixing.

Anyway, shorthanded games should not be completely confused with the final three in a tournament.  In the final three of a tournament, there is NORMALLY a chip leader, and possibly a short stack.  So the flow of the game is different. In Do Work Son's situation, he is sitting down with two other players, each is buying in for say $50, and the game starts on equal footing.  And then, he is getting his tail end handed to him by his fellow players.  Now how are we going to fix that?

To begin with, I need to know how many hands he is playing.  The reason is, waiting for the nuts 3-handed will cost you a fortune in blinds alone.  It is costing you because you have to put in two blinds every three hands.  Now, if the other two guys are raising your blinds, and you are folding, because you don't have an amazing hand.....well they are just going to keep doing that for as long as you are folding. 

A better way to look at the game is to realize that there is simply no way that the other two guys are getting great hands every time.  Sit at home, by yourself, and deal out to two imaginary players and yourself.  Shuffle every time, and just keep dealing.  Rotate the blinds, and just keep dealing.  And keep track of how many great hands everyone is getting.  It won't be hard, because there won't be many.  This should give you some idea what hands these guys are bluffing with and taking your money.

Then, go ahead and do a flop.  When you do that....note how many flops improve each of the hands.  I say do this to prove one simple axom that most people ignore:


Please don't be a player that misunderstands that absolute truth in poker. 

And lastly, when playing short-handed, you MUST play more hands.  You just have to.  Doyle Brunson won the World Series twice with 10-2.  Not because he was betting 10-2, but because he called with 10-2.  You cannot simply fold fold fold because you don't have A-K, or because the other guy raised.  He is raising because he knows you'll fold.

And then, after all of that, you are also killing yourself because when you finally do have a starting hand, they're all folding because you make it obvious that you have a hand.  See....if you've been folding, then when you play, I'll fold.  So you're losing blind after blind after blind, and bet after bet after bet....when you fold.  Then you play, and pick up 1.5 blinds.  In the end, you'll never catch up!

Just as important as all of that.....RAISE, don't call.  Calling allows the other player to dictate both the size of the pot and the drawing ability of his hand.  If he bets, and you call, it is exactly the same as if he checked, and you checked.  The results is the same.  He gets to see a "free card".  It is free, because he decided how much drawing was worth when he bet.  If you raise him, NOW he must decide if his draw is still worth it.  And if you RAISE HIM, you get a better understanding of where you are in the hand.  By calling,  you have no idea.  Calling is the same thing as "hoping".  You are calling because you simply hope you have the best hand.  If you RAISE, you are saying "I KNOW I HAVE THE BEST HAND". 

Here are the three questions you should ask yourself every time, in this EXACT order:

1.  Should I raise

2.  Should I fold

3.  Should I call

If you shouldn't raise, then should you fold.  If you then shouldn't fold, then, and only then, should you call.  Most people ask these questions in the exact opposite order.  And most people are losing poker players.

Lastly, in 3-handed poker, you MUST bluff more often.  You just have to.  And you have to be willing to fire that bluff when the flop comes down.  And then you have to be willing to fire that bluff on the turn.  And most important, and the one that most people are simply unable to MUST be willing to fire that third bullet after the river.  I can't tell you how many players I've seen pull off amazing bluffs on the flop and the turn, and then check the river, only to be beat by a high card or a small pair.  One more bullet would have ended that hand without a showdown.

So there you go, the Gruden method of short-handed play.  If you are already doing these things, let me know and I'll expand the discussion tomorrow. 

In short:

- Play more hands

- Raise, don't call

- Bluff more often

- Remember most flops miss most people

- Fire that third bullet



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