Shorthand Limit Texas Hold'em

Shorthand Hold'em (with 6 players or fewer) is hugely popular in online poker rooms. Actually, the majority of the higher-limit games are played shorthand. For online poker success, it’s therefore best to learn how to play shorthand before other types. We’ve summarized some helpful tips below.

What’s the right game for me?

This is a crucial question. Finding out which is the right game for you is very important. It’s pretty pointless trying to play against real pros if you’re trying to make any money, although it could be good practice.

The best method of assessing the difficulty of a game is by looking at the flop percentage. If the percentage is over 40%, it’s probably a good game, but if it’s 25-30%, you will probably do best to stay away.

Some online poker sites show the the flop percentage as the average number of people at the flop. This is not quite so useful, but you should generally decide to visit sites where the average is 3 or more, this is because the more people at the flop means that the the quality of hands being played is lower. This should be better for you, to just wait and then scoop the pot.

Starting hands pre-flop

So, which hands are good and which are bad? We can help you navigate the reams of information out there by summarizing the main points on “playable” hands. Keep in mind that values of hands are relative; what is a great hand sometimes can be worthless at others and vice versa. As an example, if there is a lot of raising and re-raising action, we recommend folding if you’re holding anything besides an ace-ace or king-king combination. If it’s really close, you might even want to fold whilst holding king-king. You must consider what your opponents are holding, and try to guess whether or not your hand is better, before going further.

Here are some examples:

Hands to raise with (non-raised flop):
Paired cards

Hands to call a raise with:

High paired cards
A-J (possibly)

Hands to re-raise a raise with:
This depends who’s doing the raising. Re-raise a fool with any pair or an ace-9+ combination, because you're likely to be winning when you get to the flop. Alternatively, re-raise with "made" hands:
A-A (but you may think it best to "smooth call" with J-J)

Hands to call and hope to build a pot with (early position):
High-suited connectors (i.e., 9-10s).

Hitting the flop:
If you’re holding a "made" hand, bet it. If the flop is A-K-5, bet with the K-Q combination and perhaps your opponents will fold. If an opponent calls, then it’s decision time. If you think he/she's drawing, keep betting. But if he/she’s the kind of player who calls with the second-best hand, it could be wise to check him/her to see the reaction (he/she likely has pair too).

If you're holding a pair but it's not the top pair, it’s best NOT to call a bet. You should just raise or fold. Check where you are on the flop. If you only flat call, that's five small bets in total. However, if you raise and an opponent comes back aggressively, you should probably fold and save three small bets (unless you think your opponent’s mad - then, keep calling all the way up to the river).

Drawing hands and pot odds

Try to stay constantly aware of the number of "outs" (number of cards that will give you a winning hand) that are available to you. There is a formula to calculate the percentage of hitting on the next card:


If you’ve got this calculation in mind, you should devise your pot odds by taking the pot total and dividing it by the percentage of hitting. If the bet is less than that number, you should call.

Here’s an example: You’re on a flush draw in a $10-$20 hand, you have two spades in your hand and there are two more on the flop - it means there are another 9 spades still out there. The probability of hitting on the turn is approx. 20%. So, if the pot total is $80 and the bet to you is $10, go ahead and call!


Generally speaking, bluffing isn’t very lucrative until until limits are $5-$10 or higher. If you bet without yet having a hand, but you have a chance for one, this is called “semi-bluffing”. If we take another example, betting on a flush draw: Let’s say the flop is ace-6-4, you have a king-queen suited and on the table there are two more cards of your suit. You can bet in this situation. There’s a good chance you’ll hit, and you could also scoop the pot. Semi-bluffing is however only really successful at top levels because at lower levels you are just value-betting so other players will call you.

On the other hand, “pure bluffs” aren’t usually very helpful in limit poker, but on occasion can be of use. Let’s say the flop is more daunting at a higher-level table; ace-queen-9 perhaps. If the action passes to you and there aren't many other players left in, and you've already shown some strength before the flop, have a go at betting at it. But, we can’t make any promises!