Holdem Strategy: Kill Games,Pre-Flop Handed Games

Kill Games

Some poker card rooms have games with a required kill if some certain conditions are met such as winning the last pot. These are called kill games, or winner-blind games. Depending on the card room, if the pot reaches a certain maximum size, or if the same holdem player wins two pots in a row, the winner is required to straddle an amount twice the size of the big blind and the betting limits for that hand are doubled. This can change the ratio of bet size to initial blinds enough so that significant changes in playing strategy are called for.

Traditional View of Kill Games

Many poker players think of kill games as a way to play for higher stakes and to generate action. When the conditions for a kill occur, the stakes will be raised for the next hand, hence, on average, you are actually playing for higher limits then the nominal limit would indicate. Also, when the kill is on, there are generally three blinds. The more live blinds, the more money the pot starts with, and the more players who will compete at least as far as the after the flop. Therefore go for more action.

A Strategic View of Kill Games

The basic change in strategy occurs at the nominal structure, without the kill. If the kill is encountered by the pot reaching a certain maximum size, then the value of draws goes down essentially. The reason for this is that draws tend to win larger pots and the pot-size maximum is likely to be encountered by making a draw. Because some of the money won will have to be put back in the form of a kill-straddle for the next hand, the pot is never as large as it seems when you are on a draw.

In a game without the kill, an Ace-high flush draw is worth a raise on the flop so long as you are almost sure that you will get two callers to the raise, but with a kill because winning a large holdem pot means you have to put up an extra blind the next hand, you will need to be sure that you are getting at least three callers for a raise with an Ace-high flush draw. This can reduce the value of a draw.

Pre-Flop Adjustments

For adjusting this possibility of reducing the effective pot by having to take out money to straddle the next hand, you should play a tighter pre-flop. Particularly, some of the weaker drawing hands should not be played and you should be less inclined to call a pre-flop raise with suited connectors or suited Aces with small or medium-sized kickers. The risk of encountering the kill reduces the implied odds of these hands.

Short-Handed Games

Short-handed games are fast-paced, aggressive games. Passive play is not always losing play. In short-handed games, passive play is very fast way to lose.

You won't be wrong if you play a five-handed game as if it were a ten-handed game where the first five players have folded. You won't go far wrong if you use that approach but you will go wrong. The distribution of hands in short-handed games is somewhat similar to the distribution of hands in a full game where the first few players have folded. It is not accurate but it is nearly close. The difference is that the blinds are moving faster in a short-handed game.

Whether it is a ten-handed game or a five-handed game, the initial amount of money in the pot collected in the form of the blinds is same but in the short-handed game, the average amount each player is contributing is twice what it is in a full game. The effect of that is to increase the importance of winning more than your share of the blinds.

The strategy adjustment for a short-handed game is to play little looser and a lot more aggressively than you would in a full game with the same position. You can continue with this strategy after the flop. Semi-bluff draws aggressively. Play the top pair as a very strong hand and play the second and even third pair as a strong hand. Unrelenting aggression is important in winning at short-handed games.

Pre-Flop In Short-Handed Games

We shall consider a short-handed game as four-handed. In a game with more players, you can generally consider it a full game, and the first few players have folded. For example, if you are in a six-handed game, you won't be wrong enough by just playing as if the first four players folded.

In a game with fewer than four players, the individual playing habits of your rivals become the significant consideration. When four-handed, the first two players have blinds, the last player has the button and the UTG player is between them. Position is significant when short-handed so the UTG player will almost always want to open with a raise. If you get callers, you don't want the button to be one of them; you want only the blinds to call so that you will have position after the flop. Raising is the optimal way for achieving this, but the button will call with a lot of hands, so you will want to be selective when UTG even in a short-handed game.

Short-handed Hold'em game is a high-card game. It is a struggle for the antes, a contest between a made hand and a draw and a game of hand domination. It is a game of pairs and big cards but it is also a poker game of manipulation and pressure and a game of strategy and deception. The perspective you should consider in a short-handed game depends on the other players in the game.

Continue: Strategies against various Poker Players


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