Advice for Six-Handed Holdem

Here is a recent email from one of my readers :


I am playing in my first six handed tournament June 6th WSOP. I play somewhat conservative. The longer the levels the higher I place. Do you have any advice for six handed? I would appreciate it.


Hi Don,

I can give you three pieces of advice. First, and most importantly,
you’re going to have to open up your game. When you’re playing a
10-handed table at the 100/200ante25 round, each hand is costing on
average 52.5 tournament chips to play. At 6-max, it’s 75/hand… roughly
50% more expensive. That means you have to lower your starting hand
requirements to play at least 50% more hands. It’s much more important to
be picking up pots preflop on 6-max. And you’re not going to be able to
win a bracelet by sitting back and waiting for premium hands. I’m not
saying you should play every hand you’re dealt… but as much as you’ve
ever opened up your game, open it up a little bit more during that event.

The second piece of advice I can give you is to play your table like it’s
in a vacuum. You only have five other people you’re competing with to win
that bracelet. If you’re never the next one out at your table, you’ll
eventually win the whole thing. Don’t think about how many hundreds of
people are around you… just the five people in front of you. Zone in on
each of them and focus like it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done
in your whole life… visualize the bracelet right there on the table if
it helps. After a few hours, your opponents are going to get bored.
They’ll look around the room, check their phone, zone out. Don’t fall
into that trap. Constantly remind yourself that your whole life has lead
to this moment where you have a chance at winning. Steve Prefontaine had
a quote along the lines of “To not give your best is to sacrifice the
gift.” It’s a good quote.

The third piece is a little more specific. Hopefully, you’ll have zoned
in on your table enough to spot someone else at your table who is a good
player but not as good as you. Maybe you’ll have some blatant tell that
he’ll give off that you’ve picked up on that lets you take advantage of
him. But he’s good enough that he can bust the weaker players at your
table. Against a guy like this, you don’t ever really want to go for the
kill. You want to basically use this guy as a chip accumulator for your
stack. In any tournament, but especially 6max events, the guy at the
table who has the biggest disadvantage is usually the guy who just moved
to fill an empty seat. It’s at that point where the whole table basically
attacks the new blood and he doesn’t have much of a defense because he’s
coming in with zero information on his opponents. In 6max there is a
level of implicit collusion that is more dominant than a full table
tournament. You don’t want to bust the other five players at your
table… and you especially don’t want to bust the best of the other five
players at your table… bust the weaker two or three spots and then focus
strongly on busting the new players.

If you find yourself in a position where your table breaks and YOU’RE the
new guy, sometimes it’s best to play super tight and on your belly until
another player busts and there is a new target. In all of the 6max
tournaments I’ve done well in, I found myself at the final table with
another player that I played with most of Day 1 or Day 2. Tournaments are
won in packs.

Best of luck in the event and I hope to see you across the final table.


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