Poker Formats: Full Ring or Six-Max Cash Games?

Do you prefer full ring or six-max cash games?

What is your table size preference when you play cash games online? Are you a full ring grinder or a six-max specialist? Perhaps you automatically play one type of cash game because you don’t really know much about the other? Regardless, we’re comparing full ring to six-max cash games in this article so you can learn more.

What Is Meant By Full Ring and Six-Max Cash Games?

Online poker sites offer three cash game formats: heads-up, six-max, and full ring. Heads-up are two-seater tables that pit you against an opponent one-on-one. Those highly specialist games are for another article.

Full ring refers to cash games played on nine or 10-handed tables. These cash games are prevalent in live poker rooms around the world, especially Las Vegas. Six-max cash games, as the name suggests, are played on a table with a maximum of six seats.

Which format should you play? The rules are the exact same for both. A flush still beats a straight, for example, but they do play differently. The extra three or four seats in a full ring game make all the difference.

What Are The Main Differences Between Full Ring and Six-Max Cash Games?

The biggest difference between full ring and six-max cash games is the number of opponents, obviously! There are, however, many more differences to consider and we’re covering the major ones now.

Games play looser in six-max cash games than in their full ring counterparts. You have fewer opponents to worry about in a six-max game so you can play a wider range of starting hands. A tight-aggressive player in a full ring game may play 15% and raise 12% of the hands dealt to them. This increases to 22% played and 19% raised for a typical six-max tight-aggressive player. A seven per cent difference doesn’t sound a lot but it adds many more playable hands.

The reduced number of opponents in six-max cash games means it’s less likely someone holds a higher pair than yours, for example. There is a 9.4% chance an opponent holds a pair higher than your pocket tens in a six-max game. This increases to 14.7% at a nine-handed table and 16.4% at a 10-handed table. Quite the difference. This in itself allows players to loosen their starting hand ranges.

Your skill level at playing from the blinds is another major consideration to make. Full ring players at a 10-handed table play from the blinds 20% of the time. This increases to 33% of the time when playing six-max cash games. You will lose money playing from the blinds; it doesn’t matter if you’re Phil Ivey you will lose! The forced blinds and being out of position is too strong of a combination to overcome.

What Are The Positives and Negatives Of Both Formats?

Players new to online poker tend to migrate to full ring cash game tables. This is the game they’ve played in their local casino or their home game so it makes sense.

Full ring games are far easier to play several tables at once. You’ll spend the majority of your time folding so you can afford to open more tables. This makes full ring better to grind if you want to log a lot of hands.

Nine and 10-handed games play at a slower pace, too. This gives you more time to take notes on your opponents. It means they are less stressful too because you get a little breather between hands.

Variance is lower in full ring games. You’re playing stronger hands against more straight-forward players. There’s less three-betting preflop, less aggression, and less bluffing, which is good for your bankroll.

Six-max cash games play much faster than their full ring cousins, but more difficult to play several tables. The games tend to be much more aggressive with frequent bluffs, three and four-bets, and tend to attract more creative players. This leads to higher variance, swings in your stacks, and requires a larger bankroll.

Studies show the biggest cash game winners play six-max over full ring. The same studies show the biggest losing players sit at six-handed tables, however.

Try them both out is the best advice we can give. Our online poker partners have games with tiny blinds and even play money so you can put these different games through their paces with little or no financial risk.

You will naturally prefer one to the other. Play the game you enjoy the most because that’s what poker is about at the end of the day.

Matthew Pitt

If it’s something you can play online for real money, chances are Matthew knows a bit about it. He’s been writing about slots, craps and poker for the better part of the last decade. He’s written for PokerNews, PartyPoker and many other respected online gambling websites during the last nine years.


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