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Most online poker sites offer specialized tournaments with 8 players vs 9 players on a table, and some people have been advocating 8-max for live games as well.

For 6 max, the difference is pretty clear - there's much more action due to the need to pay for blinds more often, and hands are played faster in general since there are only 6 players. The same goes for 6-max -> 4 max and 4 max -> heads up. At each step, the resulting play varies significantly.

Superficially however, the difference between 8-max and 9-max seems to be pretty small. Am I missing something significant here?

  • To me, 8-max tourneys are just 9-max tourneys without an UTG player; meaning no difference at all. I don't know why they offer 8-max tourneys to say the truth, unless there are heavy changes in blind structure or timings. – user1165 Jul 19 '15 at 7:45
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    Why without UTG? There will always be a player to act first on the left of the BB. – disco beat Jul 19 '15 at 8:55
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    @disco beat, i actually meant one player less to act in early position, since there are 2 universally accepted early positions as UTG and UTG+1, one missing is no big deal. Of course there is always an UTG player ;) but one missing is way different than, say, 3 missing as 6-max – user1165 Jul 19 '15 at 10:53
  • @vlzvl It's strange how we all see things differently. I would say that there will be 1 less middle position player to act :) – disco beat Jul 19 '15 at 11:13
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    @disco beat, frankly i never thought about that but i'm pretty sure the positions are reduced from earlier ones ;) There will be always blinds, a button and/or a cut off. Quoting Harrington, a 6-max is effectively a 9-max with all EP folded ;) It's easier to say that rather removing 3 middle players, due to more significance of an EP player rather an MP player ;) – user1165 Jul 19 '15 at 11:32
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Each time you remove players from a table, the same rules apply.

More blinds to pay turn into more action. Less cards distributed turn into the average starting hand being lowered.

Of course, removing 1 player will not change the game as removing 3, but it is good to keep it in mind.

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More players typically means you play fewer hands, within a stronger range, from most or all positions.

Opening UTG with 9 players is going to be perceived as much stronger than doing the same with just 6 players, even though in both cases you are first to act preflop.... Since you have 8 more players to act, rather than 5, you have a much bigger chance of getting 3-bet.

The same is true with a 7- or 8-handed table, just a little less so.

So it’s better to identify positions backward from the button, rather than forward from the big blind, when constructing ranges etc.

Regarding one of the first comments: I would be all in favor of making hold ’em an 8-max game. The idea of 9- or even 10-handed games is a relatively new thing. It seems more driven by casinos wanting to pack in as many people as possible than good play. (No one played 9- or 10-handed when 7-card stud was the dominant game, for obvious reasons.)

To me, 9- or 10-handed games are less appealing, in that it allows players to sit back and wait for premiums and not have to deal with more ambiguous/tricky decisions. Limiting hold ’em to 7 or 8 players means a little more action, a bit more variety, and should requires some more skill, IMHO.

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