Some people don't get the small table concept. They don't get why they are busted down in Headsup or even 3 handed. That player gets to the FT by playing good tight play and being smart but the blinds are whipping around fast and he keeps getting raised when all he has are rags.

Luck is not with him and he just can't get good results when short handed.

It isn't complicated - less players = less things that can beat you.

If you imagine a full 10-table, you lead out with from early position, you get called by 3 players.

The flop comes

You get a nice flop and bet, you bet and weed out all but one player.

Turn comes

You bet again and this time you get raised, which you call.

River comes

You are worried about the raise and didn't get an Ace or Ten to help, you check and get raised - regardless of what you do next, you are in a tough spot.

Your opponent had - On the flop he had an opended ended straight draw and a flush draw, on that alone he had 17 outs and was favorite to win the hand even if he was behind to a set at the moment.

But this is just lucky right? how likely was that to happen

This is exactly my point.

Playing against 9 other players, 3 of them thought their hand was strong enough to get involved from the  flop, 1 of them stayed around after the flop and ended up beating you.

This is because when you bet into the entire field, you asked a question "Who thinks they have a strong enough hand to challenge me?" - and 3/9 people answered.

What if the field was small, say only 4 people (3+you).

From a probabilities point of you, when you ask that question on the preflop, instead of getting 3/9, its more likely 1/3**.

So when you ask the question again on the flop, instead of there being 3 people to answer, there is only 1 and it is much less likely that 1 has than if there were 3 people in there.

So how does this relate to our player who has problems playing short handed?

Well, when you are in big table play, your range needs to be tighter so that when you get involved in a hand, if you hit a good flop you have a strong chance it is the best hand. You don't want to be risking it with less hands because there are far too many people out there that can beat you.

When you get to short handed however, the risk factor drops off a bit and you can loosen your range a bit as well... K9s might have been a bit weak early on but 3 handed it can be a stallion.

Think of it another way if you like.

If you face one opponent and he only gets one set of cards dealt to him at the start of the round, that is fair.

What if I said your opponent now gets 3 sets of hole cards dealt to him, not only is that bad enough but he doesn't have to do anything with them yet, just know they are there.

On the flop he is told he can only choose one of the 3 sets of hole cards, he looks at the flop and chooses one. To keep things even, all of the 2 sets of cards left are dealt back into the deck and can be redealt as the turn/river

What kind of chance do you think you would have in a showdown with that opponent? - very little

How is this that different from 3 seperate opponents each entering into the flop?

Not much really

So when you understand the benefit of playing tight early on and understand one of the reasons is variety of the hole cards out there, when that variety is limited, you can loosen your range a bit, make steals and pickup surprising pots.

**(I know this isn't a mathematical certaintity, since in the above example, caller 1 and 2 could have been holding strong hands and 3 could have just been priced in, but for arguments sake go with it)