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How To Play Short Deck Hold’em Poker

Texas Hold’em has dominated the poker world for over two decades now, and if there’s one thing many players can agree on is that a classic game can be pretty slow and uneventful.

Especially when played at higher levels, Texas Hold’em is not an action game but instead a game of caution and patience.

To break this routine, a group of poker players and fans created a new version called 6+ Hold’em.

6+ Hold’em, also known as Short Deck Poker, is played with just 36 cards in a deck, with cards from deuce to five completely removed from the deck.

The possibility of a player getting a big poker hand with fewer cards is much higher, just as the chances of making sets, straights, and other strong holdings after the flop.

While Short Deck Hold’em actually resembles classic Texas Hold’em in many ways, the big difference in the deck setup makes the game completely new and different.

With most players completely new to the game and the equities running so close, Short Deck Poker makes the game fun and exciting.

Short Deck Poker Rules

The first thing you need to know before you sit down at a 6+ Hold’em table is the game’s basic rules.

For the most part, 6+ plays similarly to No-Limit Texas Hold’em, with a few major differences in the game flow, which start with the blinds structure.

While different card rooms and home games use different rules for this somewhat new game, the standardized format currently has every player at the table paying an ante and the button paying a double ante each hand.

With this blinds structure, players have a lot of incentive to try and see a flop cheaply by simply calling the size of another ante.

On the other hand, paying an ante on each hand also means that you are bleeding chips fast if you try to play too tight.

For these reasons, a typical game of Short Deck Poker will have a lot of limping mixed in with players raising their big hands. However, the hand value also changes quite a bit in this version of the game, but more on that later.

Once the pre-flop action is complete, as it would be in Texas Hold’em, players proceed to the flop.

From this point forward, the game is played in a regular no-limit style, with the action ending on the player who has the button.

So far, so simple!

If you can play No-Limit Texas Hold’em, making a switch to Short Deck Poker should not be too difficult, with the game following the same flow and pattern as its older cousin.

However, there are some other differences between the two, and the biggest one comes in the way hands are ranked in 6+ Hold’em.

Hand Rankings In 6+ Hold’em Poker

Aside from the deck size, which is significantly shorter in 6+ Hold’em, there are big differences between Texas Hold’em in the way hands are ranked.

The most important thing to remember compared to traditional Texas Hold’em rules is that a flush beats a full house, reversing the value of these two hands.

flush beats full house in short deck poker

The logic behind this comes from pure math, as it’s simply easier to make a full house than a flush in Short Deck Poker, which is why this rule is universal.

Another difference in hand rankings, which isn’t adopted in every game, is that three of a kind sometimes beat a straight. However, the official games played in Macau or Las Vegas still play with a straight beating three of a kind.

The reason for keeping 7 straight as a more powerful hand has to do with playability, as making three of a kind stronger would mean flopped straights are often drawing dead against flopped sets, which would significantly diminish the value of trying to make a straight in the first place.

The final difference in hand rankings in 6+ Hold’em is with the ace card.

Like in Texas Hold’em, the ace can be used to make a low straight. In this case, a player holding A 6 7 8 9 has a straight, as unintuitive as this might seem.

Currently, the official hand rankings for Short Deck poker are as follows:

  • Royal Flush
  • Straight Flush
  • Four of a Kind
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • Straight
  • Three of a Kind
  • Two Pair
  • One Pair
  • High Card

Short Deck Poker Odds Explained

I’ve explained the basic rules of playing 6+ Hold’em, but what does the lack of any low cards mean for your odds?

Well, it actually means quite a lot. All the equities and odds you learned in Texas Hold’em now change, with draws becoming a lot more powerful and weak made hands like one pair losing their value.

While most hands in Texas Hold’em are won by a one-pair hand, this is definitely not the case in 6+ Hold’em.

In fact, making one pair is so easy that you will more often have a pair than not have one by the river.

Looking at the simplest of odds, you should consider how much easier it is to get good starting hands in Short Deck Poker.

The chance of getting dealt a hand like pocket aces or pocket kings is doubled in this game, which means you will have a lot more opportunities to get into hands with premium holdings.

However, you should also bear in mind that hands like AA or KK are no longer such massive favorites against the likes of JT suited or T9 suited. Since we know that one pair is so rarely the winner, in the end, pocket pairs lose a good chunk of their value.

Making a set in 6+ Hold’em is also quite a bit easier, with fewer cards left in the deck by the time a flop is dealt out, making your two outs for the set more likely to come out.

When calculating the odds of making a straight, a flush, or a full house, you can now use the rule of 3 and 6 instead of the rule of 2 and 4 you learned in the past.

This means you will be multiplying your outs by a factor of 6 if you are drawing on the flop or a factor of 3 if you are drawing on the turn to come up with your odds of making the hand.

Some of the interesting odds that are much different in Short Deck Poker include:

  • 22.9 percent chance of being dealt connectors or a suited hand
  • 8.6 percent chance of being dealt a pocket pair
  • Nearly 1 percent chance of being dealt pocket aces

Basic Short Deck Poker Strategy

Short Deck Poker Strategy

Now that you know the basics of 6+ Hold’em, it’s about time you start thinking about a strategy.

The really exciting thing about this game is that it is not yet “solved” which means there are many different ways to play it, and there is no one to say which way is the best for sure.

There are some things we know for certain about Short Deck Poker, including:

  • It’s easier to flop a set or a straight in 6+ Hold’em
  • It’s more difficult to make a flush in 6+ Hold’em
  • Pocket pairs are more common in 6+ Hold’em

These simple facts have a lot to do with developing a winning strategy for the game.

What we can definitely know is that one pair hands are much less powerful in this version of the game, making such holdings as pocket aces or kings a lot less valuable.

Pocket kings, queens, and jacks all lose a significant portion of their value compared to Texas Hold’em, as they no longer win the pot unimproved as often as they do in Texas Hold’em.

On the other hand, suited connected hands like KQs, JTs, and T9s gain a lot of value, as they have a high chance of making a straight, two pair, or full house.

The basic strategy you should probably stick to is one that reinforces the idea of playing draws very aggressively and playing weak made hands very passively, often folding them.

A big draw may be just a coin flip against one pair in Texas Hold’em, but holding 12 outs against your opponent’s hand in Short Deck Hold’em will make you a 63 percent favorite on the flop, while the all-mighty open-ended straight flush draw (15 outs), will give you nearly 75 percent equity in the hand.

Another crucial element to keep in mind when considering your 6+ Hold’em strategy is position, as this game relies heavily on it.

Just like Pot Limit Omaha, Short Deck Poker is all about playing aggressively in position and staying out of the way when out of position.

The real tricky thing is balancing out how you play in those early positions, given the very favorable price you will be getting on limping when first in.

Personally, I recommend folding many hands in an early position and limping the ones you decide to play to avoid unfavorable reverse implied odds situations later on and save yourself from having to make the difficult plays post-flop.

Can I Win At Short Deck Poker?

Many poker players are probably asking when they first encounter Short Deck Hold’em: Can I actually win at this game?

The gambling nature of the game makes it a high variance prospect, to say the least, but it also could make it highly profitable, similar to Pot Limit Omaha.

Those who have played PLO at a high level know that the win-rates are much higher than what’s expected at Texas Hold’em, with the high variance being the price you pay.

If you can master the rules of Short Deck Hold’em and develop a strong winning strategy, I expect you can have a high win rate in this game as well, along with some big downswings as a result of the game’s highly equalized equities.

Where To Play Short Deck Hold’em Online

playing poker online

The only thing left now is to get online and start playing some 6+ Hold’em to get a feel for the game and start developing your personal strategy for it.

Since Short Deck Hold’em is not yet very popular in the live poker environment, I highly recommend you try playing online first, and there are several major poker sites where you can do so:

  • PokerStars: The biggest and most popular online poker site, PokerStars offers 6+ Hold’em across a range of stakes, starting with true micro stakes and going all the way up to a $200 button blind. PokerStars is one of the best online poker platforms, and it guarantees a high level of player satisfaction.
  • GGPoker: Another massive online poker room with great traffic, GGPoker will give you a chance to practice Short Deck Poker on your own terms, with a similar range of stakes as PokerStars and a poker platform of similar quality.
  • Poker Apps: Online poker apps like PPPoker and KKPoker have been all the rage lately, with Short Deck Poker games running regularly and the level of play being expectedly low compared to major poker sites. If you want to play in some attractive 6+ Hold’em games, this is the place to be.

And if you can’t pick between the two, check out our review comparing PokerStars vs GGPoker to help choose the one for you.

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