If you’re a fan of high-stakes games, you’ve probably heard of Short Deck poker but maybe aren’t sure what it’s all about. Today, we’re going to break down all that this growingly popular high-thrill game has to offer, along with rules, strategies, odds – and more. So let’s jump right into it.
What Is Short Deck Poker?
Short Deck poker, also known as Six Plus Hold’Em, is a relatively new variant of Texas Hold’Em. It mostly follows Hold’Em rules with a few key differences and a unique deck setup.
Short Deck poker has been gaining popularity in recent years largely in cash games and tournaments. The reason for its meteoric rise is that it offers players lots of action and many big hands.
What’s more, some pretty big names in poker, like Tom Dwan, have taken an interest in the game. That’s partly why in 2019, the World Series of Poker offered the first Short Deck bracelet.
So what is Short Deck or Six Plus Hold’Em poker?
Short Deck poker, a Texas Hold’Em variant, is played with a 36-card deck rather than the standard 52-card deck. The shorter deck includes all cards from six and up, which means there are no deuces, threes, fours, or fives.
Thanks to the shorter deck, both the hand ranking and strategies are much different than traditional Texas Hold’Em. With that said, the gameplay still closely resembles Hold’Em, mostly in the way the cards are dealt.
At this point, you might be wondering – what about the Aces? Even though the game only uses sixes and up, Aces are still used for straights, and they can be both high and low. For Broadway, the order is still A-K-Q-J-10. However, the lowest straight to make is 9-8-7-6-A, and the Ace essentially acts as a substitute for the five.
Short Deck Poker Rules
As we already mentioned, the game utilizes 36 cards and the six is the lowest card in the game. Also, it can be played between two to ten players, but it’s usually played between six people.
Due to the smaller deck, standard poker hand rankings are reworked because there’s a higher chance of hitting certain hands like straights or sets.
The gameplay also follows Texas Hold’Em pretty closely. Each player will receive two hole cards and they have to use them in combination with five community cards to create the best possible hand.
In Six Plus Hold’Em, there are four betting streets, which include the:
Short Deck Poker Hand Rankings
For Six Plus Hold’Em, the betting can either be fixed limit or no limit although it’s most commonly played in the no-limit format. Here are the hand rankings, from highest to lowest, for the game, with examples:
- Royal Flush: A♣-K♣-Q♣-J♣-10♣
- Straight Flush: 9♥-8♥-7♥-6♥-A♥
- Four of a Kind: K♠-K♥-K♣-K♦-Qx
- Flush: J♠-10♠-8♠-6♠-7x
- Full House: K♦-K♥-K♣-Q♦-Q♠
- Three of a Kind: K♣-K♥-K♠-Qx-Jx
- Straight: 9♥-8♦-7♠-6♣-A♦
- Two Pair: K♥-K♠-Q♦-Q♣-Jx
- One Pair: K♠-K♣-Jx-9x-7x
- High Card: Kx-10x-6x-7x-9x
As you can see, Short Deck can follow an alternative poker hand ranking because of the probability to make certain hands. In this variant, the hand rankings that change are Straight, Three of a Kind, Flush, and Four of a Kind. Here, a Three of Kind beats a Straight and a Flush beats a Full House.
With that said, Short Deck might follow different poker hand rankings depending on where you’re playing. In some versions, Straights will still rank above Three of a Kind, but in some, they won’t. So before starting a game of Six Plus Texas Hold’Em, make sure to check what the exact hand rankings are when you sit down at the table.
Short Deck Starting Hands
Considering that the Short Deck variant only entered the mainstream in 2019, the best starting hand selection along with post-flop play is still very much up for debate. With that said, what we do know is that starting hand equity is much different than in traditional Texas Hold’Em.
Even though big pocket pairs like Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks might not be as powerful in Short Deck– they should still be played. Hitting triples would make the pairs even better but players shouldn’t shy away from big pocket pairs when there are big raises on the flop. You also shouldn’t be afraid to get away from it if the board looks like it could potentially favor another powerful hand.
Strategies For Short Deck Poker
Once you have a handle on the basic hand rankings and rules, you’ll need to arm yourself with some strategies. But keep in mind that, just as it is for starting hands, the best strategy is still not quite as clear. With that said, here are some of our top tips and tricks.
Handling a Draw
Since the deck is much shorter in this game, your chances of a draw are much higher than in Texas Hold’Em. To be successful in the game, you have to embrace them instead of shying away.
Luckily, there is an easy way to calculate your odds of hitting a draw:
- On the flop, multiply your number of outs by six. For example, if you had a 7-out straight draw on the flop, you’d multiply that by six, and have an approximate chance of 43% of hitting by the river.
- On the turn, multiply your number of outs by three. For example, if you had a 7-out straight draw on the turn, you’d multiply that by three, and have an approximate chance of 21% of hitting on the river.
Hitting a Flush
Hitting a flush is much trickier in Six Plus Hold’Em than it is in Texas Hold’Em. In fact, the odds of hitting a flush draw after the flop by the river is only 30%. So calling bets to fish for a flush can be pretty expensive in the long run.
Chasing a Straight
By comparison, it is much easier to land a straight, and your odds of hitting an open-end straight draw after the flop by the river are 45.6%. Playing a straight draw more aggressively might be a good tactic to consider.
Final Thoughts on Short Deck Poker
If you’ve already mastered the game of Texas Hold’Em, you should have no trouble excelling in Short Deck poker. Once you get a good handle on the new hand rankings and strategies, you’ll be well on your way to taking home the pot in your next Six Plus Hold’Em game.