Short Deck Poker Rules – Master This Exciting Game Variation
Short Deck Poker, also known as Six Plus Hold’em, is a game that has recently gained great popularity, mostly because it was adopted by the Macau high-rollers and high stakes pros playing the biggest games in the world in China.
The game greatly resembles Texas Hold’em, but uses a deck made up of 36 cards instead of the standard 52.
All deuces, threes, fours, and fives, are taken out before the game starts.
Fewer cards in the deck mean more dynamic action, more board changes on turns and rivers, and more exciting cooler situations that are bound to get all the money into the middle.
If you are looking to find out what is short deck poker all about and learn this exciting new game, you should start with the short deck poker hand rankings and rules. I will explain these first before moving on to equities, strategies, and other important elements.
Short Deck Poker Rules: How to Play
Short deck poker may have its similarities to Texas Hold’em, but it is a game that was invented to entice action, which is why quite a few things about it are different.
The first important change in short deck poker rules is the blinds and antes structure. Instead of the usual small blind and big blind structure, the short deck is all about antes.
Every player at the table will post an ante, with the dealer posting an additional ante to drive the action. The player to the left of the dealer acts first, much as they would in a button straddle situation.
Players who want to see the flop can choose to just call the additional ante or make a raise to any size they choose, up to the size of their stack.
Note that the blinds and antes can also be structured differently, as there isn’t really a fixed set of rules for Six Plus Hold’em just yet. The game is still developing and being changed by different groups around the world.
However, the antes structure is the one being played at major events like the Triton Poker Series and is also usually used in high-stakes cash games around the world.
Short Deck Hold’em Hand Rankings
The next thing you will need to know before you jump into play is the hand rankings. If you are coming from a background of Texas Hold’em, you may think this is trivial, but that’s not quite the truth.
Indeed, the hand rankings are quite similar between the two games, and you will not need to learn from scratch, but there are several things that are actually different about short deck poker.
Here are the most commonly used hand rankings for Six Plus Hold’em, ranked from best to worst hand:
- Royal Flush
- Straight Flush
- Four of a Kind
- Full House
- Three of a Kind
- Two Pair
- One Pair
- High Card
You have probably noticed that a flush is ranked above a full house and thought it was a mistake. However, there hasn’t been any mistake, and a flush is actually more valuable in the short deck poker hand rankings than a full house.
The reasoning behind this makes quite a bit of sense. With fewer cards out there, making some kind of a full house with any cards you are holding is much more likely. On the other hand, you will be looking for only five instead of the usual nine outs when holding a flush draw, making it much more difficult to acquire one.
Flushes being more valuable than full houses is not the only thing you need to look out for. The other change in poker hand rankings has to do with how you make straights.
For the most part, a straight is a straight. However, this changes when you are holding an ace. This card can act as part of the high straight but also as a part of a low straight, substituting a five.
Yes, you read that right! An ace combined with a six, seven, eight, and nine will make a straight and beat any three of a kind out there.
Also worth noting is that in some games, three of a kind will be valued higher than a straight, as it is technically more difficult to make trips than a straight.
That said, the official Triton Poker rules still have a straight ranking higher than trips, so you should not worry about this rule that is mostly used only in private games.
Strategy Basics: The Odds of Short Deck Poker
Now that we have covered the basics of how short deck poker rules work and how the game is played on the basic level, let us talk about some basic strategies as well.
The first thing you should keep in mind when playing short deck poker is that hands like 7-2 and J-5 no longer exist. For that reason, other hands are now also less valuable than you would expect them to be.
For instance, a hand like 7-6 that was once considered a somewhat playable suited connector will now be a trash hand that can make a bottom end of a straight or full house at best, while flush possibilities are limited as is.
When selecting starting hands, you will now be forced to look for more high card hands, such as A-K suited and K-Q suited, which also have more equity even against big pocket pairs than they do in Texas Hold’em.
Now let’s talk about the poker odds and likelihood of making certain hands in short deck poker:
- You have a 19% chance of flopping an open-ended straight draw with your connectors.
- You have a 45.5% chance of making a straight by the river with your OESD.
- You have a 17% chance of flopping a set with a pocket pair.
- You have a 30% chance of making your flush if you flop a flush draw.
As you can see, the probabilities of many drawing hands go up in Six Plus Hold’em, but the probability of making a flush does not. Flush draws hit less often than they do in Texas Hold’em.
With the Triton Poker rules ranking straights above trips, focusing on making as many of those OESDs as possible and playing them aggressively will be one of your priorities.
With that said, let us talk a little about the basic strategy you should be employing when playing short deck Hold’em.
Strategy Tips for Short Deck Hold’em
Playing short deck poker will prove to be quite different from playing Teas Hold’em for a number of reasons, and the first is the amazing pot odds you are getting to limp in with your hands.
If you have watched short deck Hold’em on TV, you will notice that many hands get multiple players limping into the pot. Even the best players in the game are doing it.
This is because limping is very profitable, especially if the game is a little passive since you get to add just one more ante and see the flop with your hand.
If you are holding a medium-strength hand, you may not want to come in for a raise and bloat the pot, so a limp makes sense. Limping in with some monsters now also makes sense since you can disguise your hand and possibly come in for a re-raise if another player does open the action.
Choosing Your Starting Hands
The starting hands’ selection in Six Plus Hold’em is quite interesting because the equities are completely changed from where they were in Texas Hold’em.
Here are a few examples of how hands rank against each other to give you an idea:
- AK suited has 53.67% equity against QQ
- JT suited has 49.35% equity against AK
- JQ suited has 43.82% equity against AK suited
- KQ suited has 53.20% equity against TT
- AK has 57.87% equity against 76 suited
- AK suited has 63.95% equity against AQ suited
As you can see, the equities run much closer in short deck poker, making the pre-flop play a little less relevant and giving players who play a lot of hands a bit more chance.
However, this is a game in which you should also mind your implied odds quite a bit. Making low ends of straights, bottom full houses, and even small flushes can be detrimental.
If you want to play a solid game of Six Plus Hold’em, I would recommend playing your big hands like AKs, KQs, QJs, JTs, and pocket pairs very aggressively while also trying to see flops with off-suited Broadway combos like KQ and QJ as often as possible.
Keep in mind that few hands in short deck poker are won by one pair, unlike Texas Hold’em, and you will need to make more big hands like straights and boats if you want to walk away from the table as a winner.
Calculating Outs and Odds in Short Deck Poker
Now that you know what is short deck poker, the basic rules, and have some idea how to pick your starting hands, it’s time to look at some more math.
When it comes to pre-flop equities, you will need to learn these by heart, just as you did in Texas Hold’em. Thankfully, that should not be too difficult, and the equities run pretty close anyway.
Once the flop is dealt out, you will need to understand the number of outs you have to make certain hands and how to calculate your odds based on that.
In Texas Hold’em, you counted outs based on a 52 card deck that has 13 ranks of cards. Now, you will need to remember that there are only nine ranks of cards and only 36 cards in total in the deck.
If you have an open-ended straight draw on the flop, you will still have eight outs, just as you did in Texas Hold’em. However, your probability of hitting those outs is dramatically higher.
With only 36 cards in the deck, your eight outs become nearly a quarter of all the cards. Since you already see five cards, that means you have eight outs from 31 cards in total.
Now, if you have learned the rules of 4 and 2 in Texas Hold’em and use them to calculate your odds in that game, simply convert that to rules of 6 and 3 in short deck poker.
When talking about an OESD, you can use these calculations:
- On the flop, multiply your eight outs with six and get 48% equity
- On the turn, multiply your eight outs with three and get 24% equity
The actual equity of making an OESD in Six Plus Hold’em is 45.5% on the flop and 26.6% on the turn, making these numbers quite close to your actual equity and good enough to base your decisions on.
The Power of Position
The position is an important element of any poker game, but the closer the equities run, the more important position becomes in a game.
We learned this with Pot Limit Omaha back in the day, as playing more hands in position was the biggest differential between average and good players.
The same logic applies for Six Plus Hold’em. Since the equities are always so close, you will need to find your advantage in other things, and playing in position as often as possible is one of these things.
While limping in with various trash may seem appealing with the great pot odds you are getting, I highly recommend playing tight from an early position and opening your game up on the button to maximize your positional advantage.
All that said, you should expect more swings in short deck poker, as this is a very volatile game. If you ask me, you and your fellow players should agree to run all-ins multiple times and make the antes reasonably small unless you want someone going home with a massive headache every time you play.