Short Deck Poker

OBJECTIVE OF SHORT DECK POKER: The objective of Short Deck Poker is win the pot by having the highest-ranked hand or bluffing everyone out of the game.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS:  3 – 8 players

MATERIALS: 36 cards instead of 52 card deck (2s through 5s are removed) 

TYPE OF GAME: Poker (similar to Texas Hold’em)


Short Deck Poker – Overview of the game

Short Deck Hold’em, also known as Six-Plus, is getting more and more popular throughout the world. Many players fell in love with this faced paced game, so it might be time to learn it. 

While it features most Texas Holdem rules and very similar gameplay, it is actually quite a different game. You can get in a lot of trouble if you fail to identify these distinctions, so make sure to understand the main differences:

  • The game is played with 36 cards instead of 52 card deck (2s through 5s are removed) 
  • It uses a bit different hand rankings, where flush beats the full-house
  • Ace can play as a low card and form a straight – “A 6 7 8 9“

There are some variations with slightly different rules, but this is set as an industry-standard, so we will concentrate on the most common version. 

All these small changes make the game much faster and encourage the action, which is probably the main reason why it is growing in popularity among various players throughout the world. 

The Game Play

In Short Deck, just like in Texas Holdem, every player receives two hole cards, and all of the betting rounds are identical in these versions. That being said, the main difference is how the blinds are set-up in the first place.

While the “button” is still in play, there are no small or big blinds. The game starts by every player putting a set amount into the pot that is called “ante,” and the player on the button puts double of that amount.

When the hand starts, all the action continues clockwise from the button, and every player can fold, call button’s ante or raise. When preflop play is completed, the hand continues from the first position to the left of the button and moves clockwise on all following streets. 

For The Non-Readers

The Math 

The mathematical calculations of this game also change significantly. Since the weakest cards of the deck (2s through 5s) are removed, players get much more playable and connected hands. As a result, you will receive premium pocket pairs twice as often and will be playing more multiway pots because your opponents will also have good holdings a lot of the time. 

It is worth mentioning that the preflop hands have a smaller value difference since every holding has more chance to improve. Especially connectors and suited cards increase in value, where premium holdings such as Ace-King or even pocket pairs lose some of its worth. 

Since there are fewer cards in the deck and you will be playing more connectors like JT or 98, and you will also much more often have some kind of draws. Not only will you have these draws more frequently, you will also be much more likely to hit it, so these holdings increase in value. 

For example, if you have an open-ended straight draw on the flop in Texas Holdem game, you will improve that hand by the river around 32% of the time, and in Short Deck, you will hit it almost 50% of the time. That is a huge difference, and when you consider your fold equity on top of your chances to make the winning hand, it makes sense to play draws very aggressively and put all your chips on the line. 

Contrary to this, you are going to hit your flush draws less often just because there are fewer cards in the deck. While you have 13 different cards in the full deck, there are only 9 in this format (remember, we removed 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s). So if you have a flush draw it only leaves you five outs to hit it (since you already have 4 cards of the same suit if you have a flush draw). 

While you have less chance to hit it, flush beats the full-house in this format, so these draws are actually quite valuable as well since you will almost surely have a winning hand if you hit it. 

Short Deck Tips

You could use a lot of common knowledge from other poker games if you played it before, like using a position to your advantage, putting your opponent’s on a range, bluffing, and playing aggressively. However, there are some specific tips I want you to know before trying Six-Plus.

Do not overplay medium-strength hands. Holding such as a top pair is actually quite a weak hand in Six-Plus, and you will rarely take down a significant pot with it. 

It is ok to limp preflop. While it might look a bit strange to experienced players, limping from an early position is mathematically correct play in Short Deck Holdem and often considered the best option. It helps you control the size of your pot and gives more opportunities for playing postflop without committing yourself to the hand. 

Play more suited and connected hands. Since flushes beat full-house, suited cards drastically increase in value and should be played more often. The same could be said about connected holdings since a hand like JTs has around 50% equity against AK preflop and are much more likely to hit the draws in this format. These hands have a higher value and should be played more often. 

Use proper bet sizing. It is vital to take into consideration the structure of the game since every player putting the ante creates a big pot from the get-go. If you are playing shorter stacks, even by raising preflop, you can commit yourself to the hand and be forced to call your opponent’s all-in (based on math calculations), so you need to play cautiously and always consider your sizing.

The Future

This game is gaining popularity among both professional and recreational players, and more and more poker series features events for this format. While being one of the main choices among Asia players already, Short Deck is gaining momentum all over the world and is likely to spread widely. 

Naturally, the future looks bright for Short Deck Holdem since it can be one of the most exciting poker formats that everyone can enjoy. 

Nakoa Davis