Short Deck Poker, also known as Six-Plus Hold’em, is a popular poker variant that emerged in recent years. It follows most of the standard Texas Hold’Em rules but uses a 36-card deck with cards Two through Five removed. This changes hand probabilities and encourages more action and aggression.
Short Deck has seen a rapid rise in the poker scene. Professional player Jason Somerville said, “It’s so much fun because of the action. That’s really what it comes down to.” He predicts it may become “the next big thing” in poker thanks to the number of hands played and frequency of all-in confrontations.
UNDERSTANDING THE DECK AND CARD REMOVAL
The key difference that makes Short Deck Poker unique is the modified 36-card deck.
Specifically, the following cards are removed:
- Two of every suit (2♥, 2♠, 2♦, 2♣)
- Three of every suit (3♥, 3♠, 3♦, 3♣)
- Four of every suit (4♥, 4♠, 4♦, 4♣)
- Five of every suit (5♥, 5♠, 5♦, 5♣)
This means 16 cards are taken out before gameplay starts—4 cards each from the two through five denominations. Removing these specific low cards significantly impacts the probabilities of making various poker hands:
The odds of being dealt a pocket pair go up substantially, from around 5-6% in Texas Hold’em to 12-15% in Short Deck. This makes set-mining more common.
With fewer total cards in the deck, the chances of being dealt two suited cards rise from about 30% to over 40%. More suited connectors and gappers emerge.
Players see more connected hands like 57 or JT as the ratio of connectors versus gaps is concentrated. The prevalence of straight draws increases.
Spots of ace-king (AK) versus lower pocket pairs become much more equitised compared to Hold’em. AK sees its raw equity significantly reduced from 80/20 to 60/40 or closer.
Removing these 16 low cards filters out a significant portion of “junk hands.” With fewer undesirables to spoil promising holdings, Short Deck generates increased pre-flop action across more comprehensive ranges. This concentrates play around more dynamic boards and fuels aggressive post-flop play. It’s a game of maximising equity when you have it and creative bluffing when you don’t!
THE RULES OF SHORT DECK POKER
The basic gameplay flow of Short Deck Poker closely resembles traditional Texas Hold’Em. Each player gets two private hole cards, and then five community cards are revealed across three rounds (the flop, turn, river), with a round of betting after each.
However, while the action format mirrors standard Hold’em, famous structures for blinds and antes are pretty different:
This lower barrier to compete for pre-flop keeps more players involved and pots consistently large. Players can play more comprehensive ranges out of position and cap their total financial risk on speculative hands. Combined with deck changes, it promotes aggressive approaches that maximise flexibility according to evolving odds and equities.
HAND RANKINGS IN SHORT DECK POKER
While the hand rankings in Short Deck Poker mostly resemble standard Texas Hold’Em, there are two important exceptions worth noting:
1. Flushes Beat Full Houses
With fewer cards in play, flushes are much rarer than full houses. 9 flush cards are remaining of each suit rather than the usual 13. Given their increased difficulty, completed flushes are ranked above completed full houses.
For example, a hand of Q♥9♥ on a J♥8♥2♦K♣ board would beat a hand of K♣K♦ on the same board. The eight-high flush is crowned victorious.
2. Straights Often Beat Three-of-a-Kind
Some Short Deck formats rank three-of-a-kind higher than straights, as trip sets are rarer to flop. However, most popular rules keep straights superior to promote action and prevent scenarios where players with straights face drawing dead against sets. Open-ended straight draws appear nearly twice as frequently with cards like deuces through fives removed. This increased the likelihood of offset trips being mathematically less common. It also avoids incredibly discouraging straight draws upon seeing paired community cards.
For example, a hand of J♠9♦ on a K♠T♥8♦ board would still beat a set of eights with a jack-high straight. The odds favour straight winning out at the showdown. Confirming the exact hand rankings before playing Short Deck Poker is critical, as both flush/full house and straight/trips approaches remain common. Don’t make assumptions! Clarify with your cardroom, casino or home game host to understand the specifics at your table.
STRATEGIES FOR SHORT DECK POKER
Due to fluctuating hand equities, optimal strategy adjustments are required from standard Texas Hold’em to succeed at Short Deck Poker:
PLAYING POCKET PAIRS AND DRAWS
Pocket pairs gain significant equity in Short Deck Poker. Even small pairs become strong candidates for set-mining and showdown-reaching. Compared to Hold’em:
- Pocket pairs gain 15-25% raw equity against big card hands (like AK)
- Set-flopping odds increase from 12% to around 17%
- Overpair vs underpair dynamics flip completely in some spots
Meanwhile, straight draws get drastically better as well:
- Open-ended draws appear nearly twice as frequently preflop
- The probability of hitting improves by up to 14%
- Short Deck rewards aggro drawing strategies due to these factors
THE ROLE OF EQUITY AND ODDS
Grasping the shifting equities and odds in Short Deck is crucial yet challenging. Having rules of thumb helps approximate the probabilities:
- Pocket pairs gain 15-25% raw equity over big card hands (55-60% vs 40%)
- Suited connectors/gappers gain 10-15% equity versus their offsuit versions
- Outs gain 50% more value (6x on flop, 3x on turn)
- Set mining odds improve from 12% to 17%
- Nut flush draw odds drop from 35% to 30%
While not exact, these guidelines help reasonably estimate Short Deck’s impact over intuitions tuned for Hold’em. Relative hand values matter more than absolute hand strengths.
ADVANCED TIPS AND TACTICS
To master Short Deck, you must practice and adapt over time. To that end, here are a few advanced tips:
The game will continue to evolve as new cutting-edge tactics are discovered. To stay sharp, keep an eye on online action, training content, and trends in live play.
While simple, Short Deck Hold’em offers seemingly endless complexity for serious poker enthusiasts. The modified deck flips many Hold’em fundamentals on their heads, requiring thoughtful adjustments. Approach the game with patience and attention to detail. Seek resources and discuss strategy with winning players. Most importantly, get deals in action and don’t be afraid to dance outside your comfort zone!