Short Deck Poker Rules (Must Know Advanced Tips And Strategies)

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.


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:

Also Read: How to Bet in Blackjack (Must-Know Strategies for Beginners)

Pocket Pairs

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.

pocket pairs

Suited Cards

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.

suited CARDS

Connected Cards

Players see more connected hands like 57 or JT as the ratio of connectors versus gaps is concentrated. The prevalence of straight draws increases.


Big Cards

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.

big cards

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!


Short-Deck-Poker rules

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:

  • No Blinds: Rather than having mandated blinds, most Short Deck games have players put in equal ante bets each hand. This creates symmetry and caps the buy-in risks.
  • Equal Antes: Before cards are dealt, all participating players must contribute one equal ante bet per hand. Ante size varies based on stakes but creates a starting pot.
  • Double Button Ante: To encourage action, the player in the dealer button position must ante double the standard ante amount. This essentially replaces the “big blind” role of forcing play.
  • Matching to Play: To see the first cards, players must put in at least 1-2x the total ante bets that have been contributed thus far. This means they must cover the double button ante at a minimum.

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.



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.

flush beats full house

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.


Due to fluctuating hand equities, optimal strategy adjustments are required from standard Texas Hold’em to succeed at Short Deck Poker:

With only 36 cards and no blinds, virtually every hand gains increased equity to warrant voluntarily putting money in play. Hands like small pocket pairs, low-mid-suited connectors, and one-gap-suited hands become standard opens.

This wider range calls for lower 3-bet frequencies to avoid bloated pots out of position. Be cautious not to bloat pots without strong holdings.

Thanks to capped preflop investment due to antes, players can realise their position edge more aggressively on later streets with light floats and bluffs. Wider range advantages manifest more clearly for later positions. Open and squeeze wider from the button and cut off while avoiding traps from the early position open.

With more players consistently seeing flops, be aware of second and third threats in hands. The presence of multiple opponents limits profitable triple barrel bluffs and requires caution with one-pair type made hands. Pay attention to table dynamics and be willing to let go of top pair poorer kickers facing aggression from other players showing strength.

While tactics differ due to equities, strong technical knowledge of Texas Hold’em fundamentals still provides an edge, given the games’ similarities. To excel, use proven theories like range advantage, bet sizing, and hand reading.


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



Grasping the shifting equities and odds in Short Deck is crucial yet challenging. Having rules of thumb helps approximate the probabilities:

Preflop Changes:

  • 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

Postflop Changes:

  • 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.

Also Read: Texas Hold’em Cards And Their Order (Strongest To Weakest)


To master Short Deck, you must practice and adapt over time. To that end, here are a few advanced tips:

  • Separate weak-tight opponents – Use your inflated pocket pair and draw hand equity to isolate opponents over-folding from an early position or against 3-bets.
  • Strengthen your relative hand – There is no guarantee that the nuts are the best raw hand. Rather than asking, “Do I have a good hand? Consider “How strong is my hand relative to my opponent’s? ” Think comparatively.
  • Define 3-Betting Ranges – Balance safety with pressure by developing coherent 3-betting ranges based on your opponents’ open-raising frequencies.
  • Avoid Needless Stack Risks – A capped investment preflop reduces the need for hero calls. Restrain yourself from spewy bluffing that puts your entire stack at risk.
  • Embrace Variance – Expect bigger swings due to fluctuating equities and multiway pots. Volatility can be navigated with a cavalier attitude towards money.

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!

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