How to Play Short Deck Hold’em

How to Play Short Deck Hold’em

Short Deck Hold'em is a variation of Texas Hold'em that has been around for several years. Short deck poker is also available at some of the best poker sites online. With its latest rise in popularity due to its natural more action, it is becoming much more common to see it available at operators online. It was later added, for the first time, to the World Series of Poker schedule in 2019 and it looks like Short Deck (6+ Holdem) is here to stay. And it's easy to see why - it's a fast, fun variation on your basic run-of-the-mill Texas Hold'em game.

Short Deck Hold'em Poker Rules

Short Deck Hold'em – also known as Six Plus (6+) Hold'em – is No-Limit Hold'em played with a stripped-down deck. All of the deuces to fives are removed to make the total deck just 36 cards.

That means some pretty big changes to the poker hand rankings, game dynamics and to standard Texas Holdem strategy.

1) The Short Deck

To play Short Deck Hold'em you take a regular 52-card deck and remove the twos, threes, fours, and fives. You end up with a 36-card deck in which the six is the lowest card – unless the ace is low, of course.

2) 6+ Hold'em Hand Rankings

Poker Chips

There are a few but highly significant differences in the values of certain poker hands when playing Short Deck Hold'em. In the Short Deck Hold'em hand rankings:

  • A flush beats a full house
  • Three of a kind beat a straight

Sounds weird? Maybe, but it makes sense.

If you have suited hole cards in regular Hold'em with two more on the board, there are nine cards in the deck that will make you a flush. In short deck Hold'em this number is reduced to five, so the flush is much harder to hit.

In fact, it’s mathematically harder to make a flush than a full house.

Also, as there are four cards missing of every suit this means straight draws happen a lot more often. There are simply less blanks and smaller gaps between the remaining cards.

Thus, it is easier to make a straight than to find a set or trips.

That being said, it’s actually easier to hit a set than in regular Hold'em as once you have a pocket pair there are 2 out of the remaining 34 cards to give you a set instead of 2 out of 50 cards.

6 Plus holdem rules

Also of important note:

  • As in regular Hold'em an ace can play high or low

An ace can even connect with the 6, which is now the lowest card in the deck.

Hence, while the highest straight is still the Broadway straight T-J-Q-K-A, the lowest straight is now:

  • A-6-7-8-9

where the ace basically is a 5.

Official Short Deck Hold'em Hand Rankings

36-card Short Deck Hold'em52-card Regular Hold'em
Royal FlushRoyal Flush
Straight FlushStraight Flush
FlushFull House
Full HouseFlush
3 of a KindStraight
Straight3 of a Kind
Two PairTwo Pair
One pairOne pair
High cardHigh card

*Note:  There are casinos that value a straight higher than three-of-a-kind in Short Deck Hold'em so make sure to check the hand rankings house rules!

Explore the best poker bonuses

Short Deck Hold'em Strategy for Beginners

If you want to play Short Deck Hold'em you’re probably already familiar with No Limit Hold'em and other poker games.

If not, you should learn the regular No-Limit Hold'em rules first. Read our How to play Texas Hold'em section or watch our poker videos to learn more about optimal strategy.

Below are some important strategy factors to keep in mind for Six Plus Holdem.

Short Deck Poker Strategy Tip #1: The Rule of 3 and 6

When it comes to odds and outs, you should be familiar with the rule of 2 and 4, meaning:

  • You multiply the number of outs you have by 2 or 4, respectively, to roughly calculate your equity on the flop and on the turn.

This rule doesn’t hold true for Short Deck Hold'em. There are less cards in the deck and you are more likely to complete your draws.

In Short Deck Hold'em the rule of 2 and 4 turns into the rule of 3 and 6. Meaning:

  • On the flop multiply the number of your outs by 3 to (roughly) calculate your chances of making your hand by the turn
  • On the flop multiply the number of your outs by 6 to (roughly) calculate your chances of making your hand by the turn or river
  • On the turn you can also multiply the number of your outs by 3 to (again roughly) calculate your chances of hitting one of them on the river

These are the exact percentages:

OutsHitting on the TurnHitting on the Turn or River

Short Deck Poker Strategy Tip #2: Flush Draws Lose, Straight Draws Gain Value

Let’s say you have a flush draw on the flop. In regular Hold'em you’d have 9 outs to make your flush. But in Short Deck Hold'em there are only 5 cards of your suit left in the deck.

Going by the rule of 3 and 6 your chances of hitting one of those are roughly 15% by the turn and 30% by the river. That’s slightly worse than in regular Hold'em where you complete a flush draw 36% of the time by the river.

However, if you find an open-ended straight draw on the flop (which will happen more often than in regular Hold'em) you still have 8 outs to make your hand (There are now just 31 cards left instead of 47 – the (stripped) deck minus your hole cards minus the flop).

Thus, you now have a much bigger chance to make your hand. The chances to hit the straight by the river are over 45%.

So, you see, the numbers don’t work the same in Short Deck (6+) Hold'em. You also need to keep in mind that you opponent might have a set and your straight draw can already be dead on the flop. These are the most common draws in Short Deck Hold'em on the flop:

DrawOutsTo Complete
(by Turn)
To Complete
(by River)
Set to quads13.26.5
Pocket pair to set26.512.7
Gutshot to straight412.924.5
Flush draw to flush516.130.1
Two overcards to top pair619.435.5
Set to full house or better722.648.4% (*)
Open-ended straight draw to straight or Gutshot + flush draw to straight or flush825.845.6
Open-ended straight draw + flush draw to straight or flush1238.763.2

(*): On the turn a set has 10 outs to fill up to a full house.

Short Deck Poker Strategy #3: Stronger Post-Flop Hands Needed

When choosing the hands you play and how to play them, you need to pay attention to the changes of the relative hand strengths.

Pre-flop a hand like J-T is now almost a coin flip to a hand like A-K because all the low cards that don’t connect with either of these two starting hands are gone.

As A-K would obviously win on all low, disconnected boards its relative strength is now significantly diminished.

The same applies to connected boards. Let’s say a hand is:

  • You: T-9 
  • Villain: A-K
  • Flop: K-7-8

In regular Texas Hold'em, you’re now chasing the straight draw with about 32% equity (according to the Rule of 4) while in 6 Plus Holdem this is almost a coin flip on the flop with the straight draw having over 45% equity.

Poker table playing Short Deck Holdem
People playing Short Deck Hold'em during a Poker tournament

Here are two more examples:

  1. Pocket pairs have a higher value than in regular Texas Hold'em.
    Because the chances to hit a set are higher. Also, chances are twice as high to get dealt pocket aces as in regular Hold'em.
  2. Hands like top pair, top kicker have a much lower value than in regular Hold'em.
    Because the chances are higher for your opponents to overtake you on later streets. All of these examples show that because of fewer cards in play, the average value of the hands played is higher in Short Deck Hold'em. Single-pair hands might often win pots in regular Hold'em but in a 6+ game, they rarely do. You need to adjust your game accordingly.

Short Deck Poker Strategy Tip #4: Hands Seem Stronger Preflop

If you’re used to regular Hold'em you know that it’s a rather rare occurrence to see premium hands pre-flop.

For example aces are dealt only once every 221 hands on average. But with less weak cards in the deck you’ll see premium hands much more often in Short Deck Hold'em.

For example, you’ll see aces roughly once every 100 hands. Also you’re twice as likely to see a hand like A-K in Short Deck Hold'em.

Most hands in Short Deck Hold'em appear stronger preflop than they actually are.

In regular Hold'em most players consider a starting hand with any two Broadway cards (ten or higher) as at least playable. But with a short deck you’re dealt such a hand almost one third of the time.

Not only the strength of your hand, but also the strength of your opponents' hands. is higher on average. So many hands you might consider decent in regular Hold'em are trash in Short Deck Hold'em.

Pre-flop Probabilities in Short Deck Hold'em Compared to Regular Hold'em:

Starting HandShort Deck ProbabilityRegular Hold'em Probability
Getting pocket aces0.95% (1 in 100)0.45% (1 in 221)
Getting any pocket pair8.6%5.9%
Getting any 2 suited cards22.9%23.5%
Getting ace-king2.5%1.2%
Getting jack-ten suited0.63%0.30%
Getting 2 Broadways (tens or up)30.2%14.3%

Is There More Action in Short-Deck Hold'em?

Yes. And no. You’d think that if there are better hands in 6 Plus Hold'em, there would be more action, right?

Well, that's sort of true. Yes, you'll hit a lot more big hands in Short Deck Hold'em. But your opponents will too, so it somewhat evens out.

If you play against opponents who are new to 6 Plus Hold'em, though, you might be able to exploit them overplaying their hands because they're so excited!

Rules and Strategy Tips for 6+ Hold'em

Watch the video below for more Rules and Strategy tips for 6 Plus Hold'em!

Where to Play Short Deck Hold'em Online

Want to play Short Deck Hold'em online? Short Deck Hold'em is known as 6+ (Six Plus) Hold'em online and available on iPoker skins Bet365 Poker and William Hill Poker. It's also recently been added to industry leaders PokerStars and partypoker.

Partypoker launched its own version of Short Deck online, aptly titled "SHORTDECK," which you can access along with our $500 sign-up bonus via our PartyPoker review page.

More Poker Games

Shortdeck Holdem Poker FAQs

  • What is Short deck poker?

    Short Deck Hold’em – also known as Six Plus (6+) Hold’em – is No-Limit Hold’em played with a stripped-down deck. All of the deuces to fives are removed to make the total deck just 36 cards. That means some pretty big changes to the poker hand rankings, game dynamics and to standard Texas Holdem strategy.
  • What are the Short deck poker rules?

    Same rules as Texas Holdem, like an ace can play high or low. Except an ace can even connect with the 6, which is now the lowest card in the deck. Hence, while the highest straight is still the Broadway straight T-J-Q-K-A, the lowest straight is now: A-6-7-8-9, where the ace basically is a 5. Also, the following hand rankings are inverted: a flush now beats a full house, and three of a kind beat a straight. They're now ranked according to what's harder to get with a short deck.
  • How to play short deck poker?

    When you're calculating poker equity by counting your odds, you would generally use the 2 and 4 rule. Post-flop it would be (x4) +4, and post-turn it would be (x2)+2. For Short deck, it would be 3 and 6. So (x6)+6 post-flop, and (x3)+3 post-turn.

    As you can see, this will inspire more action because you have more chances to hit. Also, with less low cards, it may seem there are more premium hands because there will be higher boards. This also means, you should have stronger post-flop hands to carry on to win in the long-term. Also, remember that the hand rankings change in Shortdeck so you should play accordingly. In Shortdeck poker, straights gain value and flush draws lose value.
  • Where to play Short deck poker online?

    You can play Short Deck poker online at the poker sites featured on this page. Including: Partypoker, PokerStars, 888poker, GGPoker, and the iPoker network - like Ladbrokes and Bet365 poker. Access through the links on this page for an exclusive sign up bonus.
  • What are the hand rankings for short deck poker?

    There are a few significant differences in the values of poker hands when playing Short Deck Hold’em. In the Short Deck Hold'em hand rankings a flush beats a full house and three of a kind beat a straight.

    So the official Short Deck Poker hand rankings are: Royal Flush, Straight Flush, Quads, Flush, Full House, 3 of a Kind, Straight, Two Pair, Pair and High Card.