How to Play Short Deck Poker (aka 6 Plus Holdem)

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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 optimal Short Deck Holdem strategy.

Short Deck (6+) Poker Rules

Short Deck Hold’em has been around for several years and can be played online - at this point only on the iPoker Network but likely to come on more platforms like PokerStars or 888poker.

Short Deck Hold’em originated in Asia – probably in China – but has recently received more attention in Europe since a couple of star-studded Short Deck Holdem High Roller events featuring Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and more in recent months.

It's a fast, fun variation on your basic run-of-the-mill Holdem game.

Short Deck Hold’em vs. No-Limit Hold‘em

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.

short deck holdem

2) 6+ Holdem Hand Rankings

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 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’em

52-card Regular Hold’em

Royal Flush

Royal Flush

Straight Flush

Straight Flush

Quads

Quads

Flush

Full House

Full House

Flush

3 of a Kind

Straight

Straight

3 of a Kind

Two Pair

Two Pair

One pair

One pair

High card

High 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 house rules!

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 Texas Hold'em strategy section or watch our poker videos to learn more about optimal strategy.

Short Deck Holdem rules
Ivey loves Short Deck.

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

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

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

  • You multiply the number of outs you have by 4 or 2, 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 4 and 2 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
  • 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:

Outs

Hitting on the Turn

Hitting on the Turn or River

1

3.2%

6.5%

2

6.5%

12.7%

3

9.7%

18.7%

4

12.9%

24.5%

5

16.1%

30.1%

6

19.4%

35.5%

7

22.6%

40.7%

8

25.8%

45.6%

9

29.0%

50.3%

10

32.3%

54.8%

11

35.5%

59.1%

12

38.7%

63.2%

13

41.9%

67.1%

14

45.2%

70.8%

15

48.4%

74.2%

Short Deck Hold'em 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.

Short Deck Holdem strategy
Watch those flush draws.

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:

Draw

Outs

To Complete by Turn

To Complete by River

Set to quads

1

3.2

6.5

Pocket pair to set

2

6.5

12.7

Gutshot to straight

4

12.9

24.5

Flush draw to flush

5

16.1

30.1

Two overcards to top pair

6

19.4

35.5

Set to full house or better

7

22.6

48.4% (*)

Open-ended straight draw to straight

or

Gutshot + flush draw to straight or flush

8

25.8

45.6

Open-ended straight draw + flush draw to straight or flush

12

38.7

63.2

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

Short Deck Hold'em Tip #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.

Here are two more examples:

1. Pocket pairs have a higher value than they do in regular Texas Hold’em because the chances to hit a set are higher.

6 plus holdem strategy
A lot more aces.

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 Holdem 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:

 

Short Deck Probability

Regular Hold’em Probability

Getting pocket aces

0.95% (1 in 100)

0.45% (1 in 221)

Getting any pocket pair

8.6%

5.9%

Getting any 2 suited cards

22.9%

23.5%

Getting ace-king

2.5%

1.2%

Getting jack-ten suited

0.63%

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 Holdem, there would be more action, right?

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

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

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 like Bet365 Poker and William Hill Poker.

Sign up for a new account at William Hill Poker or Bet365 Poker via the links below to be eligible for a 100% match bonus up to €100:

Watch the video below for more Rules and Strategy tips for 6 Plus Holdem!

More on How to Play Poker:

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Poker Hand Ranking
  1. Royal Flush
  2. Straight Flush
  3. Four of a Kind
  4. Full House
  5. Flush
  6. Straight
  7. Three of a kind
  8. Two Pair
  9. One Pair
  10. High Card

Complete Poker Hand Ranking

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