Intro

Short Deck Poker, also known as 6+, is one of the newest variants in the mainstream, but it has not taken long to establish itself as a player favorite. The game was said to have been founded in 2014, and it was made popular stateside by players like Tom Dwan a few years later. It got its moment when the WSOP introduced the first Short Deck bracelet in 2019. 

 

Short Deck, as its name might have hinted at, uses a smaller deck than standard Texas Hold’em. In a game of Short Deck Poker, the card uses just 36 cards instead of the standard 52. As its other name, 6+ poker, might suggest, the deck removes all cards from the deck with a value below 6. This brings about all kinds of changes to the game in terms of strategy, speed of play, and just about every factor you can think of. As a newer form of poker, it is also ideal for less experienced players. 

Overview

The popularity of Short Deck Poker in recent years has changed the game. There is a feeling among some that Texas Hold’em is an old dance to which everyone knows the moves. There are a lot of tried and tested methods, and there is not a lot of room for innovation. Step forward, Short Deck. A lot of players are still feeling out the game, and there is a constant move toward new strategies and different approaches. The excitement around this is palpable as more and more players try turning their hands and are drawn to its fast pace and winning potential.

While veteran players will always have an advantage, the game has made playing poker fun for newer and less-experienced players. Removing half of the cards from the deck increases the likelihood that a player will start with a more playable hand. This increases engagement for players and keeps poker much more enjoyable. For many people, Texas Hold’em has begun to feel like an exclusive game, with better players being able to shut out less-experienced ones quickly, causing them to fold and ultimately lose interest in playing.

This Short Deck Poker guide will look at how the game is played and break down some key differences. We will also look at some of the most popular game strategies and hand rankings.

Betting Rounds

The betting rounds for Short Deck Poker remain largely the same as they do for Texas Hold’em. While most of the readers on this site are likely to be well acquainted with these stages, we’re still going to break them down for anyone who might be new to the game.

Pre Flop

One key difference you may spot in the pre-flop stage in Short Deck Poker is that no blinds are posted. Instead of blinds, all players must post an ante bet. The dealer then needs to place an additional ante bet. While this is establishing itself as the norm, it is still not concrete, and some games may start with a small and big blind still. As with Hold ’em, the player in the position to the dealer’s left, also known as the one under the gun, must then make the first move. As always, there are three actions that a player can make in the preflop:

  • Fold: The player folds their hand and does not put any additional money into the pot.
  • Call: This is when the player matches the amount of cash the previous player placed. If the previous player placed nothing, then they match the ante.
  • Raise: This one does as it says on the tin. Players will raise the stake in the game. The minimum raise in Short Deck is double the ante bet.

It is also in the pre-flop where the differences between standard Hold’Em and Short Deck become apparent. Thanks to the reduction of 52 cards to 36, the probabilities relating to starting hands change significantly in Short Deck. Regular players of Hold’Em will know that there are 169 non-distinct starting hands available in the game. This is reduced by around 48% in Short Deck, with the game offering 81 starting hand combinations.

Flop

The flop is when the party gets started. In this round, three communal cards are dealt face-up on the table. This then commences the next round of betting. As with the pre-flop, the player under the gun is the first to make their move. The minimum pre-flop bet they can make is the same as the ante. Players are given the same three options they had in the previous round to fold, call, or raise.

Turn

When the flop betting round is finished, the dealer will deal with the fourth community card. Again, the betting rules are the same as the ones for the previous rounds, with players having the same betting options.

River

The river is where things can get interesting in Short Deck Poker. Instead of the traditional dealing of a fifth community card, in some variations of Short Deck, players are dealt a third hole-card instead. Players can now use two of their three hole cards and three of the four community cards to build a hand. This bares more resemblance to Omaha Poker.

However, this is not always the case, and the game can still stick to the traditional format.

Showdown

Now we’re at the business end of the game. If two or more players are left after the river, then we are at the Showdown. Players will now reveal their hands to determine who has the best five-card combination.

Typically, the player who made the last aggressive mood in the river will båe the one to reveal their hand. Failing that, the player on the dealer’s left will be the first to reveal. But, of course, if you’re defeated following the reveal of someone else’s hand, then you can just fold without revealing yours.

There are ten hand-rankings for players to get acquainted with in Short Deck Poker. While they are the same hands as in Texas Hold’em, there are some key differences which we are going to explore, with examples, in the next section.

Betting Limits

As with Texas Hold’em, the most common type of Short Deck to be played is No-Limit Short Deck. This is the most exciting variant, with no limit on the amount of money that can be bet or raised in the game. This game brings about some of the most aggressive play and can lead to huge pot sizes.

Some tournaments have also seen Pot-Limit Short Deck games place. As in Pot-Limit Hold’Em, players are not allowed to raise the bet by more than the size of the pot. This is a much more limited version of the game and is not played very often.

Hand Ranking & Odds

Some of the most significant differences between Short Deck Poker and Texas Hold’em come in the hand rankings. In addition, the reduced number of cards in the deck makes a few changes to the odds. While this might not seem hugely important, anyone who has ever slipped up and forgotten these slight differences will tell you otherwise.

A Flush Beats a Full House – Perhaps the most significant difference is that a flush beats a full house in Short Deck Poker. It is mathematically easier to hit a full house than a flush with the reduced cards.

These are the Short Deck Poker hand rankings:

  • Royal Flush – An ace high straight flush – A-K-Q-J-10
  • Straight Flush – A five card straight flush – 10-9-8-7-6
  • Four of a Kind – Four of the same card – A-A-A-A-10
  • Flush – Five cards of the same suit – K-10-9-8-7
  • Full House – Three of a kind and two of a kind – A-A-10-10-10
  • Straight – Five cards of sequential value and different suits – 6c-7h-8h-9d-10c
  • Three of a Kind – Three cards of the same value – A-A-A-8-K
  • Two Pair – Two pairs of different values. A-A-K-K-8
  • Pair – One pair of the same value – A-A-8-7-K
  • High Card – The hand with the highest card wins. No cards of the same value – A-10-8-6-K

It is worth noting that, as the game is still in its formative years, there is still no concrete set of rules in Short Deck poker that has become a standard around the world. Some games may have three of a kind above straights, as seen in the example above, while others may still stick with traditional Hold’Em rankings and have those two the other way around.

In some variations of Short Deck Poker, three of a kind also beats a straight. This is because straights are more common than three of a kind in the game. The Ace remains the same in the game, acting as high and low. However, as a low card, it counts as a 5, so the lowest straight possible is A-6-7-8-9.

As the poker hand rankings can change, we recommend that players always clarify the rankings used in the game they are playing. Getting the rankings wrong can prove to be a very costly mistake.

Short Deck Poker Odds & Strategies

The removal of lower-paying cards means a lot of the odds in the game change. For example, as we mentioned with the alternative ranking, the chances of hitting a straight are much more common. If a player has an open-ended straight draw on the flop, the odds of making a straight on the river are a whopping 45%. In terms of gameplay, this leads to a lot more aggressive plays.

Flushes are highly valued in Omaha. As well as beating a full house, the stripped-down deck also means that a flush is less likely to be beaten by a higher flush.

Pocket pairs also lose a lot of their clout in Short-Deck games. With so many premium cards making up the deck, hitting a AA, KK, QQ, or JJ doesn’t have the same power as it would in Texas Hold’em. Being able to fold pocket pairs is something players will need to get used to in this game.

Post Flop is when many differences in the odds will become apparent to players. For example, with fewer cards in the deck, the chances of hitting your needed cards are significantly reduced. In Texas Hold’em, players often use the rule of 4 and 2. This is a technique used to determine a player’s odds of completing a draw. For this, the outs are multiplied by 2 when a player is on the flop waiting for the turn or on the turn waiting for the river. When you are on the flop waiting for the river, and your opponent has gone all in, then multiply by four. Then you can compare this number as a percentage to the pot odds and decide. In Short Deck, however, this changes, with many players using the same system only with 3 and 6.

In general, hand equities are much closer in Short Deck. As you’ve probably gathered from the rest of this section, there are fewer premium hand combinations. As a result of this, you can also expect to see a lot more limping when playing Short Deck Poker, with players being more hesitant to raise in the earlier stages of the game.

Summary

Short Deck Poker is an entertaining poker game with plenty of new twists and rule changes. The use of a smaller deck influences the game much more than you might think, and as a newer version of the game, it is fascinating to watch new strategies and approaches emerge.

Casinos can make variations and rule changes depending on how they want the game to be played. Whatever version you decide on, there is no denying that Short Deck will only continue to grow in popularity, with many tipping to quickly overtake Ohama as the second most popular game behind Texas Hold’em.